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Congratulations, your best friend has given you the highest honor a buddy can bestow, you’re the best man at his upcoming wedding. Certainly, celebrations, whiskey and cigars are in order, but don’t forget what this title means. More than considering you a trustworthy line of defense when things go awry at his upcoming nuptials, your friend expects you to speak at the wedding. And if the wedding is as big as the weddings I’ve spoken at the past few years, delivering a speech will be no easy feat.
But don’t stress. You don’t have to be a professional public speaker to totally nail your best man speech. All you need are a few weeks to prepare (best not to wait till the last minute) and our simple guide. We promise you’ll be well-equipped to deliver a heartfelt and memorable best man speech, leaving the entire wedding party laughing and crying — but, you know, in a good way.
But first, why listen to me? A good question. Over the past few years, I’ve been to more weddings than I can count, and most recently I was charged with delivering two different speeches. It’s an honor to be given the title of best man, but it’s also super intimidating. Both weddings I spoke at had around 200 friends, relatives and plus-ones present, and I’m far from a public speaking expert. And yet, with the help of some friends and this handy outline I whipped up while working through my own process, I delivered meaningful speeches that I’m really proud of.
With the right preparation, I think you can write a great speech, too. To prepare my speeches, I followed a three-step process, and I’m going to walk you through it step by step. I’ll also help you avoid some common traps that can derail your speech.
- How to research your best man speech
- How to write a best man speech
- How to deliver your speech
Follow my guide below, and I have no doubt you’ll be able to deliver a best man speech to remember.
How to Research Your Best Man Speech
So your friend has just given you the news that you are the best man in his upcoming wedding. You know there are a million and one things to do for the guy (including but not limited to organizing a bachelor party and keeping him cool on the day of the event). But your biggest task is delivering the speech. But where do you start? Research.
A good best man speech should float somewhere around the three to four-minute mark. That’s not to say you can’t go over or under, only you will truly know where the line is, but let’s make something as clear as the diamond on the bride’s hand, the crowd isn’t there to hear you speak. It’s tradition for the best man to speak, so you should speak, but this is not about you. Nobody wants to hear you drone on and on about how your friend change your life. People came to the wedding to witness true love and get completely plastered. So if you go past five minutes, have a damn good reason.
To begin the research part, start brainstorming a handful of stories from your time together as friends. Don’t get too crazy with these anecdotes (while the story of the two of you getting arrested in Cabo is funny, the bride’s grandparents might not agree, so keep it PG-13). These stories should range from the mundane to the epic, and you’re looking for three types of memories:
- Stories about you and your buddy
- Stories about you and your buddy and his future spouse
- Stories about you, your buddy and your group of friends.
At this point, don’t be too quick to dismiss any particular anecdote, just get the stories listed on paper so you can see what you’re working with. Give each story a title so you’ll get the reference and move on (no need to write the full story out yet, you’re just brainstorming).
Now that you have your stories about your friend, do your best to come up with some stories with the bride. Odds are you’ll have less stories, especially stories where it’s just the two of you, but that’s okay! At this part in the process, you’re just looking to see what you’re working with. List as many stories as on a piece of paper as you can think of that involve the fiancee and then call it a day.
Now that you have a long list of possible stories to draw from, it’s time to start whittling them down. Take a quick pass through your list and knock off anything that doesn’t speak to the character of your friend and his spouse. See, the easiest trap people fall into when giving a speech is they make it all about themselves. As previously stated, all 200 people at the wedding didn’t come to hear you speak about yourself. They came to watch two people get married and hear some funny or sweet stories about those two people. When giving your speech, of course you will use yourself as a point of reference, but don’t make the speech (or the stories you choose) about you, make them about the couple. This is their story.
Notice also how I said the stories should speak to the character of your friend. Please, please don’t be the guy who just rags on his buddy for six minutes and passes the mic. We all have funny and embarrassing stories about our friends, but this isn’t a roast. Cameras are recording your every move and an entire wedding party is listening to your every word. Save your most embarrassing stories for another time. You’re friends with this person for a reason, so talk about why. Say they’re a good guy, kind-hearted and loyal. Whatever it is, pick the stories that show those qualities. Don’t be a dick, dude. That advice goes double for the bride. Pick only the flattering stories, and if you don’t have any good ones, talk about how happy she makes your pal and how beautiful she looks that evening (just don’t make it weird).
Finally, and this is huge, bounce ideas off of your other friends. Once you start chipping away at your list, run it by your other pals to see what they think and why. After a few rounds of sifting through your set of stories, you’ll find you have an obvious few to use, and then comes the time for writing.
