The Best Man’s Speech

Nothing is more of an honour and more of a curse than being asked to be the Best Man at your best mate’s wedding.  It can strike fear into the heart of the most laid back man and reduce the most battle hardened soldier to a quivering wreck.  But let’s not dwell on that.  Let me try and help you make the most of the experience.  With over 12 years of experience as a professional full time photographer I’ve seen and heard it all (more than once) and I can tell you the one thing that you need to do to stand out from any other best man.  Are you ready?   Here it is.  Be original.  In the UK the average wedding guest attends anywhere from 1 to 24 weddings in their 20’s and most of the time the guest list will be very similar at each of those wedding as all the friends get married off.  Nothing falls flatter than a cheesy joke you got off the internet that everyone already knows the punchline to.  Actually I lie, worse than that is a string of cheesy jokes that everyone’s already heard.  Below are just a few tips that I’ve garnered in my years of listening to Best Men and their speeches.

Above all else, be yourself.  People connect most fully with others who are confident enough to play to their strengths.  A barrier immediately goes up if your audience feels you’re trying to be something you aren’t.

Your introduction: It baffles me that every time a best man stands up he introduces himself “to those who don’t know me….”     By the time your speech arrives they will all know who you are especially if you’ve just been introduced by the Groom or master of ceremonies.  Undoubtedly the groom will mention you in his speech a few seconds earlier so there really isn’t any need to start out with a contrived introduction. Surprise everyone and dive right in.

Jokes:  Try and be original. Try and draw from personal experience but be careful to avoid those “you had to be there” moments.  Jokes are hard to get right.  If you’re no good at the funny then speak from the heart instead.  No one ever went up to the Best Man and complained that it was a genuinely moving speech.  Don’t bow to the pressure of being funny if it’s not your bag.

Getting Personal: There is a fine line between personal and intrusive. A good dose of sincerity will win the heart of even the most cynical wedding guest but I never attended a wedding where the bride was genuinely amused at being compared to the groom’s ex-girlfriends.  Be careful about revealing family or personal secrets and if you’re unsure, then run it by the bride or the groom’s parents.  Far better safe than sorry.

Sobriety: It’s a wedding.  Enjoy yourself, but remember you’ve been honoured with an important job. If this is the one wedding at which you don’t drink until after the speeches, so be it.   If you don’t hold your liquor well then avoid it or go easy and make sure you’re in a good frame of mind to present your speech.  Being too drunk to deliver your speech is not something the groom will easily forget even if he laughs along with you on the night.  I also film weddings for a living and I have been asked to cut the best man’s speech from the video entirely.   It happens.  Make sure it doesn’t happen to you.

Length: Quite often the bride will have worked out her wedding day to the millisecond with a thousand different considerations to take into account.  She may give you a rough time to aim for.  Honour her request.  You can get a lot into a 10 minutes speech if it’s prepared and to the point.  Waffling can easily account for more than half of your speech if you’re unprepared and the last thing you want is the bride stressing that you’ve made dinner late or delayed the first dance.

Presentations:  Presentations are great.  Photographs to hand around to each table ALWAYS go down well.  If you’re projecting images on a screen or a video, make sure you have one or two handy helpers to help you set it up or troubleshoot on your behalf while you’re doing your duties elsewhere during the day.  Getting to that point in the speech and then finding that the projector won’t output any sound or image might scupper the majority of your speech, so it’s worth making sure it’s all operational before any of the speeches start.

Help from other sources: There are a lot of best man speech books out there and this is just one of them.  Some people are book readers, others shoot from the hip. Do what’s right for you.   Rather than just giving you jokes to repeat that have relevance to your best friend, find a book can often help you with structure and delivery and that’s half the battle.  The rest is walking that fine line between funny and sincere.

If you know someone who is about to be a best man why not share this article with them.  If you’ve already been a best man then you have a unique insight into the pitfalls to avoid.  Please feel free to add your thoughts in the comment box below.

Have fun, prepare well and Good Luck!

Greg James
I have been a full time professional Wiltshire wedding photographer and videographer since 2004 and have covered hundreds of weddings in that time.   As one of only two wedding services that spend all day with a wedding party I am uniquely placed watch the major players as they prepare for one of the biggest days in their lives and the lives of their loved ones.  

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