Being The Best Man

Someone has chosen you to be the best man, can you pull the speech off? Will your jokes be OK…
Picture of Oliver Lucas

Oliver Lucas

Published 06 Sep 2023

2 best men at the alter with the groom

Perhaps it’s because you’re their best friend, brother or even last-minute replacement for a colleague – but someone has chosen YOU to be the best man  and you’re like a rabbit in the headlights and your mind may be racing.

“Can I pull off a speech? Will my jokes be okay? What does the job involve?”

This is where we come in. 

Our professional speechwriters will guide you through the process, collect your ideas, stories, thoughts and feelings to spin them into a showstopping, original speech that will sound like it all comes from you (because it will). 

We help craft a bespoke speech, with humour and warmth, and assist you with your tweaks, tone and delivery until you have the confidence to know it WILL work and people will be shaking your hand all afternoon. If you want to be the best best man, you are in the best place.

We will be side throughout the creative process, be it last-minute or well in advance. You need have no experience at all. However, for those who like to do their homework, you can get an idea of what is involved in the guide below – or just send in an email and get going right now. No time like the present!

Wdding ceremony raising a toast

NUTS & BOLTS 

Aside from the gentle (or ferocious) roasting of the groom, your speech also includes a couple of obligatory nods – at least if you are sticking to convention. You will come after the groom, who will have done most of the thanking, and you don’t want to find he has covered elements of your speech, so liaise with him to avoid treading on his toes. You may wish to mention the stag party, the positive influence of the bride on your friend, as well as a fitting tribute to the groom… after some merciless ridicule.

You are there, in the main, to make people laugh, so don’t get too heavy or too flowery. Upbeat, affectionate and a little mischievous is the order of the day.

Of course, you may also have another, more formal duty. To stand with the groom at the head of the aisle, calm frayed nerves and provide the rings during the ceremony. Make sure you have them!

DOs & DON’Ts

Do:

  • Theme your speech. There are many ways to approach your speech, but the most typical is a chronological collection of embarrassing tales featuring the groom, threaded together by some sort of common theme. This might be quirks in his personality, odd habits or obsessions – anything that can provide a link to reference between anecdotes and other elements in the speech. It really helps turn it from a random collection of gags and memories, to a logical, flowing chronical of the groom’s journey through the life he has shared with the guests.
  • Phone around friends and family – the more gold you can mine, the fewer fillers you will need, and everything becomes more personal for the groom and more of the audience.
  • Incorporate props, such as blown-up photos or old costumes, if you feel comfortable doing so – this can make an anecdote sing.
  • Revise and reduce to bullet points on a card – or blow up the font and print the whole thing off. If you chose the latter, leave the paper on the table. You may have shaky hands and butter fingers!
  • Most importantly, practise and practise more, until you know where you’re pausing, emphasising and making a funny – and until you can deliver with eye-contact. Find a sounding board and keep going.

 

Don’t:

  • Make it too laddy or sexist. Children and grandparents will be present – so avoid too much banter and don’t actually swear if at all possible. In the same vein, if you are making risqué jokes, allude. Most people enjoy some double entendre, but most also cringe if they hear body parts named. It’s not worth risking embarrassing yourself or offending others.
  • So, forget mentioning previous sexual conquests, serious misdemeanours or fights (or anything that the bride doesn’t want to hear about on her big day).
  • Make it about you (or you and the groom exclusively). Many people will enjoy hearing stories spanning the groom’s life and, after a short introduction, no-one’s there to hear about you. Same with the stag do.
  • When you have your anecdotes collected – select ruthlessly. Never try to include every tale – think in terms of a hit single, not an opera.
  • Use internet jokes or fake telegrams (even genuine are rather ‘old hat’ these days). It’s not the 70s, and, more importantly, you don’t want to make people groan or show you’ve only done copy and paste.
  • Golden rule: if you have to ask yourself whether or not something is okay to say, then it isn’t. Leave it out. Play it safe.
  • Steady nerves with overuse of substances.

