Being the Best Man is more than an honor — it’s a responsibility. The groom depends on you to give a meaningful Best Man speech. Or an entertaining one. Or, most likely, both.
Don’t assume you’ll be able to get up off the cuff and wow a roomful (or Zoom – screen full) of wedding guests. It takes preparation. So here are some pointers to help you make the most of your moment in the spotlight.
The long and short of Best Man speeches
Are you able to think on your feet? Then you won’t be afraid of making a longer speech — but you’d still be wise to prepare some note cards and keep them close at hand for that extra measure of confidence.
If public speaking is your private nightmare, you might be better off with something short and sweet. For example:
(RAISE YOUR GLASS IN A TOAST) “I want to offer my congratulations to David and Lauren. My love for these people, my joy at their union, my hopes for their future … well, it’s all just … beyond words.” (DRINK AND SIT DOWN.)
Putting humor into your Best Man speech
Weddings are happy occasions, and the guests are usually primed for laughter. Chances are, the groom will be comfortable if you “roast” him a bit with good-natured gibes at his personality. Here’s an example for you:
“Lauren, I know David is completely devoted to you, and you’ve enabled him to achieve things I never believed he was capable of; for example, he hasn’t pulled out his phone once today to check on the game. Even more impressive, he arrived here on time today. So I’m convinced your marriage will last even longer than all the time I’ve spent waiting for him to show up for various activities through the years. Ah, the power of love!”
You can also go to funny friendship quotes and find quotable witticisms that are bound to trigger some thoughts about close Best Man/groom relationships. Consider this gem from Groucho Marx:
“When you’re in jail, a good friend will be trying to bail you out. A best friend will be in the cell next to you saying, ‘Damn, that was fun.’”
FUNdamental writing trick #1: Misdirection
If you want to make ’em laugh, rely on the tried-and-true writing technique called misdirection.
Misdirection fools your audience into following you down a certain path, then surprises them with what they find at the end of that path. For example, you can make your audience think you’re talking about the bride and groom when you’re really talking about you and the groom.
“I want to talk about two people who I know truly love each other — A couple who are willing to make all the sacrifices necessary in a long-term relationship … who I know are going to become closer and closer as the years go by … while continuing to explore the complexities and wonders of Mortal Combat, Warcraft 3, and Final Fantasy VII. Yeah, buddy, we’ve had a great run. But seriously, folks.”
Or your misdirection can make you think they’re talking about the groom when you’re actually boasting about yourself.
“It’s my honor to speak here as Best Man today. What can I say about someone who all his friends look up to … who always has encouraging words for everyone … is respected by all for his intelligence, wit, athletic ability, and unsurpassed good looks. Yep, it’s a no-brainer that I was selected today as your Best Man.”
Best man speech examples: Who are you referring to?
You can even make the audience wonder —right from the start — just who it is you’re talking about …
“It’s my honor today to be Best Man for an extraordinary person … someone who served in Afghanistan … won the Distinguished Service Cross as well as a Silver Star … is volunteering for a civilian space mission next year and … uh, wait a minute … isn’t this the Anderson/Kimbrough wedding? Wow, my mistake! (START TO WALK OFF, THEN TURN AROUND) But seriously, I’m proud to be the best man for David, a guy who, um … has played a brave soldier in tons of video games and once actually had a map of outer space up in his bedroom.”
There are simpler forms of misdirection where the final item in a series doesn’t fit with the ones you’ve previously mentioned. For instance, there’s the form of misdirection known as the Rule of 3:
“He’s devoted to his wife, successful in his career — and totally up-to-date with his COVID shots.”
It also works as the Rule of 4:
“David is a guy who always has a smile on his face, a spring in his step, kindness in his heart — and a 6-pack in his fridge.
FUNdamental writing trick #2: Hyperbole
Hyperbole is an exaggeration taken to such outrageous lengths that everyone will know you’re joking. One simple way to construct hyperbole is by using the “Yo’ momma is so SOMETHING” format (Example: “Yo’ momma is so stupid, she has her nails done at the hardware store.”)
For purposes of a Best Man speech, the technique might lead you to something like:
“The bride and groom are so much in love, they quit Facebook so that they could be alone.”
Fundamental writing trick #3: Compare and contrast
For instance, you could compare a wife with a friend/Best Man:
“A wife will bear your children. But a friend will bear your childishness.”
One variation on “compare and contrast” is to extend it into a series:
“She likes wine. He likes wine.
She likes sports. He likes sports.
She likes knitting. He likes sports.”
How to write a Best Man speech
If you want your speech to convey the genuinely close and valuable companionship, you’ve shared with the groom and the affection you’ve felt, consider a more sincere approach. For inspiration/thought-starters, see Wedding Wishes and search out “Friend Wedding Messages.”
You can also introduce a serious speech with a quote from Best Wedding Quotes or Friendship Quotes. An appropriate quote will provide the perfect setup for whatever you want to communicate. For example:
• I’d like to begin with a quote from the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche because I believe it bodes very well for the marriage of our newlyweds here today. Nietzsche said, “It is not a lack of love but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.”
So, Lauren, how lucky for you, because David will be a terrific mate, and I mean “mate” not just in the sense of a husband, but in the Australian sense of a “mate” being a friend who offers the benefits of shared experience, mutual respect and unconditional assistance. I know you’re going to experience all that with David.”
Mix it up — do your own thing
The kind of Best Man speech you should give might depend on the kind of Best Man you are — and the kind of audience you’re playing to. Do the bride and groom want to have a blast at their wedding? Or do they view it as a sacred, life-changing experience? Chances are, they’re feeling all sorts of emotions.
