Pressure is often high for the best man or woman’s wedding speech. You’ve never given a speech before, and suddenly everyone is expecting you to be funny, confident and creative. Ultimately, remember that the couple already knows (and loves) you, so you don’t need to adopt a character for this role. The more genuine you are, the better your speech will be received. If you’re not usually the comedian in the group, don’t feel the need to tell a bunch of jokes. Equally, if you’re not an overly emotional person, don’t suddenly be gushy. Don’t be afraid to keep it simple and speak to the room like you’re speaking to a small group of friends and family.
1. Ease yourself in gently
When you stand up to address the crowd, take that first moment to connect with your audience. Look around the room. Make eye contact with people. And smile! It’s amazing how contagious a smile can be! Not only will you relax as you connect with others, this initial moment of connection helps set the tone for everything that comes next, and makes people feel connected and engaged. If you’re nervous, which is totally normal, watch this video to reduce the nerves before you start. When you’re ready, get into your speech with a straightforward opening. This might be a simple one-liner about how lovely the day has been so far, and a compliment to the bride and bridesmaids. It’s also a chance to thank the previous speakers - the father of the bride, the groom or whoever else has been entrusted with this duty.
2. Take the audience on a journey
Next, it’s time to talk about the groom (or bride). Your job is to take the audience on a journey from the child they once were, to the incredible person they’ve become. As you gather content for the speech, don’t feel that you have to go it alone. Put feelers out for stories from people who have been around during different periods of their life - their childhood, school years, university, first job, travelling, whatever it might be. There are myriads of topics that will suit this joyful occasion, but there’s no no need to recount every event. Instead, it’s about looking for patterns to help you connect all the stories into one succinct narrative, adding detail to particular anecdotes that you feel will get a good reception. By weaving traits from childhood to adulthood, you are not only engaging guests from all stages of the groom’s life, you are also creating content that is ripe for comedic observations – a particularly good approach if the onus is on you to get the laughs!
If you are struggling to know where to start, try listing out his unique qualities. Several of his qualities will likely have a few stories associated with them, and many of those will likely have an amusing angle. A nice way to conclude these stories is to think about how they are a perfect fit with his new partner. What is it about their qualities that compliment each other, either in a funny or touching way?
3. Don’t rely on humour
A best man or woman’s speech tends to be a stream of humorous (and often embarrassing!) incidents involving the groom. This is fine, as long as the content is clean and respectable, and doesn’t cross the line of what’s acceptable. A few jokes sprinkled in can help to loosen up the crowd and make you feel more relaxed, but don’t rely on them. Regardless of what you might think, your job is not to roast the groom. For example, now is not the time for friends and family to be reminded of the bride or groom with anyone other than the person they’ve just married! Equally though, if comedy doesn’t come naturally to you, don’t force it.
4. Speak to everyone
It’s also important to remember that your speech needs to be inclusive for everyone in the room - whether it’s a great grandmother, an old school friend or even a work boss. Telling very specific jokes about something that happened at university, for example, could risk a rowdy response from one corner of the room while everyone else feels left out or uncomfortable. Anything that paints either one of them in a genuinely negative or shameful light should also be avoided. Ultimately, your aim as the best man is to tell a story that shows the groom in his best light, and that should be everyone can get behind.
5. Handle disruptions with grace
Be aware that some of the more raucous stags and hens in the crowd might be keen to shout things out and put you off your game. If this happens, don’t ignore it. If you ignore it, the story that people remember becomes the interaction between the interrupter and you pretending nothing’s happening. That little drama is going to be way more interesting than most speeches, so don’t try and compete – just nip the drama in the bud quickly. By acknowledging the interruption, responding gracefully and then moving on, you can show that you are unscripted and adaptive. It also demonstrates an authentic, human element.
6. Practice makes perfect
There’s no getting away from it; practising for a speech is vital. In fact, it’s widely accepted that a mere 7% of your speech comes from the content you say. The rest is how you say it and your body language. Once you’ve got the content of your speech ready, repeat it over and over to get the rhythm right, practise when to pause and tune the intonation in your voice. Don't practise it in your head - say it out loud to yourself or even to a close friend to get their feedback. We often have preconceived notions of how we look and sound, so try recording yourself and watching it back. This will help you to narrow down what you need to focus on – whether it's removing the umms and ahhs, using more pauses or having more open body language. Make sure you vary the pace of your speech as well as your tone, to capture and hold your audience’s attention.
So there you have it. Once you’ve written, fine tuned and rehearsed the speech, it’s time to deliver it. Remember that you’re among friends - they want you to do well and, even if you do slip up, take it in your stride, make a joke out of it and remember that your biggest critic is yourself - no one else will nit-pick your speech like you will. Good luck!
If you’d like some help navigating the challenges of writing your best man’s speech and get some nerve-busting techniques before the big day, take a look at our Wedding Speech Coaching package. During the one, three or five hours with your experienced coach, you’ll learn to write and deliver a speech that your audience will remember long after the suits and dresses have been packed away, for all the right reasons!
Keep your eyes peeled for our next wedding speech blog coming soon!
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