August 19, 2005

Everything I Know About Writing A Best Man's Speech

Like me, my mate Jon has been honoured to be asked to be a best man. The other day (before I accidentally kicked him in the shin playing football... sorry about that Jon!) he asked me if I had any hints or links to help him embarrass the groom prepare his speech.

I'm not sure that I'm the most qualified to give advice, seeing as I didn't seem to spend too much time writing it - I started it on my train journey back from Egham one day, and finished it in a couple more evenings. That said, it seemed to go over okay on the day...

Tradition dictates some of the speech for you: the best man's speech usually follows the groom's, so you generally start by thanking the groom on behalf of the bridesmaids; and you generally finish with a final toast to the happy couple.

So the only bit you get to play with really is the middle, and how hard can that be? ;-)

Once word gets out that you're going to be best man, people are usually eager to offer their thoughts and ideas, and to share their experiences of best man speeches they've heard.

A while back I read Working the Room by Nick Morgan, which I'd recommend for anyone doing any sort of public speaking. It advocates basing your speech on one of the archetypal stories or myths: the quest (or hero's journey); stranger in a strange land; rags to riches; revenge; or boy meets girl. Working the Room gives a page of explanation for each of the stories.

Although boy meets girl sounds like the obvious pick, for that story the boy loses the girl through some misunderstanding before finally winning her back, so it didn't match what had happened with Neil and Kuljit. Instead, I figured the quest would be more suitable, showing Neil's journey through life to find true love.

With the quest providing a basic framework, I set about talking to Neil's friends and family to gather stories to use, including some useful material from Neil himself one evening in the pub when he'd had a few too many. In the latter scenario, make sure you write the material down or (as I did) text it to yourself, as you're unlikely to be in a state to rely on your memory! I then chose a handful of the stories and ran them together along a rough timeline from when I first knew the groom, through to him meeting his new wife and them falling in love.

Props are always well received, with embarrassing photos of the groom being a common choice. With some help from my housemate, Scottie, I worked in some jokes involving bubblewrap, and the air horn I let off at the end of the speech had the added bonus of waking up anyone who'd found my speech too boring.

Now that the speech is written, you can turn your attention to its delivery. Practice is key here; I must have run through mine half a dozen times. That will give you an idea of how long it will last, and also identify any parts or phrases that you have difficulty with. I didn't script my speech, just had a set of (numbered!) 3"x5" index cards with brief reminders of the stories so that I got them in order but I did script the odd sentence here and there that I'd struggled to find the best wording for during the rehearsal.

Ideally you should check out the room beforehand. I didn't have chance to do this, and so was a little alarmed when we sat down for the meal to find that there wasn't enough space to get out from my seat, which made my initial joke a tad difficult. Luckily we decided to run all the speeches from the other end of the room and it wasn't a problem in the end. Incorporating something into your speech that requires you to move about the room can be a good trick to take your mind off the speech itself and help you calm your nerves and relax.

Finally, remember to speak loudly (so even old Aunt Ethel at the back can hear you) and more slowly than you think you should - you'll have a natural tendency to rush through the speech as you know what it says, remember everyone else is hearing it for the first time. And don't worry about it too much - everyone wants the speech to go well, so they're all on your side!

Posted by Adrian at August 19, 2005 12:50 PM | TrackBack

This blog post is on the personal blog of Adrian McEwen. If you want to explore the site a bit further, it might be worth having a look at the most recent entries or look through the archives or categories over on the left.

You can receive updates whenever a new post is written by subscribing to the recent posts RSS feed or


Thanks, Adrian! Although I didn't actually read the entry until today (2 days after the event), it all went very well.

I used notes on cards (much as you suggested), and employed a formula, though not one of the archetypal stories: I opted for 'It's traditional for the Best Man to come up with some embarrassing anecdotes about the Groom, but I really can't think of anything suitable... I could mention [constipation story]... Or [lamb sausage story]... Or [incident of the frozen trout]... But none of those quite captures [unflattering assessment of the Groom's character]... [Balanced by best aspects of his character]'

Everyone seemed pleased with it, particularly Leila, who won the sweepstake on length of speeches (insider trading!).

Posted by: Jon at August 22, 2005 09:59 AM

Ah well. Sounds like you did just fine without any of my "tips" :-)

Posted by: Adrian at August 22, 2005 12:03 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Note: I'm running the MT-Keystrokes plugin to filter out spam comments, which unfortunately means you have to have Javascript turned on to be able to comment.