It’s a big moment — you’ve been asked to be the best man.
In some way, the success of your friend’s wedding is on your shoulders. You might end up responsible for all sorts of the inner machinery of the wedding — from organising a stag to forget, to maintaining the atmosphere on the day and running point on anything that comes up. And, sure, there’s the small matter of spending 10 minutes talking in front of everyone.
The good thing is that your responsibility is also your opportunity to stand tall. By the time you get to the speech, you may well feel more confident than you ever have.
The key is turning that confidence in a great best man speech.
1. Getting the jokes right
How you approach the humour of your speech is likely to be where it’ll live or die. To keep it simple: Don’t force the comedy.
If you think of yourself as a bit of a natural, then go for it — the greatest best man speeches are those that have a lightness of touch without overdoing the funny. But if being funny isn’t your game, don’t feel you need to force it. An authentic and humble speech, where the humour comes from your stories of growing through adulthood with your friend, will always be better than an uncomfortable first attempt at stand up.
Remember, the guests want to laugh — your job is to guide the laughter around the room like air traffic control, rather than drag it out of people. Be your natural self and you’ll come off much funnier than forcing it.
And if you only do one thing then, for the sake of your guests, don’t use template jokes. A quick search and you’ll find hundreds of low quality best man speech jokes — crowbarring in a gag everyone has heard before will do more to reduce the quality of your speech than it will add any laughter.
We all know the wedding cake is in tiers — you deserve better.
2. Keeping it clean
It’s basic stuff, but your best man speech is your chance to be a very public charming hero by being nice to your friend and his partner. You’re a crucial part of a lifelong memory. So, do:
- Tell daft stories about your friend
- Tell funny stories about how he met his partner
- Be nice and charming and thoughtful
But try not to:
- Tell your showstopping anecdote about your mate and his ex
- Swear — if you misjudge that all the goodwill in the room will disappear
- Tell stories that just come off as you being needlessly mean
The balance between a lighthearted roasting based on solid storytelling and a public character dismantling can be a fine one. Need some help getting it right? Let’s chat about it.
3. The perfect length
Much of the success of your best man speech will be in its length. No matter how well you perform, if something is off about the length it will have a derailing effect. Too short and you risk it seeming rushed and losing satisfaction, too long and you’ll see guests staring mournfully into empty wine bottles.
As a general guide, the perfect best man speech length is typically around eight minutes, which is somewhere between 1,200 to 1,600 words.
For more help on best man speech length, check out our post on how long your best man speech should be.
4. Managing your delivery
The cliche is true when it comes to best man speeches — your content is only as good as your delivery. When you’re thinking about delivery, don’t be too concerned with having your performance drilled. Really, it’s about having the confidence and wherewithal on the day to handle the environment, and there are a couple of key things you can do to keep yourself sharp:
- Rehearse appropriately. Rehearse aloud and in front of people (where you can). This is the simplest way to understand your timing and where your strengths are.
- Know the room. How is the room set up? Practice using a mic if you haven’t before. Think about how you can nail your posture — this will have a real bearing on how you project yourself as a confident and relaxed speaker.
The good news is there’s a load more advice on delivery in our post on how to deliver a knockout wedding speech.
5. Using notes
Memorising a speech can leave you exposed to things going wrong on the day (especially if the brandy comes out early). You’ll have a lot to do on the wedding day, so there are no guarantees you’ll have chance for a quick practice to get your confidence up.
My first wedding speech was memorised. It went well, even if it probably made me a little clunky — a recital is never the best approach — but the real damage was in the false confidence it gave me that I could memorise any speech. Skip forward three years and I tried to memorise a best man speech but, due to the format of the day, the speeches were at 9:30pm after an unwise (but delicious) amount of drink, and there was at least one moment of having to quickly sift through some old notes to stop the wheels completely falling off.
Have notes available and practice holding them steady — if you’re nervous, whatever you hold could be a bit jangly. Even if you don’t need them, having them there will be a welcome feeling — going commando is always a risk.
7. Taking the edge off
One of the questions you hear most often is: How much can I drink before my best man speech?
There’s no good answer. While it might propel your confidence, booze has a knack of crushing your capability as a speaker without you realising. The key is balance — a couple to keep you feeling limber, but not enough to risk doing a shoddy job on the most important day of your friend’s life.
Before the speech you’ll be buzzed up on adrenaline — you probably won’t need as much of a booster as you’ll think.
And after? You’ll feel bulletproof — enjoy.
8. Getting the structure right
The structure of a best man speech is the key component. Your speech structure is the engine, your stories the fuel. You’re telling a story, prompting emotions — you want the strongest engine behind you.
The crucial thing is making everything work harmoniously together — from introducing yourself and your connection to the couple, to your stories of how they met and your reflections on how their relationship sets them up for the future. It’s an individual thing, but this is where your speech can go from good to exceptional.
Want to chat about the perfect structure for your best man speech? Ready when you are.
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