Maid of honour speech guide

Why should the best man have the entertaining and hilarious speech, enter the Maid of honour…
Picture of Oliver Lucas

Oliver Lucas

Published 08 Sep 2023

Maid of honour with bride behind a wall of balloons

Is the best man always the best person to give an entertaining, hilarious speech? Absolutely not, that’s why it’s becoming more common for a maid of honour stand up and wow guests with her wit, humour and powers of perception. It’s still far from the norm though, so the audience will be intrigued and ready to listen to what you say – but how do you keep them that way?

Whether it be a friend or relative who is the bride, she’s likely picked you as her maid of honour (and as a speaker) because you have a close relationship and will have plenty to say. But with expectation comes pressure. When the two of you have shared so much how do you decide which bits to tell everyone else about? And how do you then transfer this to a slick, flowing speech that is both funny and sincere? Well SpeechMate is here to help.

We will take the time to get to know you, all about the bride and the bond you share before taking this insight and using it to create a highly personal speech with both heart and humour. If you want to wow guests – and of course the bride – then get in contact and we’ll work together to write you a speech that’s maid for the big occasion!

Wdding ceremony raising a toast

WE CAN ALL BE FUNNY

While you’ll probably want some poignant words to do the bride and the big day justice, a large part of your role is to make people laugh.  Some people are horrified at the thought of this kind of pressure but trust us everyone is capable of being funny, it just takes a little thought. If it helps don’t think of it as you being funny. Your speech will be about the bride, her personality, quirks, triumphs and mishaps. So see it as her being funny. That said, there are steps you can take to ensure that between you plenty of laughs are generated.

The key is keeping it real, by which we mean use real life examples. If the bride is known for her lateness don’t just tell people this, give them an instance where it had comedy consequences. Perhaps the time when a bit of last minute duty free shopping held up an entire plane. It’s about illustrating the bride’s characteristics and giving your words a bit of comic depth.

Be original, what you have to say will be worth hearing so don’t rely on well used jokes or internet gags. A prime example would be the old ‘I hope the newly-weds enjoy their honey moon in north Wales’ best man cliché. The punchline being the groom told him he was going to Bangor (bang her) for a week. It was perhaps funny once, if quite crass, but that time passed in the 1980s. There are plenty of others out there that aren’t quite so laddish but are equally as old hat. Avoid them.

Is there a theme that can run through the speech, which strengthens the jokes by giving them a consistency? If the bride is a teacher, for example, perhaps you can deliver it in a school report style grading her on organisation, punctuality and dress sense.

The tone to aim for is affectionate fun-poking, nothing that will embarrass the bride. Remember also that there is a wide range of people in the audience. People who may enjoy the more risqué, but also parents, grandparents and children. Unless you are certain pushed boundaries will not offend anyone best keep it clean and clever.

GETTING STARTED

Remember your GCSE history coursework? That one that you left to the night before deadline and only got a D. Well the rush job you did forgot a vital bit of the creative process, research. Don’t make the same mistake again. Fortunately your speech research won’t be reading up on the causes of World War I, it’ll be much more fun and is essentially a trip down memory lane.

Grab a pen and paper, perhaps with someone else who knows the bride well, get a coffee (or something stronger) and get talking about your subject matter. Ask yourself and each other a whole load of questions. What are the bride’s characteristics – both good and (in the nicest possible way) bad? What makes her unique? What embarrassing things did she do as a youngster? Or an adult? How did she meet the groom? Were there any dating disasters? And ultimately, what is it you love about her? There’s plenty more besides and before you know it you’ll be scribbling away with what will make great content for your speech.

When you’re done hopefully you will be able to look at your notes and see a speech beginning to emerge. Then you can get cracking to structure this gold and write it into a knock-out piece of work.

STRUCTURE

Although best men and maids of honour are likely to have different approaches to, and perspectives on, making a great speech there a big parallels when it comes to structuring it. That’s because both of you are doing a similar job – entertaining guests while talking warmly about a close friend or relation. It’s just women and men may have different ideas on how this is best done and with what tone to use.

You may wish to go your own unique way and, if you think that will do the job, who are we to argue. But we have an established structure that works. It fits in all that you need without getting bogged down, while leaving room for you to do what you do best – be yourself.

As obvious as it sounds the starting point is an introduction – it’s likely at least some guests won’t know you beyond your job title for the day. It also allows you to put into context the role you have in the bride’s life and why she chose you. An opening joke, quite possibly a self-effacing one, helps warm the crowd and reaffirms they want to be on your side. For example, if you are nervous, nothing wrong with saying so in a light-hearted way. Modesty is always endearing.

Next up is the thank yous, although care is needed here. Many speakers on the day means there will be plenty of others doing this and no one likes repetition. So, if possible, it may be best to check who else is doing what in terms of showing appreciation. Regardless, do not have a long list, stick to anyone you feel has had a big – possibly overlooked – role in either the day itself or the bride’s life generally. If anyone has been a big help to you then say so, but otherwise briefly focus on people in terms of what they have done for the bride. This then allows you to step into your main topic – the woman herself.

You’ve done the research and this is the part where you put it to good use. We want to make people laugh – with the bride not at her – before paying tribute to say why she is the best friend/sister/cousin you could ask for. Clearly, one of the major events of her life was meeting her new husband so we also need to talk about him (a little), their relationship and why they are such a well-suited couple set for a long and happy life together. Even if you don’t like the groom you still need to have a kind word for him. Presumably the bride quite likes him and probably his family think he’s at least decent enough.

