At some point in your life, one of your buddies or your brother will probably ask you to be the best man in his wedding. This is a great honor. One of the duties of a best man is to give a speech wherein you say a few kind words about your friend/brother and his new wife. If you’ve been to many weddings, you know that oftentimes best man speeches can quickly devolve into an awkward, drunken spectacle. The mixture of booze and lack of preparation results in the best man rambling and sharing inappropriate and embarrassing stories about the groom in front of hundreds of family and friends.
If you don’t want to make yourself look like a real ignoramus, and you want to truly be the best man, here are a few pointers to keep in mind as you prepare to give your speech.
Note: We originally published this article over 10 years ago and since that time we’ve gotten hundreds of emails and letters from best men sharing how our guide to the best man speech helped them deliver a speech that got compliments from not only the bride and groom, but also from everyone else at the wedding. This guide is battled tested and works.
1. Prepare. Don’t walk into the wedding reception thinking you’ll know exactly what to say when you get there. If you have a few weeks before the wedding, start mulling over some ideas for the speech. Begin brainstorming and jotting down thoughts, stories, jokes, and quotes you might want to use. If you don’t know a lot about how your buddy and his wife met, ask. Think of stories from you and your buddy’s past that show what a great guy he is. The goal of the speech is to celebrate the couple and make them look good.
2. Stay sober. Sure, you want to enjoy yourself, and yes, alcohol may help take the edge off of giving a speech in front of hundreds of strangers; they don’t call alcohol liquid confidence for nothing. But make sure you’re not sloppy drunk when you give your speech. You don’t want to be completely uninhibited or you might say something you’ll regret later on. Besides, a man doesn’t need a crutch to help him tackle a challenge. Be man enough to postpone your own gratification until after the speech is completed.
3. Open by expressing gratitude. Thank all the people who made the day possible. Single out the bride and groom’s parents by name, and offer a toast to them for not only putting on the wedding but for raising two fine people. Thank the guests for coming.
4. Tell a story–make a connection. The ideal way to structure a best man speech is to find a connection between a story about your friend and your support for the couple. Share a story about how your friend would always lament that he would never find a woman with x,y, and z qualities, but how he finally did in his new bride. Or tell a story about the moment when you were hanging out with the couple and you realized your friend had found his match. Another good angle is to talk about the way that the bride and groom balance one another. Relate a funny (not embarrassing, see below) anecdote in which one of your buddy’s personality traits tripped him up in some way. For example, the story could be about how your friend is very shy and how this shyness caused some humorous event to occur. You then talk about how bubbly and outgoing his bride is, and how they therefore balance each other and make a perfect team.
5. Avoid controversial topics. Keep your speech on topics that aren’t controversial, offensive, or embarrassing. You would think this is common sense, but people somehow forget this when they’re standing with a microphone in their hand in front of a crowd of people. What gets people in trouble is attempting to be funny by sharing some embarrassing story or cracking some lame joke about a ball and chain. It usually comes out horribly and no one laughs. It’s okay to share a humorous anecdote, but not one that gets laughs at the expense of your friend and his new wife and embarrasses them and their guests.
Don’t talk about the groom’s past relationships, don’t tell people what you really thought of your buddy’s wife when you first met her, don’t slam the food, don’t make comments about “looking forward to the honeymoon” while winking at the bride–basically, just use some tact and common sense.
6. Avoid inside jokes. I hate when people do this in small groups. I hate it even more when people do it in front of larger groups. If you want to keep people’s attention, save the inside jokes for when it’s just you and your friend.
7. Keep it short. Nothing irritates people more than some rambling drunk going on and on and on. People have probably already listened to the maid of honor and the bride’s father give their spiel. By the time they get to you, the crowd is ready to eat cake and get on with it. Shoot for no more than five minutes.
8. End with a quote. An easy way to end is by using a quote that wraps the speech up nicely. In “How Do You Know When She’s the One?” I shared the quote my father-in-law used at my wedding. You can’t go wrong with it: “Marriage is not about finding a person you can live with, it’s about finding the person you can’t live without.” After that you can simply say, “My friend has found that person.” The End.
9. Raise your glass and propose a toast. Raise your glass and say something to the effect of: “Here’s to a lifetime of happiness and love for ____ and ____!”
10. Remember to be yourself. No need to get formal or try to be someone you’re not. And there’s no need to follow these instructions exactly either. Simply use them as a guide and be yourself. Let it flow naturally. Use your natural voice and mannerisms. Make it personal and sincere and say things from the heart and you should be golden.