Giving a toast at a wedding is one of the greatest honors you'll experience in life. With this comes a lot of pressure to be philosophical, nostalgic and witty. Follow these 10 guidelines and you'll be remembered as the man with the amazing speech, not the guy they had to pull the mic from.
By David Doran | Feature Photo by Andy Bullock
Dave is an expert on best man speeches and is the co-founder of BestManApp.com the web app for best men.
We have all been to weddings, I'm sure, where the best man was a complete and utter let down. Everyone looked forward to his speech until he began talking and after his first few words everyone knew that his speech was going to be a disaster. Sometimes it is the cocky vibe that you sensed from him or his monotone voice devoid of interest but either way, you knew that his best man speech was a disaster waiting to happen.
This post is to help ensure that your best man speech does not go down the same route as the guy with the monotone voice, or the cocky attitude or the countless best men who have had too much to drink and slobber their way through the best man speech.
1. Before the speech begins.
The idiot's way – he will drink as many alcoholic beverages as possible then speak on spec rather than having a speech prepared.
The right way – avoid drinking if possible but having a beer or two is fine.
One of the most common mistakes a best man can make is to drink too heavily before his speech. I have heard many horror stories in this regard such as the time a best man gave a drunken rambling speech where he repeatedly referred to the bride as Jane, her name was Jenny. A groomsman eventually interrupted him to tell him of his error and he did provide a sheepish apology but the damage was done and the reception he received after his speech was muted at best.
There will be plenty of time after the speeches to fully join in the merriment of the wedding so don't overindulge beforehand as you could say something inappropriate and become public enemy number one.
2. What to say in a best man speech.
The idiot's way – he will talk about the groom's former girlfriend /wife.
The right way – make yourself aware of the correct format of a best man speech and stick to it.
Offending the guests is second only to offending the bride during a best man speech and there is nothing more certain to upset the bride and her family than by bringing up the groom's former partner(s) in your speech.
If you do refer to his ex-partner(s) then don't be surprised to experience heckling from the audience and find that you are the one turning bright red not the groom.
3. The start of the speech.
The idiot's way – he will go headlong into a roast on the groom.
The right way – save the roasting for later in the speech and begin with lighthearted humor or a welcoming icebreaker.
The part of the best man speech that most of the wedding guests will be eagerly anticipating is the roasting section but gradually build up to it for best effect. An all-pleasing icebreaker should bring with it welcome applause for the best man and give him a welcome surge of confidence that should bode well for the rest of the speech. If you begin with a roast it could alienate some of the wedding guests so charm the guests first before unleashing the roasts.
4. The language to use in a best man speech.
The idiot's way – he will use slang terminology and vulgar language full of 4 letter words — and I don't mean cake.
The right way – wedding guests don't appreciate foul language so use language that is suitable for all.
The average wedding will have guests from a wide variety of ages, from eight to eighty in attendance so be careful that your language does not offend and use family-friendly content throughout your speech. As best man you don't have to talk like a choirboy you can be a hit by being subtle with your humor.
5. Best man speech jokes.
The idiot's way – he will provide jokes about the groom's lovemaking prowess (or lack of it) and further inappropriate jokes.
The right way – your speech should definitely have 3 or 4 jokes that poke fun at the groom but avoid jokes about sex as once again the bride and groom's parents may not appreciate them too much.
Rather than having 3 jokes in a row you will be better served having some short jokes at various stages within your speech. By doing this you should be assured of laughter throughout your speech rather than just the roasting section.
Example joke 1 – The groom is a sporty guy who never let his love of food get in the way of his love for sport, no he would always wait until half-time to order his pizza.
Example joke 2 – Why do women prefer to marry men who wear earrings? Because they know he has experienced pain and has bought jewelry before.
6. Humor in a best man speech.
The idiot's way – everything from the groom's career to his education will be fair game for humorous stories.
The right way – poke fun at some of the groom's traits or his poor golf game, inability to dance, bad sense of direction, bad taste in music and similar.
Making fun of the groom's education should be avoided as this could upset his parents who paid to get him through school. Given that it is likely that a few of the groom's work colleagues (including his boss) may be guests at the wedding don't contemplate criticizing his career as it could cause awkwardness between the groom and his boss.
Humor example 1 – Don't expect the groom to help out around the house, his idea of sharing the workload is lifting his feet as you vacuum.
Humor example 2 – The groom is not the romantic type, the only time he shared a candlelit dinner with his wife was when there was a power failure in their house.
7. Commenting on the bride.
The idiot's way – a token gesture of a compliment if he bothers to compliment the bride at all.
The right way – talk about some of the bride's finest attributes before involving the audience such as “the bride is a stunning person who aside from being beautiful is kind, intelligent, witty and I'm sure you will all agree looks absolutely gorgeous today.”
It pays to be generous with complimentary words when paying tribute to the bride. By involving the wedding guests you are sure to receive loud applause when you use lines directed at the audience like “I'm sure you all agree?” or “ladies and gentlemen doesn't our bride look stunningly beautiful today?” and similar type statements that will encourage the wedding guests to respond.
8. Talking about your friendship with the groom.
The idiot's way – he will not mention anything positive regarding his relationship with the groom, instead just spends his time mocking him.
The right way – irrespective of whether you are the groom's brother or best friend do include a couple of lines expanding on what makes the groom a great friend.
It will pay dividends to include a line or two about the groom's finer qualities and the characteristics that make him such a great friend.
9. The bride and groom's relationship.
The idiot's way – he will make tasteless comments about the time that they had their first row and other such improper remarks.
The right way – talk about the special love that the bride and groom share, talk about the positive impact they have had on each other and how they make the perfect match.
This is another section of your best man speech where you can earn major kudos by making heartfelt remarks about the bride and groom so don't be tempted to make ill-advised comments. Stick with touching words and enjoy the reception that follows your speech.
10. The best man toast.
The idiot's way – he raises his glass and says something uninspiring like “lets raise our glasses for the bride and groom, cheers”
The right way – your toast should be uplifting and a fitting end to your best man speech, so provide a toast that wishes the happy couple a long and successful life together.
Example toast 1 – Please stand as we wish the bride and groom a lifetime of love, laughter and happily ever after.
Example toast 2 – Please join me in offering a toast to the happy couple, may they live long, laugh often and love always.
As the final part of your best man speech your toast will play an important part in how the audience reacts to your overall speech so rather than try to be funny, give an inspiring toast that will have everyone standing in delight afterwards marvelling at your performance as best man.
Dave Doran lives in Dublin, Ireland and is the co-founder of Best Man App the web app for best men. Aside from speech writing Dave enjoys music and has seen U2 live in concert 16 times, he is a cancer survivor with a witty outlook on life.