“Loved it! Well DONE.”
“Great speech – hilarious!”
“Mate, that was awesome.”
A great Best Man Speech is the highlight of any wedding banquet.
But exactly what makes a great Best Man Speech?
A Great Best Man Speech is…?
We all know the signs: first the chuckles, then the roar, knowing nods and glances, spontaneous applause, perhaps even the occasional hanky.
But is the reality of the Best Man Speech always this rosy?
Chances are, you will at some point have sat through a Best Man Speech and cringed.
I know I have.
A Lousy Best Man Speech is…?
- The lousy speech that’s more like a reading;
- The stale internet gag;
- References to girlfriends past;
- Clever jibes that fall flat; and
- An ending with a toast that brings more relief than joy.
So, how can Best Men give themselves the best possible chance of being a hit?
Well, let’s start by recognising that preparing and delivering a Best Man Speech is nerve-wracking.
Trust me, I’ve been there.
I worried about whether the jokes would work. I worried about whether I had enough material on the Groom. I worried… I worried… and I worried some more.
But that’s OK. It’s natural. More to the point, it’s important. It shows you’re serious about wanting to do a good job.
But there is pressure. It stems from the received wisdom about what constitutes a “strong” Best Man Speech:
- The speech should humiliate the Groom.
- The speech should be hilarious.
Striking the right balance, however, is tricky.
No Best Man ever gave a great speech by making the Groom’s friends cheer and the Bride’s parents cry.
So, what to do?
Well as with any speech, the key is to be absolutely clear on your answer to one critically important question:
Who are you writing the Best Man Speech for?
A wedding audience is a complex beast:
- young and old,
- rich and poor,
- aunts and uncles,
- grandparents and 2 year old grand children,
- close friends and distant friends,
- traditional and “not-so-traditional”
Yet so many Best Man Speeches are written and delivered for the friends of the Groom.
Only the friends of the Groom.
I’m not saying the Groom isn’t fair game on his Wedding Day — of course he is.
But not if it risks alienating a whole bunch of other people who “weren’t-there-on-the-Stag-Do-when-Fred-got-drunk-and-shagged-Olga-The-Hairy, the-Bulgarian-shot-putter-from-Varna”.
Certainly not if it risks upsetting the people who, next to the Bride and Groom, are the most important members of any wedding party.
Heresy it may be, but the truth is that any Best Man wanting to “score big” with his speech should build it around what will engage and entertain The Parents, not The Friends.
What will The Parents find funny?
When recounting the stories, what traits in their offspring will The Parents recognise and enjoy? And most important, what will make The Parents proud of their new son-in-law and their new daughter-in-law?
No, this is not about being a sycophant. Far from it. It’s about doing what’s in any speaker’s best interest — recognising the number one rule of public speaking — know your audience.
(It’s also about discharging your duties responsibly, but we can save the high-horse preaching for another time).
Think about it. The Father Of The Bride has just given one of the most emotional speeches of his life, finally releasing his darling girl. Emotions are running high. Hankies are on stand-by.
Because everyone – the young, the old, the aunts, the uncles and the friends – is there to celebrate the single same event.
A new and happy union.
At a time like this – on a Wedding Day of all days – what’s the last thing everyone needs? Some smart alec on a mission to prove what a dreadful mistake the twerp in the meringue outfit just made.
Want your Best Man Speech to be a winner? If the answer is yes, then I can put it no simpler than this: Win The Parents and you will win The Crowd.
You may not be hilarious, but at least you’ll be appreciated. And that’s more than a malevolent Best Man will ever achieve.
Best Man Speech Example
Ed: As an example, here is Simon delivering a Best Man Speech. What additional lessons can we learn from this speech example?