*Top tip here: a couple of drinks for Dutch Courage is fine, but much more risks you slurring your words, losing your place and going over the top in your one moment to shine.

STRUCTURE

 Of course – there’s nothing to stop you from being a maverick, but the speech system has been in place for a long time and it works.

  1. Introduction: Many people will know you, but not everyone. Explain your place in the groom’s life and start warming your crowd. If you’re nervous, say so, a self-effacing joke helps get people right on side.
  • Some speechwriters advise avoiding talking about yourself altogether, but we take a more relaxed approach. It’s nice for the audience to know where you feature – and being a little nervy humanises you – but we definitely don’t want your life story here! Be brief.


An example: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen I hope you’re all enjoying this very special occasion. Most of you know me, but for those who don’t me name is Richard and I have the privilege of being (groom’s) best man. I’ve also had the dubious honour of being his best pal for more than 20 years.

I remember when we first met at secondary school, I immediately liked (groom) and wanted to be his friend. Everyone was like this with (groom) and he will tell you it’s down to his natural charisma, wit and charm. I can’t speak for anyone else but for me personally it was because he was the first kid in the area to have Sky Sports at his house.

  1. General Pleasantries: Plenty of time to make the groom wince, so why not begin by saying how honoured you are to be in this privileged position and what a special day it is.
  • Not officially your job, but a nod to how nice it is to see so many friends and family and how lovely  the venue is / ceremony was. Easy way to start the ball rolling before you get into the groom. Without repeating others you may wish to quickly thank the bridesmaids and the ushers, especially if you’ve delegated tasks to them.

 

An example: (Groom) has been my best friend for many years so it means a huge amount to be here on the biggest day of his life. Together we’ve been through pretty much every situation, good and bad, and shared many happy memories. I’m sure today will be the happiest of them all.

 

  1. The Stag: Don’t go into great detail here, but do thank attendees and make vague references to good but unrepeatable time had by all.
  • If you really feel the need to keep the groom on his toes by threatening to release some awful details here, just leave it at a threat, or make a quick reference on two levels that will only be understood by those in the know. Remember – not too long here, as only a few people will appreciate it.

 

An example: Thanks to the guys who came on the stag do, you made it a lot of fun and a memorable occasion for (groom). I hope you’ve all managed to get the image of (groom) having his chest waxed out your head. It wasn’t pretty and he had to take a break half way through as it was fairly tough going. Thankfully he declined our offer to also pay for a back wax as the amount of hair there would have made it even more painful.

 

  1. The Slow Roast (body of speech): A string of anecdotes threaded together chronologically and/or by theme (usually some personality traits or bad habits). 
  • This is the meat on the bones and where digging into your memory, or those who know him, will pay off. The trick is to take these seemingly unrelated anecdotes, personality flaws and further detail, and find/create a common theme within them. This gives the speech its flow, allows jokes to repeat or crescendo and wraps it up with a 360 finish. It also gives a context to otherwise random facts and observations, placing them within said theme, or in a chronological order.

 

An example: Although (groom’s) physical development came early, his mental development and common sense came perhaps a little later. His parents would know when he’d had PE at school as he tended to come home with his clothes on back to front. At home he used to dress his action men in Barbie outfits and, while there’s nothing wrong with this, it possibly made him a little confused about the facts of life. To clarify these (groom) once asked the age old question of where babies come from. Again, most of us have done this but few do what Tom did and ask the teacher in front of a class full of teenagers. The teacher was too embarrassed to reply so I hope for (bride’s) sake (groom) has since found out the answer.

 

  1. The Bride: How amazing she looks today. What a positive impact she has had on his life. How she will be great for him in the future.
  • Laugh about the groom but be nice about the bride. Flattery will get you everywhere. Regardless of reality, the bride is always beautiful both inside and out and is a guaranteed source of applause (roughly half the audience will be her friends and family). You are happy that he has found his better half and you will say so! Of course, if they are mutual friends of yours, there may always be scope to embarrass her too, but in the body – not this part.

