Joint Speeches

Whether its two or even three best men or the bride and groom want to speech together, these mash-ups and becoming more popular…
Picture of Oliver Lucas

Oliver Lucas

Published 07 Sep 2023

Groom and groomsmen with sunglasses on

Everything in life evolves and changes over time and wedding speeches are no different. As part of the trend for them becoming ever more complicated it is increasingly common for the delivery to be a joint effort. Whether it be two (or even three) best men, the bride and groom together or a father and mother of the bride mash up double acts are only going to get more common.

Depending on your personality, sharing the speech can either be a relief at having some support or a disappointment at giving away some of the limelight. However, if it is done right there will be more than enough plaudits to go round.

One thing is certain though, doing it right needs thought, teamwork and planning. This extra layer of complication can add to the stress so let iamthebestman.co.uk help ease the load and write a speech fit for a king – and queen. Or a king and king. Or a….well you get the idea.

We will speak to all parties, get their different perspectives and then turn the multi-handed approach into a strength rather than a potential weakness. In short we’ll make sure you are a double delight not double Dutch.

Wdding ceremony raising a toast

MAXIMISING YOUR DOUBLE ACT

It’s not exactly fully scientific but there’s something we call the Ant and Dec principle. Every year at TV awards Graham Norton and Dermot O’Leary are left disappointed as the Geordie pals clean up in the best presenter category. In fact, the other nominees are probably a little miffed at this annual cakewalk as it’s pretty unfair. There’s two of them so it’s not a level playing field, they damn well should be twice as good as all the rest.

And that’s the attitude to bring into a joint speech. But short of shrinking to 5’ 6’ and developing Geordie accents how do the pair of you channel your inner Ant and Dec? Well the key is a rapport and – as mentioned before – teamwork to help bring that out. How much work this actually requires depends on the nature of your relationship with your co-speaker.

Take joint best men as an example. If you’re part of the same group of friends then it’s probable you will have similar stories and take on the groom’s character. That means your speech’s strength will be a consistency of theme, so work with that. The stories can flow and allow the pair of you to bounce off each other.

However, maybe the groom has chosen best men from separate parts of his life. Perhaps his best mate and a brother. The two of you may not have the same instant rapport but with work this can be turned to your advantage. Both of you will have different perspectives and anecdotes, if a common theme links these together you can still have that rapport and provide a more rounded picture of the groom.

Ultimately, whatever the type of speech, collaboration in key. It’s about finding common ground between your perspectives and enjoying sharing them with each other – and the audience. To re-reference our TV Geordie duo that’s all they do, essentially talk to each other as friends and because they enjoy it so do the viewers.

GETTING STARTED

So, unless you and your speech partner live together this first part can be hard to arrange. But it is vital and often plenty of fun. Before you officially put pen to paper (or start typing, more likely), sit down together – perhaps in the pub – with a notepad and have a good chin wag about your subject matter.

Again, specifics will depend on which of the speeches you are giving but all will need good quality material! What stories do you want to include – funny ones about your mate the groom, cute ones about you daughter the bride, tales of the ups and downs of romance for couples.  Or a mix and match of the above for any type of speech. This is where the bouncing off each other can start with ‘do you remember when……..happened’ and ‘oh yeah and then she did this…..’ and ‘but he was always a bit like that, remember when he…….’. Make notes and soon you’ll have lots of potential content.

Next thing to think about is themes. Firstly, what common elements tie your stories together? Are you a couple that are always late and disorganised for everything. Is the groom notoriously tight with his hard earned cash? Does the bride always dither when a decision needs to be made? If there is a theme this can run through the speech and help make it flow. Also, can there be a more over-arching theme? What part of your lives links the two of you and both of you to the bride or groom (your subject). Maybe you love baking – so could liken a relationship to getting the perfect cake to come together. Perhaps you share a profession – for example solicitors could lace their speech with a legal theme. Hopefully, there are plenty of potential shared interests and once again it’s about using your imagination and finding some common ground with your co-speaker.

Lastly, unless this is a joint couple’s speech, you need to consider what you like about the person who is your subject. What are their characteristics, qualities, achievements and quirks. In short what makes them unique. Remember, it’s one thing to pay a compliment but better still to illustrate it with a real life example. Once you’ve done all this you have the makings of a great speech – you just need to structure and write it!

STRUCTURE

This can be the tricky part. Overall structure has similar rules to the equivalent solo speech. For instance, a father and mother of the bride speech would still typically start with a brief introduction and a welcome/thank you for coming. Then perhaps a few specific thank yous, tributes to their daughter and nice words about the groom. Finally, things get wrapped up with a toast and maybe some advice. *See our separate guides for all specific types of wedding speeches for more on content, structure, tone and other matters

But who says what and when? The best way is to keep it sharp and only speak for a fairly short period before switching to the other. One can set up the punchline, the other can deliver it – with each of you doing a bit of both. This keeps things moving at a decent pace and, with rehearsal, gets that aforementioned rapport going between you and then transferred to the audience.

The other advantage of this is while the other is speaking you can be sneaking a peek at your next line so it’s fresh in your head and you can ‘speak’ it naturally without ‘reading’ it. Again this helps with the delivery and ‘bouncing off each other’ element.