How to Write a Best Man Speech
Okay, so you have your stories down and ready, now comes the time to put them to paper. For those thinking about winging it, please don’t. This is a big moment for your friend, and he is going to want you well prepared and not sounding like a babbling fool up there when you suddenly get stage fright with the mic firmly clutched in your fairly buzzed hands. Write your speech down and read it from a piece of paper or your phone. Nobody cares if you have to glance at some notes, and reciting it from memory isn’t impressing anyone.
The first step to writing your best man speech is taking a stab at it without thinking. Just write. Sit down at your desk, grab a piece of paper or whip out your computer and start writing your speech as if you were giving it that very moment. A good free-write/stream-of-conscious approach will get you loosened up and ready to actually write the thing. Plus, when you’re not overthinking it, you’ll likely come up with some clever jokes and flourishes which will make it to the final draft.
After the first draft is finished, get up from your desk and do something else for at least 30 minutes before coming back to read it. You need to clear your head and take a look with fresh eyes to catch your mistakes. So walk it off, pal.
How’s it look so far? Doesn’t matter. Time for the second draft. In this next draft, try to fill out your speech in four parts. First, introduce yourself and how you know the groom. From there, talk about the groom (this is where you include a charming, character-building story or quick anecdote). Next, talk a bit about the bride. Include one of your stories relating to her. If you couldn’t think of a good story for this part, you’re clear to simply compliment her and talk about how happy she makes the groom when they’re together. Finally, close it off with a quick closing statement saying how happy you are to see these two together and how you know their relationship will go far. The closing remarks are where you can say something sweet and sappy that everyone is already thinking. It might sound cliche but, hey, it’s a wedding. People want happy/sappy.
Writing the speech is tough because as much as you’ll likely wish it possible, no one can write this for you. It has to be genuine, and if it’s not, your friends (and most importantly, the groom) will know. So take your time and expect quite a few rewrites. But as you progress through it, you’ll fine-tune it more and more until you have a memorable and heartwarming speech.
One last word of advice: don’t write jokes. If your aim is to get a few laughs, do it with the stories, not with some zingers. If anything, it’s your delivery that will make people laugh the most. And, unfortunately, what you think is funny likely won’t go over well with distant relatives.
How to Deliver Your Best Man Speech
First and foremost, prepare. Recite the speech over and over leading up to the day of the wedding. Recite it in front of the mirror, recite it while on a walk. Recite it while driving and recite the damn thing in front of anyone who will listen. Make it a muscle memory. You’ll know the point when you’ve prepared enough, but don’t stop until you get there. You’ve done the work and the speech is good, don’t let pride get in the way of the delivery.
So today’s the big day, huh? Don’t stress, just breathe. While the moments leading up to your speech will drag on into eternity, the speech itself will fly by in a flash. Here’s how to get through it like a pro.
Now that you’ve practiced, don’t let it consume you. Enjoy the ceremony! Your buddy is likely stressing, so help out any way that you can. You can even have a beer or two, but don’t drink more than that until after the speech. Nobody wants to hear your drunken mumble on the mic. Plus, there will be plenty of time for drinks once you’re finished.
Every wedding is different but as the reception gets underway, someone will let you know when you’re on. If dinner is served beforehand, have something to eat. It’ll help calm you down.
Now’s the time for your speech. The DJ or MC has called your name. Walk up, take the mic, introduce yourself and calmly say, “I’m nervous.” I know, it sounds dumb, but trust me, this trick works wonders. Everyone knows writing and giving a speech is nerve-racking. You don’t have to be a tough guy. You’re reading this off a piece of paper or your phone and people will see your shaking hands and hear your quivering voice. But, when you admit to being nervous right off the bat, suddenly, you realize it’s not a big deal. This honesty will also leave the wedding party rooting for you. This trick worked wonders for me, I know it will do the same for you.
From there, just roll right through your speech like you practiced. Take time to look up from your paper or phone to look at the crowd, but don’t feel like you have to have this memorized. Nobody is expecting you to be a professional orator. A good tip is to look up at least every other paragraph (if not every paragraph). Not only will this help you keep from speeding through, but it will help you connect. The best jokes land with a look. As you look up from your notes, remember to make eye contact from time to time with the bride and groom. This speech is for them. Oh and don’t be afraid to cry, it happens man!
Before you know it, you’ll be through the speech and the celebrations will get underway. Have fun and congratulations!