 

An example: I have never seen (groom) look happier and of course this is down to (bride), who is his perfect woman. She is warm, caring, extremely intelligent and great company. The two of them have their own different personalities but each compliments the other and they share the same values. Since (bride) came into (groom’s) life it has been a pleasure to get to know her and I’m sure everyone here will agree when I say, today (name), you make an absolutely stunning bride.

 

  1. The Tribute: What a good bloke your friend is and how happy you are he has found happiness.
  • Boys have feelings too, and this is one chance to share them without it being awkward. He’s been your rock through thick and thin, loves you warts and all, the first to help and the last to leave. This is the part where you really have to personalise it by saying what he means to you and why.

 

An example: As I hope I’ve shown there’s never a dull moment when (groom) is around, he’s well-liked by everyone he meets and never fails to make you laugh or raise a smile with his infectious personality. The other side to (groom) is he cares deeply about his friends and family and will always make time for them. If ever you have a problem he is a tower of support and the first one to drop everything and rush round to help. It turns out hanging out with someone because they have Sky Sports is a good way to choose your friends because in the years since, I couldn’t have asked for a better one.

 

  1. The Close: A toast to the new Mr and Mrs X (if she is taking his name: check!). You can always pepper this part with a little advice to the married couple, whether light-hearted or poignant.

 

  • Done. Now breath!

 

An example: I think that’ about enough from me, other than to ask everyone to stand and join me in a toast to two people who were made for each other. They have the same outlook on life, it’s just one big adventure with everyone included. But this moment is just about them, ladies and gentlemen….to the bride and groom!

TIMING

Time flies in a good speech with a great speaker who has a lot of tales to tell. But it can really drag if it’s poor. A common piece of advice is to stick with the theatre maxim: ‘always leave them wanting more’ as opposed to draining the goodwill.

There’s plenty of truth to this but there is room for flexibility. It really depends on how much worthwhile you have to say. The key is, within reason, focus on quality rather than quantity. As little as six minutes is fine, this will cover the basics. Too much shorter than this and it may look like you couldn’t really be bothered.

That said, six minutes can go pretty quickly and may not be enough to fit in all the different elements – particularly if the groom is a colourful character. So a speech of 12 minutes, or possibly even slightly longer, is absolutely fine. Just so long as this extra quantity is matched by decent quality. Do this and no one is going to be clock watching, they’ll be too busy being entertained.

To time your speech, always read it aloud (preferably to a friend or partner who can laugh in the right spots). And remember, clarity is important. Speak at two-thirds your normal speed when delivering a speech.

  • PACE – In addition to the overall timescale, you do need to think hard about pace, which comes somewhere between timing and delivery. Which stories deserve a longer telling? Which can be nipped and tucked? This doesn’t come naturally to most people, because they want to include every story they remember. But there is a very limited time in which you have to reflect on usually at least a couple of decades – so you cannot do it all, and certainly the wheat must be separated from the chaff.


People’s attention span flags quickly if the stories are too complicated, long, or overly detailed. More tabloid, less broadsheet, is probably a reasonable analogy. So, avoid the you had to be there anecdotes, long preambles and, especially, recognise dead wood that offers little, and let us cut it down or out for you.

  • EDITING – Efficient editing is not just to reduce time, but to enhance flow and make sense of which parts go where, how they contradict or enhance what has come before or what will come after – in terms of set-up up, chronology and theme.


Whilst you are expected to remember or gather a few stories on the way, it becomes increasingly difficult to cram them all in, so a focus needs to be on whether they can remain in the context of the themes and flow. It also often gets to the stage (with late additions) where it may have to be one in, one out, with further work to weave it in where it makes sense.

Of course, these things are doable, but it is more often than the not the case that late additions add little and create a lot of time working on something when you should really be getting down to the nitty-gritty of rehearsing and getting comfortable with what you’ve produced. 

TONE 

No two people are the same and you want your speech to sound like you and fit in with the crowd. Some advice on this will follow, but when we’ve had a chat and sent you the initial draft, we work with you to fit the language to you and your audience, so you are sure not to drop a clanger and seem like you’ve had any help! This is when you will send back the speech with some revisions and we can talk them through, if necessary, on the phone.

