How to write a best man speech

As a wedding photographer I’ve sat through hundreds of best man speeches, some good, others awful. In this article I tell you how to write a best man speech by drawing from that experience what works and what doesn’t.

Why me?

When writing a best man’s speech the first question you should ask yourself if why you have been selected to be the groom’s best man?

Being asked to be a friend’s best man at his wedding is probably one of the greatest honour s of trust a friend can bestow upon you so try to make sure he does not regret it by following some of the following points below.

To fail to plan is to plan to fail

Always write a speech beforehand, while this sounds like obvious advice, I have seen on several occasions attempts to wing it and in every single case it’s been obvious and fallen flat. Don’t be the next victim of being unprepared.

Being a best man is a huge honour and with it comes huge responsibility and one of those responsibilities is writing a speech for your best man. If you can’t do this you should recommend a better man for the job.

At the very least you will need an outline of what you intend to say. Some of the better speeches I have seen have used several props such as pictures or projectors. The trick when using the props is that they should simply prop up and support the speech, they shouldn’t be what the speech is about.

Think about your audience

When speaking in public it’s never a good idea to swear, but this is particularly true if children will be present.

It also pays to learn a little about and consider the audience when you are deciding on content for your speech. For example will the bride really want to hear about the groom’s past conquests or the bride’s family about the time you caught them in a compromising position?

It’s not about you!

I have watched a number of best men who happened to be extroverts crash and burn when using their speech as their 5 minutes in the spotlight. Other than an introduction of who you are and your relationship with the groom nobody wants to know about you unless you are telling about your part in a story that directly relates the groom.

Be humble

One of the quickest ways to sink a wedding speech is to be full of bravado and act as the big I am, again, the best man’s speech is not about the best man!

Showing a little humility also happens to be one of the quickest ways to get the audience on side and warm to you. Do that early and the audience will generally be on your side for the whole speech.

Something as simple as the following example works:

“Ladies and gentleman, it was a great honour to be asked by XXX to be his best man. I’ve known XXX for a number of years and his friendship means a lot me”

Be generous

Of all the speeches I have heard, by far the best received are those where the best man is generous of the bride and groom, the groom’s character and his relationship with the bride.

A wedding speech is not your opportunity to belittle the groom and best men often mistake this for humour. More on that later.

All you really need do here is tell the audience of your friendship, why you are friends, the characteristics of the groom you admire in him and perhaps some of the funny tales or adventures you have shared together.

Think of it as if you were giving a personal reference about the groom to the brides new family which in many ways you are.

Also talk about the bride if you know her, how good she is for your friend and how happy she makes him. Compliment her on her dress and how nice she looks.

Don’t forget to also compliment the wedding hosts (often the parents), bridesmaids and any children in starring roles such as page boy or flower girl.

Humour is not content.

A well placed joke can enhance a best man’s speech but is no substitute for content. Think of humour as the icing on the cake, to be used as a garnish to finish the speech, too much and it becomes all icing and no cake and has no substance.

I have listened through some truly awful speeches which were no more than a series of recycled wedding jokes strung together, don’t do it. Make your speech meaningful by adding some real content, stories from the past and compliments on the groom’s character all serve to add meaningful substance to the speech.

Be original

Researching on how to structure a speech and for ideas on what to include is a great idea, but avoid using the same old tired wedding speech jokes that seem to get recycled at every wedding. If you found it on Google chances are the audience have heard it before.

The two I hear at nearly every single wedding and stopped being funny around about 2005 are:

“To say I was nervous about the speech is an understatement, let’s just say this isn’t the first time today I have got up off a warm seat with a piece of paper in my hand!”

“The wedding wouldn’t be the same without you, a lot cheaper, but not the same”

If you are going to tell jokes, put some effort in and be original. Make them relevant to the couple and remember that children and older family members may be present, jokes should be witty rather than smutty.

Wedding speech etiquette

In the UK there is a formal etiquette which is usually followed. It encompasses the three speeches of father of the bride, groom and best man and there is a degree of interrelation between them. For example the Groom toasts the bridesmaids and the best man responds to the toasts on behalf of the bridesmaids.

  • A best man’s speech typically has the following elements:
  • Respond to toast on behalf of bridesmaids
  • Read any telegrams, emails or messages. Thank your hosts
  • Main speech content
  • Toast the Bride and Groom

It is well worth reading up some more on etiquette to make sure you get it right and to collaborate with the groom and father of the bride to make sure you are not covering the same stories.

There is some more information here:

Wedding Speech Etiquette


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