The finale is a toast to the happy couple, possibly accompanied by some profound words or a bit of advice. This can be your own thoughts based on your experiences, borrowing a quote from someone else (maybe with an adaptation to suit the newly-weds) or even words from a song that has some personal meaning. It’s up to you whether you want to be tongue in cheek or heartfelt. Then everyone charges their glasses – thoroughly entertained and impressed with your speech!

WRITING

You’ve got your material and you have a plan for how the speech progresses. Now you’ve got to fit the former into the latter in a flowing, engaging way that keeps everyone hooked and delights the bride. Easy, right? Well there are certainly things you can do to make it easier. First is to take your material and ruthlessly assign it into three categories. Grade A – must use. Grade B – worth using but may have lose out to other content of greater priority. Grade C – sadly will be binned off unless severely short of things to say.

Something that can help with this – and your speech generally – is to look for the aforementioned consistent theme. The thread that can tie all the different parts together, giving them a cohesive feel from start to finish. This can be a personality trait that shows itself repeatedly or an area of the bride’s life, such as a profession or hobby, that means a lot to her.

Either way, the idea is to build your speech so this theme grows throughout with one part reinforcing the previous one. Move at a good pace so you don’t dwell on a specific topic too long as otherwise guests’ attention may wander. Earlier we talked about being yourself and this is important when writing the speech. Put it down on paper (or in Word) as you would speak, you want to sound like yourself not someone else. The words and phrases you use in everyday life are your personal stamp – and that’s exactly what you want to put on the speech. It will sound natural to you and authentic to others.

Another thing to reiterate is the point about being original. You are maid of honour because of your close relationship with the bride. The bond you share is your bond and exclusive to the two of you. Likewise the perspective you have on her. So express your thoughts on it not someone else’s generic ones.

So there’s plenty to think about. And keeping all this in mind, while saying everything you want in a way that resonates can be a struggle for some people. Fear not if this is the case, we are here to help!

DOS AND DON’TS

Here’s a quick checklist of useful things to remember:

Do

Research – don’t write blind, sit down and ask yourself some pertinent questions about the bride and her characteristics to generate material first.

Thread your speech – try and find a common theme within your material that links everything together and makes it flow.

Get real – yes you’ll tell everyone how great the bride is but also tell them why with real life examples, it brings your speech to life.

Move along swiftly – don’t get bogged down with too much detail. Stories and anecdotes add depth but not if you take too long to get to the punchline

Practice – this is so important, when you’ve finished practising do it again. And again.

Don’t

Plagiarise – no need for well-worn clichés, you know the bride well and have your own bond so express all this in your own words not with what you find on the internet.

Be too thankful – other speeches will give thanks to the day’s various players. You may wish to as well but keep the list short.

Ignore the groom – it’s his day too and even if you’re not that keen he’s  the bride’s man so say something nice about him. Don’t damn with faint praise.

Double up with the best man – if possible check with each other to ensure you don’t repeat what’s already been said.

Get drunk before speaking – by all means hammer the bar afterwards but keep a relatively clear head until you’re done.

LENGTH

We think the best approach to speech length is let quality dictate quantity. A lot of advice says no less than six, no more than 10 for any wedding speech. While we agree with the minimum, our thoughts are there’s a little more wiggle room with the maximum. As long as you have material that you are comfortable with and confident in (and be honest with yourself here), 12 minutes or even slightly longer is fine.

Many people tell you that wedding guests have never bemoaned the fact that they would have liked the speeches to be longer. This is not necessarily the right way to look at it. An audience doesn’t look at it in those terms, what they want is to be entertained, engaged, have a laugh and be made to feel something. If you are doing at least some of this then no one is going to be there with a stopwatch calling for you to stop after 10 minutes.

Should you feel that you are wandering into too long territory have a word with the best man. There are potential areas where the two of you may have doubled up. Finding out what they are and then striking at least some of them from your speech can save time.

DELIVERY

No matter how much belief you have in your speech, feeling confident about actually delivering it can be a different matter. If you are struck with nerves then this is fine, even seasoned speakers can feel the same way. The first thing to remind yourself of is that you have a very generous crowd. People come to weddings wanting to enjoy the speeches and will try hard to do so, you will have a lot of goodwill.

But the main thing to do in order to banish the butterflies is practice, practice, practice. Start with reading your speech out loud to yourself to hear how it sounds and get used to it. Then as you become more sure of yourself do it in front of a trusted friend or relative, get their feedback and take it on board. The more that you know your speech the more delivering it will come naturally.

It can help to have a copy of your speech with you or a prompt card version of it. Should the nerves get too much and you stumble this helps you get going again. Just the knowledge that this safety net is there can have a calming influence. However, try to refrain from simply reading your words as this can be a little wooden. The warm, natural way you talk to your friends over lunch happens because you are sure of what you are saying and you don’t have to think too much. Practice allows you to do the same with a speech.

Some additional tips are keeping a drink of water nearby to help if you have a dry throat and to get familiar with the mic before speaking. Work out where you need to hold it to be heard properly without shattering any ear drums. Finally, and we cannot stress this enough, don’t go mad with the booze to ease the nerves. One or two drinks to relax is fine, that is the maximum though. Don’t risk slurring and swaying when you speak!