As mentioned, you’ve had the stag do – the speech is not for the lads. It’s for parents, grandparents, children and colleagues so effing and jeffing is inappropriate. Depending on the audience and your familiarity with them, we can help you judge the level of politeness or bawdiness, perhaps creating jokes that work on two levels. Generally, though, keep it clever and clean. There will also be time for sentiment as you close your speech – but avoid anything so touching that it could produce a tear or two; this is not your job today.

JOINT SPEECHES

The groom may have found himself unable to pick between a brother and a best friend, for example, so you may very well find yourself tied to another, which can make like trickier – but can also provide a different and special dynamic. There are a number of options for you to consider.

  • First of all, you could deliver your own separate speeches. This is the least desirable choice, as it takes more time and there are jobs to be done (like toasts) that you don’t want to do twice. You will also have to closely liaise so your anecdotes don’t duplicate, overlap or contradict each other.
  • Two halves of the same speech: This tends to work with best men who are not too familiar with each other, perhaps coming from different stages in the groom’s life (also for those who have less time to check in with each other or for the more conscientious of a mismatched pair). It would tend to follow a chronological flow with the earlier and later years taken retrospectively, or divided themes.
  • The Double-Act: Equally shared and distributed throughout. They are most suited to best men who know each other to a certain extent, and can work like magic, one chipping in with quips, backing each up, one speaking as the other uses props, for instance. However, they do require a lot of practice time in order to pull off a polished performance.

DELIVERY 

OK, so we’ve worked together to come up with a speech that will do your friend proud and earn you an ovation. But you’re not quite sure when the jokes land and you’ve never spoken in public before. Let’s practice until you are happy and have it down pat. We are able to run through together, advising on speed of delivery, projection, and how to stress the humour and leave the pauses for a laugh every time. Remember, you will never have a more encouraging audience, so don’t let those nerves spoil your work – practice makes perfect.

Again, nervous people tend to speak too quickly. Nervous people also tend to drink to calm their nerves. This does not a coherent speech make! You will be less nervous if you have practiced sufficiently and perhaps taken the edge off with a glass or maybe two.

SO:

  • Do not overdrink
  • Distil your speech to card prompts, ideally
  • Try to speak at two thirds normal speed, for clarity
  • Try to stand with your feet at shoulder’s width apart
  • Without a mic, try to project from the diaphragm
  • A mic normally needs to be a little further away than you think – test!
  • Go through the material again and again, hopefully with a sympathetic audience. Know when you are pausing, joking, sarcastic or sincere.
  • MOST IMPORTANTLY:REHEARSE REHEARSE REHEARSE!

IF YOU PANIC

  • Butterflies are normal. Dive in, and they disappear. You’ll be done very soon!
  • You forget where you are. Deep breath – look at your notes. Find your place and start again
  • Keep referring to your notes to keep your footing. The best time to do this is after you’ve delivered a joke and the crowd are laughing.
  • Dry throat – make sure you have water available and sip, don’t gulp. Again, best after a punchline
  • Something distracts you – absolutely nothing wrong with saying ‘damn it! Made me lose my place! Where was I…?’


Always remember the room is on your side and you can only do the best you can. You already have the groom’s appreciation and friendship – that’s why you’re there.

PROPS

Props can provide an extra laugh and may give you a sense of security – but if there is any technology involved (such a screen and projector) make sure you are familiar with it and have had a run through. In the first place also check the venue can accommodate these needs. The last thing you want is to be faffing about with hotel microphones and projectors you’ve not seen before and, especially, relying on a dodgy internet connection. There are other visual options though.

