How long should a best man speech be?

The length of a wedding speech can be as important, if not more, than the content itself.

Get it right and you’ll leave the guests in that sweet spot of wanting more. Get it wrong and you’ll find the glasses empty before you’re anywhere near the toast.

The trick is in the delivery, but there are a few neat rules to keep in mind when you’re trying to hit the perfect length for a wedding speech.

The ideal wedding speech length

If you want to hit the ideal length for a best man speech, this rule is a decent place to start:

  • The winning length for a best man speech is typically six to eight minutes

Any shorter than six minutes and, no matter how good your delivery is, it might just feel like you’ve left off the topcoat of paint.

Any longer than eight minutes and you risk losing the attention of the room. It’s an easy mistake to assume that charm and content can buy you more time — being capable and comfortable in front of a crowd doesn’t necessarily extend the patience. Trying to sustain quality for an overlong time may make the speech flabby, and your audience will notice that more than you think.

The key to timing perfection is rehearsal. All sorts of factors will play into how long your speech takes on the day — pause breaks, nerves, and having one of the groom’s party make you down a full glass of wine seconds before your speech (unfortunately true) can all impact the pacing. But the better you know it, the more confident you’ll be.

And key to your confidence is knowing your rehearsal speed. You’ll be able to lean on that if the nerves jangle.

Best man speech, October 2019

The right wedding speech word count

Understanding the relationship between timing and speech length is quite a personal thing, and it’s important to speak how you are comfortable, but as a rough guide the perfect word count for a best man speech is:

  • 150-200 words per minute

Generally speaking, 1,400 words should be plenty to get through the stories and sentiment while ensuring you don’t have a baggy middle. But don’t feel wedded (cough) to the word count — it’s a waymarker more than it is advice.

Being succinct is crucial. A good exercise is to rewrite your draft with a target of losing 200 words — if you can do it and maintain the meaning, your draft was probably too long.

How long should your wedding speech be?

Having confidence in your word count will allow you to pause for laughs and engage with your audience without the fear of outstaying your welcome or drifting off into unscripted territory, because a mate you haven’t seen for years just reminded you about the some light-hearted but unwise events of the groom’s past.

In summary, a good drop zone for your wedding speech length is:

  • c.6-8 minutes in rehearsal
  • c.1,200-1,600 words

Remember, it’s likely you’ll be speaking last — leave the audience wanting more and they’ll handing you drinks in a few short minutes.

Feeling good about your draft? Time to start thinking about how to deliver a great best man speech.

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