WRITING

Now things get serious, time to get all those great ideas and fun trips down memory lane into a coherent, flowing speech. We’ve covered structure above, briefly, and in more detail in other guides. Having this already planned will help with writing, giving you the dots that now need to be connected. The first step is to take the content and ideas you’ve come up with and divide it into three categories. Must include, stand-by should more be needed and discarded – be ruthless

If one of you is the clearly better writer and the other happy to let them take control then fine, this keeps it simple. However, usually both speakers will also want writing input. In this case, yet more collaboration is needed and there are a number of approaches.

One is to both have a go at writing the speech to the agreed plan and structure, then blend the two together. This will probably involve a degree of negotiation so be prepared for some give and take. A potential way round this it to literally write the speech together. Both get in front of the computer and each take it in turn to write a part you will deliver before switching at the same point you intend to when giving the speech. The final option is for one to write a draft and the other to then edit it to put their stamp on it. In our experience though this is the way most likely to cause arguments, someone seeing their lovingly-crafted work completely changed can be vexing.

Whatever way you chose the key is to link one part to the next so you are building on, and reinforcing, what the other has said. Here’s an example of what we mean from a joint best man’s speech.

James: Nathan loves his cars and often looks to upgrade to his next luxury vehicle. Which is why he went to a VIP test driving event last summer where he could try out the latest Audi model. This is as much fun as it sounds and Nathan had a great time, until he crashed trying to avoid a cat and wrote off a car worth around £50,000. What’s worse is this particular Audi was the centrepiece of the garage’s upmarket show event the following day.

Carl: When it comes to the finer things in life it isn’t just cars that Nathan likes. He once bought himself a beautiful Rolex watch, which he treasured so much he slept with under his pillow to keep safe. This backfired one day when the previous night’s bed linen was taken out of the washing machine and the Rolex was found inside a soaking wet pillow case. As sturdy as Rolexes are, they aren’t built to withstand a 40 degree spin cycle.

DOS AND DON’TS

A quick check list for reference purposes:

Do:

Spend plenty of time talking with your co-speaker to find the common ground to make your speech sparkle.

Find a theme to link all the assorted stories, jokes and kind words into a flowing speech.

Take it in turns to speak in short, sharp bursts – it makes for a quick pace to build up the momentum of your ‘double act’.

Make time for lots of practice, it makes perfect.

Look at and talk to each other as well as the audience throughout the speech, it will help the feeling of interaction between the two of you and them.

Don’ts

Think twice the speakers means twice the length – there’s more latitude than for soloists but not that much.

Tell stories or jokes that really you needed to be there to appreciate, instead make your content easily relatable.

Have too much to drink before the speech, you need to be focussed and on your game.

Forget to align your pace of speaking, it’ll sound odd if one is slow and the other is 100mph.

Get competitive about who is the funnier or more entertaining, you’re a team!

LENGTH

Joint speeches get a little more latitude than solo efforts when it comes to length. Firstly, because guests will realise two different people means two different sets of ideas. Secondly, two voices and personalities gives greater variety and can remain engaging for longer. BUT, don’t make the mistake of thinking double the speakers translates to double the length – then it will be difficult to keep the audience’s attention. As ever, it’s about balance and assessing how much you have to say that is worth listening to.

Most advice for soloists tends to be the adamant ‘no shorter than five or six minutes, no longer than 10’. Our attitude is a little more flexible. If – but only if – you have the material go a little longer then why not do so. This certainly applies to joint speeches, 12 to 14 minutes is fine and even a little longer still for best men. Conversely, with two heads to come up with a speech five or six is a little on the short side. Unless you are really struggling or both have a strong dislike for public speaking we say seven to eight minutes is the starting point. Wedding speeches are supposed to an event in any circumstances, when two speakers are involved even more so.

DELIVERY

As mentioned previously it is better to keep things short and snappy between you rather than taking it in turns to speak at length. It builds momentum and keeps people engaged. Ideally you want to ‘speak’ rather than ‘read’ and bite size turns help you do this. Who says what can be dependent on your individual personalities. Is one of you funnier than the other? Who does sarcasm better? Or does one of you sound sarcastic when they are being sincere!? Take these factors into account when assigning your lines.

Nerves can often play a part in public speaking and the best cure is pre-emptive. Get practicing, ideally together and in front of someone who can give you honest feedback. Remember they are a mini-version of the audience so it’s worth paying attention to what they say. The more practice the more familiar you get with the material and the more natural it will feel delivering.

Also, it helps ease the nerves to remember you have a very willing, possibly drunk audience who are ready to laugh a lot. Speaking of which, resist the urge to deal with the butterflies by seeking help from alcohol. One or two as a settler is fine – but no more!

Other practical tips are to keep a glass of water handy in case of a dry throat and work out where best to hold any mic so you don’t sound too loud. Conversely, if no mic is available project through your diaphragm. There’s nothing wrong with having some form of prompt. We recommend as a minimum distilling the speech down to cue cards, but there’s also nothing wrong with having the whole script to refer to if it makes you feel better.

WHEN TWO AREN’T BETTER THAN ONE

As a general rule it’s best to avoid the whole ‘two separate best men so we’ll give two separate speeches’ thing. Aside from losing the potential double act benefits there can be repetition and the combined length can leave the audience yawning. It also – even if it’s unspoken and sub-conscious – adds an element of competition as to whose was best. Sometimes circumstances dictate that a joint double-act is not possible, but even then as a bare minimum a bit of collaboration of who covers what and who thanks who is essential.

So to return to the earlier analogy – think Ant and Dec, rehearse the double act, develop the rapport. Do so and you will leave the reception with the wedding equivalent of the best presenter award.