 

  • Blow up some posters to illustrate your points or jokes. But make them BIG, so that everyone can see. For example: that time he dragged up, the ridiculous experimental haircut, trousers from a different weight era, repeated themes of bad dancing. *(A word of caution here: you don’t need endless shots of how drunk the groom can get – just a couple will do)
  • If you are talking about outfits that he wore as a child, ridiculous things he has made or his favourite childhood toy. Bring them in for a bit of show and tell!
  • Perhaps you are the only Brit in a foreign room (or vice versa), or maybe you and another best man would like to distinguish yourselves. What about a bowler hat? Considered a flag? *(Either have them with you, ready to hold aloft, or employ an assistant (or several throughout the room) to do the lifting).
  • Quizzes can work, for the ambitious and technically gifted. But take time to set-up and people can lose connection. Only ever do this if you are happy to move on in case you have to abort, and are experienced and confident of the on-site tech. Beware – best to have a paper-based Plan B!

I REALLY DON’T KNOW HIM VERY WELL

It might just be that it’s a quickly organised thing. Perhaps the couple are getting married away from their homes. There could have been an unexpected falling out or illness. Or maybe you are the only person he knows that can string a sentence together! Anyway, it was impossible to say no, and here you are. Don’t worry! Most clergy don’t know the people they marry and guest speakers often know very little about the group they are paid to speak to.

We work here on the assumption that you may not be able to get hold of friends and family to dig for gold but, of course, the more information you can get, the more you have to work with and the easier your work becomes.

Your speech here will not be expected to be as involved as in the normal scenario, but the helpful thing is that it will be expected to follow the same structure – you just have to get some verbal meat on those bones!

Make the most of what you have. Take him for a drink and be honest: tell him you need to get some tales and want his life story in 10 minutes. An emailed questionnaire will help plug the gaps. Then spin personality traits into themes, work stories into tales and detail how meeting his bride has changed his life. You may think you have little to go on, but we are very well practised at asking the right questions and piecing together a professional product.

THERE ARE STRAINED RELATIONSHIPS/AWKWARD Exes etc

 What family is perfect? It could be that the bride and groom met when attached to others, one is a widow/er, the in-laws don’t get along, it’s a fifth marriage or any other awkward scenario. The simple rule: less is more.

Your job is really to provide the light relief, not to risk angering anyone, or making anyone cry by mentioning the dearly departed. Again, if you find yourself asking yourself whether or not to include something, then don’t! If the groom wants to make any points, he can do this in his speech, and is better placed to do so. It’s a burden that is not yours to bear and certainly not take without consultation.

I DON’T LIKE THE WIFE

On this occasion, this comes under the category of so what. It’s not about you. If you haven’t shared you concerns by now, or even if you have and you still got the job, it’s too late. Don’t risk your friendship – or the wrath of her half of the room – with faint praise or prickly comment.

HECKLERS 

The first thing is to repeat that the audience is on your side. This is not a stand-up routine at a working men’s club – it’s a loving crowd celebrating a happy event. You should not face this problem. This said, receptions have booze and some people get carried away, so best be prepared! There are three main categories:

  • The most likely is that someone will shout out in agreement or giving an example. Let them run with it – it might add a new element. Thank them for their ‘illuminating contribution’ and get straight back to the script.
  • You may get a repeat offender. Normally their neighbours will deal with them, but you could always pretend to ask the hotel for an extra mic for the guest speaker – just keep it in good humour (it is, after all, just a big family party, however tense you may be) and don’t let it phase you. You know where you are and can always return to the script.
  • Very, very rarely, there may be an idiot who won’t shut up or who is out of order. In this unusual event, there is little to do other than let time take its course. They will not be allowed to spoil the event, so at some point will be removed or silenced. In any event, there is little point in trying to speak over them or reacting harshly and escalating things. Just apologise to the audience for ‘our technical difficulty’ and resume when things have clamed down. Everyone will want to get back to a normal, lighter atmosphere.

LAST-MINUTERS

Life gets in the way, and whether it’s because you are replacing a dropout, or you simply haven’t got round to getting it done, you need help! That’s fine.

