One of the number one wedding worries is the best man’s speech. It’s not just the best man who’ll be trembling at the thought though – I’ve heard from brides and grooms who worry about it too! Most best men are understandably nervous about speaking to so many people; and even those few who are brimming with confidence can make the rest of us pretty scared of the speech itself. So here’s some advice from guest blogger Lawrence to share with your best man – the sooner the better!
Let’s face it. The best man’s speech is the toughest wedding speech of all. Whilst the father of the bride can fall back on pride and sentiment, and the groom on gratitude and love, it’s the best man who has to entertain. And more importantly, entertain WITHOUT causing offense. Which is difficult when your audience comprises of four generations of friends and relations from at least two families. The key is to be original, relevant and appropriate. And not to be a crude, abusive, self centred mate! Here are some best man speech spoilers to be avoided at all costs:
Stag do stories:
Remember that not all of the guests attended the stag do. Whilst some of your mates may be in stitches by you recounting the story of the groom’s stint in a Hungarian strip club, the rest of the guests may feel uncomfortable and excluded, and you won’t get the laughs you’re hoping for.
This may sound odd; after all, this is the one wedding speech where people expect jokes. But punch lines that fall flat can be a nightmare for any speaker, and there are plenty of examples of when people laugh without one.
Don’t include any joke that might insult guests and in particular the bride! Best man’s speeches have a reputation for being a bit saucy, but there have been many examples where they’ve gone too far. Don’t judge a potential story or joke on whether you find it funny, but on whether your audience will be offended by it. You won’t impress those single bridesmaids with smutty anecdotes!
Contact friends and family who knew him when he was a toddler for funny stories. The audience will find his bed wetting exploits at five years old funny. The same story told of a 25 year old will get a less rapturous response.
However easy-going the bride is, she doesn’t want to be reminded of any ex’s on her wedding day, even if they were a psycho, a weirdo or an obsessive.
Talking about yours truly:
It’s tempting to focus your wedding speech on your own relationship with the groom. But if you labour the point too heavily, it can start to sound like narcissism and be very boring for everyone else.
A character assassination of the groom:
Whilst there’s room for some gentle, good-natured abuse of the groom, don’t take it too far. No one wants to feel sorry for him at the end of the speech and you don’t want to come across as heartless. The key is how you phrase things. You need to tease rather than insult. Be amusing rather than nasty. A good way of doing this is to work with contradictions and opposites. If the groom is lazy then highlight his proactive moments. If he’s particularly camp, send him up as being macho. You don’t have to give him an easy ride, but remember your job as best man includes reminding everyone (albeit in a teasing way) what a great bloke he is.
In-jokes and slang:
If people don’t understand your joke, they won’t find it funny. So don’t use a long word when a short one will do. Don’t use a clever pun if many of the guests have travelled from overseas. And don’t use slang that only a small group of your friends will understand.
You should limit specific anecdotes to a maximum of two or three sentences each. Keeping it snappy will hold people’s attention, and if a story isn’t working, you can move swiftly on.
Following these tips will help ensure your wedding speech is remembered for all the right reasons. Remember the best way to judge whether your speech is appropriate or not is to try it out on others. Whether that’s asking a mutual friend or contacting a professional speech writer.
Lawrence Bernstein is the founder of www.greatspeechwriting.co.uk and is always happy to give free advice, act as a sounding board, or indeed help, edit or write the wedding speech for you.