You can tailor your speech to the circumstances. And you have plenty of options:
- Humor throughout (teasing, embarrassing, but not mean-spirited)
- Serious throughout (when you want to be upbeat, positive, and emotional)
- Start with humor, then get serious
- Start serious, then switch to humor
- Alternate humor with serious observations
That last option might be the most difficult to pull off. You can’t expect your audience to shift gears every few seconds.
Try to give your Best Man speech an overall theme
Instead of rambling all over the place, the best Best Man speeches often stick to an overall, unified theme. For example …
Some personality characteristics of the groom: honesty, loyalty, fussiness, competitiveness, stubbornness, etc.
Disagreements/fights between Best Man and groom that somehow always got patched up.
Shared experiences that helped Best Man and groom grow/mature.
For a Best Man speech, experience is sometimes the best … preacher
If you share a long history with the groom, use your experiences to demonstrate how far you’ve come together — for example:
“We’ve gone from watching SpongeBob together in our living rooms to touring sponge docks together in Florida.”
Try to bring out some consistent patterns in the experiences you’ve shared. Maybe it’s a strong character trait or personality tic in the groom that you want to warn his new bride about.
Give your speech that something extra
Where is it written that a Best Man speech has to follow traditional guidelines? Go beyond expectations if you want to demonstrate that you are truly the best Best Man and make the groom proud for having selected you.
Play background music to add emotion and drama to your speech, or play songs that have had special meaning for you and the groom over the years.
Present a pre-produced video history, “The Wonder Years,” of you and the groom.
Arrange for another friend, or friends, in the audience to interrupt your speech with some humorous, pre-scripted comments.
Get all guests to participate in a game. For example, have individual guests volunteer to explain why David and Lauren will have the best marriage ever. Best explanation — based on audience reaction — wins a prize.
Recite your own poem, sing your original song, or do your interpretive dance for the bride and groom.
Make your speech topical by referencing current events
“David and Lauren were very practical when they started dating. They didn’t get serious with each other until they were sure they were both members of the same political party. Of course, now they’re so close, I doubt even politics could pull them apart.”
“When David was courting Lauren, he swept her off her feet with visits to Paris,
London, and Rome. Of course, with COVID, it was all virtual on his computer, but still ….”
“Some rumors are going around about how the newlyweds met. I will tell you right now; it is not true that he first noticed her during a Zoom meeting and asked her out in front of the other participants.”
Speak one-on-one with the bride or groom
In public speaking classes, they tell you to look around the room and make eye contact with everyone. But rules are meant to be broken. Consider making your speech directly to the bride or groom (naturally, everyone else will be listening in). For instance, you might advise the bride …
I know you’ll have arguments with him from time to time, just as I did. But you’ll always kiss and make up, just as he and I did … well, we did it without the kissing part.”
Double the fun: Best Man speech brother
If you’re the groom’s brother, you know more family secrets about the groom than any of his friends. So you can put a spin on your speech that no other Best Man could. For example, you can tease the groom based on his chronological standing in the family:
“He’s the baby of the family, so he’s used to getting anything he wants. And Lauren is no exception.”
“He’s the oldest, so he’s used to bossing everybody around. Lauren, you’re going to have to change that.”
“He’s the middle child, so he always thought nobody loved him. Lauren, hopefully, you’ll be able to convince him that’s not true.”
You can kid the groom about how — since he’s landed such a cool bride — maybe now he won’t be so competitive and feel so inferior. And you can let his wife know that she should feel free to call you if she ever needs advice on how to handle her husband “when he throws one of his temper tantrums, like the one he had when he caught me using his baseball mitt.”
Compare to other notable brothers
Comparing you and your brother to famous brothers of past or present is also an opportunity-rich in possibilities for poking fun:
“We were kind of like Wilbur and Orville Wright. He was always way up there with his head in the clouds, while I had both feet planted firmly on the ground.”
“We’re a lot like the Manning brothers — one of us was always just a little bit better.”
“Like Prince William and Prince Harry, one of us is more traditional, and the other likes to go off and do his own thing.”
The toast: End your Best Man speech on a high note
Ideally, your toast will echo the theme of your speech (but still offset any of the teasing remarks in a humorous speech).
For instance, if your speech alluded to the groom’s fondness for beer:
“And now, let’s all raise our glasses — or, in David’s case — your can of Bud Light — and drink to a couple who I know will weather all of life’s challenges just as gracefully and successfully as they’ve weathered my brutal Best Man speech! Seriously, I wish you guys all the happiness in life you so richly deserve. Cheers!”
If your speech took a more emotional approach and focused, for example, on the newlywed’s long and frustrating search for a suitable mate, an appropriate toast might be:
“David and Lauren, those painful years of dating and searching are over, so let’s raise our glasses and drink to the end of searching and the beginning of something that’s going to last a lot longer … many, many years of closeness, contentment, companionship … David, Lauren, you deserve to have it all. Let’s drink to it ….”
A wedding speech’s closing line is important. Make sure you practice it a few times before delivering.
Best Man Speech FAQs
Here are some frequently asked questions about best man speeches and wedding speeches as a whole.
The sweet spot is in between three and five minutes. Try to avoid exceeding five minutes.
You can, but it’s not ideal. Reading through a prepared speech can be boring for your audience. It’s best to write down some notes on cards to remind you of what you’re saying and to speak as if you were conversing with friends.
First, the father of the bride gives his welcome speech and toast. Then, the father of the groom or parents of the groom. Then, the maid of honor, followed by the best man.
In Best Man speeches, one size does not fit all
Your speech will be unique to your situation and the experiences/personalities of the principal players. But, hopefully, we’ve given you a head start on creating something that will have people saying: “Wow, I went to a great Best Man speech last week. Can’t remember much about the wedding, but that speech — it was something else!”
By Art Novak
Art Novak is an Emmy-winning writer, novelist, and Professor Emeritus at Savannah College of Art and Design.
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