We are very used to dealing with this situation and some of the best work is produced under pressure, so fear not. But what it does mean, is that you are best advised to listen to the following advice:

  • Fill in your questionnaire with as much detail as you can, ASAP.
  • Make time to email/call your writer promptly if they need further info.
  • Do not opt for a lengthy, wordy epic of a speech.
  • Run through it with someone so you can get an idea of delivery and tweak the vocabulary to ensure it is in your voice.
  • Do not add new stories after it’s been written – unless they are absolute gold. You are better off focusing on practice and rehearsal than fussing and polishing. You need to be able to see the wood for the trees, and this can be tricky when obsessing over minutiae. Remember, if it was good material you would have thought about some time ago.

LGBTGQ

We thankfully live in somewhat enlightened times, so your speech may well be for an LGBTQ union. A common misconception for those who have not been to such a wedding is that everyone expects a Birdcage event and you are to turn into Graham Norton for the afternoon.

Well, it could be. But just as above, we are normally looking at a family event with a mix of guests and no couple is the same. Before you go reaching for every innuendo under the sun, check the vibe with whoever asked you, and avoid the tumbleweed.

Most speakers, regardless of community, tend to opt for the established, expected procedure – but make it shine their way. Thus, you will probably find yourself following the guide above, with a few changes to titles and perhaps pronouns. As always, it’s simply a matter of doing your homework.

HOW WE WORK 

We can accommodate most levels of computer literacy, from the savvy to the dinosaur – but speed is normally of the essence and below is outlined the optimum method, through experience, of garnering information and producing a product.

  1. Fill in the online questionnaire with as much detail as you can. It really helps your writer to hit the ground running if they can get a handle early.
  1. The initial call from your speechwriter to get a grasp of tone, other requirements and to set a schedule for the completed speech.
  2. As second call will be set up where we can go into more detail and get as much information as possible out of your head and into ours. There’s likely to be some good stuff in your questionnaire but inevitably further detail and colour will be needed to bring it to life. Some questions can you put you on the spot a little so…….
  3. We are contactable via email, phone call or WhatsApp if anything further occurs to you. Perhaps we asked for an example of the groom’s kind-hearted nature, you couldn’t think of one there and then, but an instance popped into your head while shopping. If so just let us know.
  4. Speechwriter creates the first draft for agreed date. From this, we can add, delete, and generally play around until happy.
  5. If necessary a further call to run through and note tweaks on tone, structure and any other business. You need to understand what you are saying and make it how you would say it. If a joke doesn’t work for you, we can rephrase or move on. It’s up to you – we can advise but nothing is off the table.
  6. Speechwriter sends revised document. This will hopefully reflect your voice and, by and large, be the final product.
  7. Any further revisions within reason!

WISE WORDS 

One way to round off a speech is by borrowing someone else’s words and end with a meaningful quote. This can work well but a bit of imagination and originality is the key. We’ve all heard the quote about finding someone you can’t live without rather than someone you can live with. It’s a nice sentiment, pithily expressed, but one that’s been said many times.

For something a little different can you put a little twist on a well-known quote to adapt it for the bride and groom. Another way to finish on a memorable note is to think of the bride or groom’s favourite band , perhaps there’s some lyrics that would be particularly fitting or a play of words with some of their more romantic song titles.

AND FINALLY, AN OBVIOUS BUT OFTEN FORGOTTEN FACT…. 

Which is, roughly half the audience will be female. This may seem like it goes without saying but it is often forgotten when best men are deciding what tone and content to give a speech.

The best way to judge what this half of the guests will appreciate is to ask them, so that’s what we did. We won’t repeat the whole interview but leave you with one snippet from it, which we think offers a few useful tips. Ignore at your peril!

“Nothing too graphic, men don’t have to be Russell Brand and shock everyone to make them laugh. We don’t want a story that is like something out of American Pie with the groom’s mum catching him watching porn and seeing him do what boys do when they watch porn. You’ve got an audience who have been drinking, who want to laugh anyway, there’s no need.

“The other thing is watch any jokes that are an unintentional dig at the bride. A common one is saying how under the thumb the groom is. It’s probably meant as a harmless joke at his expense but it can kind of imply the bride is demanding or even a bit controlling.”