Being best man comes with big responsibilities - planning a bachelor party, holding the rings on the big day - but it also carries the daunting task of delivering a speech in front of an audience. Aside from the obvious rules of not getting too drunk before (two drink limit. Max!) or telling stories that would make grandma gasp, there’s a steadfast formula for writing a quality speech.
“The most common mistake is thinking you can just wing it,” says Victoria Wellman, writer and co-founder of Oratory Laboratory, a Brooklyn-based speechwriting firm. “After all, you wouldn’t sign up for an Ironman without training.” Follow these simple writing tips, and you’ll have the audience laughing, crying, and applauding all the way through your toast.
Create An Outline
Rather than listing off funny stories from college, think of the qualities that define the groom and his relationship. Ask yourself: “When I think of him, I think of....” In the end, you’ll have a bulleted list of answers, which can serve as your framework. Now, think of the best stories that demonstrate those qualities. Just be sure they’re tales everyone can relate to. Avoid telling private jokes that exclude most of the audience, says Wellman. They’ll likely fall flat.
Keep It Short, Light, and Funny
Keep your speech to no more than five minutes. “It’s the perfect length to get your point across without people walking off to get more wine,” says Wellman. When putting together your stories, stick to a balance of 70 percent humorous to 30 percent sentimental.
“When the audience has been laughing for three minutes and then you say something really profound, it really moves them,” she says.
Make It All About Them
If your speech has a lot of “I” and “me” in it, you’re doing it wrong. “Guests want to have fun,” says Wellman. “They don’t care about personal stories or how much the best man loves the groom.”
Instead, reveal unexpected traits about the couple through shared stories. It’s fine to talk mostly about the groom - three-quarters of the speech or so - but you should bring up the bride at some point. If you don’t know anything about her, reach out to friends who might have a better idea.
Give It Some Structure
Your speech, like any good story, should have a beginning, middle, and end. At the start, make a statement about the groom, e.g. “He’s the most ambitious person I know,” or “He’s always looked out for the rest of us.” Then tell some stories to back up that concept. When you come to the end, revisit that first idea, but explain how it’s changed, e.g.
“Since he met his bride, he’s even more driven” or “Now he has someone to protect for the rest of his life.” Just making that connection will say so much about how much you care, says Wellman.
And Don’t Ever, Ever Do This….
1. Tell that story of the time he threw up out the window. It’s funny to recall them in private, but they’re not the most important tales to tell in front of family.
2. Go to the Internet for jokes. “All the humour you need is in your shared experiences,” says Wellman. People will recognise canned humour.
3. Try to memorise your speech. You’ll only think of your next line instead of feeling connected to your words.
4. Forget to thank the hosts. Get this out of the way at the beginning, but don’t waste time thanking anyone else. That’s the groom’s job.