5 Tips on How to Write a Great Best Man's Speech

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Being the Best Man at a wedding is both an honor and a huge responsibility. From planning the bachelor party, holding the rings during the ceremony and generally making sure the groom has the best day of his life as he marries the man (or woman) of his dreams, the Best Man plays a critical role in the both the planning and execution phases of the wedding.

One of the most daunting tasks of being Best Man is giving a speech in front of the entire group of people who have come together to take part in the wedding festivities. Beyond the obvious rule of not getting too drunk before delivering your speech, there’s actually a proven formula to follow when it comes to writing a speech that genuine, heartfelt and entertaining.  

Follow these five simple writing tips (and avoid these five pitfalls) to ensure that your speech delivers both tears and laughter to the audience and, especially, to the happy newlyweds.

1.)    Don’t wing it.
Like anything else in life, in order to do well at something you must plan, train and take the entire speechwriting process seriously.

Pitfall #1: Don’t forget to thank the hosts. Get this out of the way at the beginning. But don’t waste time thanking everyone else—that’s that groom’s job.

2.)    Create an outline (just like you did for essays back in school).
Sure, you probably have a plethora of funny stories about the groom from high school, college and/or work. Rather than list those past antics expecting people to ROFLMAO, ask yourself what qualities you think of when you think of the groom. This thought process will allow you to generate a list of bullet points that can serve as the skeleton of your speech. Once you have a solid list of bullet points, think of stories that demonstrate those qualities.

Pitfall #2: When you come up with stories that demonstrate the qualities of the groom you’d like to share, be sure that the stories are tales everyone in the room can relate to. Do NOT tell private jokes. Doing so will exclude audience members and will make your speech fall flat.

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3.)    Keep your speech brief, light and humorous.
Your speech should not be the next great American novel. Keep it to 5 minutes, tops. When it comes to content, aim to have 70% of your speech be humorous and 30% be sentimental. After all, you’re celebrating a joyous occasion and you don’t want your speech to be a buzzkill. Imagine that you have the audience laughing for a few minutes and then you deliver a few profound sentences. Now that, my friends, it a great formula for a successful speech.

Pitfall #3: Don’t go to the Internet for jokes. All the humor you need to make a great speech can be expressed through shared experiences that the audience can relate to. While Jamiroquai can get away with Canned Heat, you will not be able to get away with canned jokes. Period.

4.)    Make the speech all about the newlyweds.
Remember the key rule of public speaking: know your audience. The guests at the wedding just want to have a good time. Don’t make your speech full of stories about how much you love the groom. No one cares about that. Instead, share unexpected traits about the couple through shared stories. Of course, the majority of your speech is going to be about the groom; but, don’t forget to include remarks about his new husband (or bride). If you don’t know much about your buddy’s spouse, ask friends who might be able to provide you with information about him/her that you can use in your speech. Including the other spouse is a sign of respect and demonstrates that you truly know what this big day is all about—the newlyweds (not you).

Pitfall #4: Take the words “I” and “me” out of your speech. If you make the speech about you, you’ve already lost the attention of your audience and you’ve failed to make your words reflect the true stars of the day—the newlyweds.

5.)    Give your speech some structure (again, just like your essays back in school).
Every story should have a beginning, a middle and an end. Start by making a statement about the groom like, “Joe is the most ambitious person I know.” Then back up your statement with some entertaining and thoughtful stories. At the end of your speech, revisit your initial idea, but explain how that idea has evolved now that he’s married his one, true love. “Since Joe met John (or Jane), he’s even more driven.” Making this connection not only shows how much you care about the groom, but it also reflects the respect you have for the couple now that they’re married.

Pitfall #5: Don’t read your speech from a script. Memorize it! If you stick to a printed script, you’ll only be concentrating on your next line rather than making an authentic connection with to the newlyweds and the audience.

Follow these five tips and avoid these five pitfalls and you’ll be well on your way to writing and delivering a fantastic Best Man’s speech. Good luck!

This story could not have been possible without the help of Men’s Health magazine and author Dan Michel.