When I wrote my first best man speech I actually struggled to write anything at all for quite a while. I downloaded a bunch of free speeches, and a number of them were pretty good but they were all different. I felt overwhelmed and as a result my best man speech was a mish-mash of styles that just didn’t flow.
Like any big task or project, it can help to break it down into smaller chunks that can be done one at a time so you know where you’re going, and how you’re progressing. The way to do this when writing a best man speech is to use a framework or structure.
You’ll hear different opinions about what the ideal best man speech structure looks like. In the beginning I was a little confused so I analysed literally hundreds and hundreds of speeches to look for commonalities that made the best ones really great. I then engaged with some of the best speech writers from around the world to validate and tweak the formula. The one I landed on is a 15 step structure that is used in the app I created for writing best man speeches, SpeechMate.
Below is a shortened version of this Best Man speech structure to get you started.
|Relax the audience and yourself with an early laugh
|Use this to explain your relationship to the groom
|How you know the groom
|Two or three amusing tales that illustrate his character
|You’re his best man for a reason, this is the time for some heartfelt words
|An opportunity to make a tongue in cheek joke about marriage
|One final quip or an extension of the sincerity shown earlier
Using this Best Man Speech Structure
So the first thing you need is a solid opening line or two, the purpose of which is to break the ice with the audience and get them onside. Typically this is done with a light hearted gag, which is often made at someone’s expense, either your own, or the grooms.
There’s no hard and fast rules here, but my recommendation would be to judge it based on your relationship with the audience. If you don’t know too many people present, then a self-deprecating joke about yourself is always a good way to get the audience onside. If you go for the groom too early, without establishing your credentials, there is a higher risk that one or two guests feel defensive about him which gets you off on the wrong foot. On the other hand, should you know most people there, you’ve got permission to make a joke about the groom off the bat and get you some early belly laughs.
Now that’s all very well and good of course but thinking one up is not always that easy! So to help you here’s a number of sample one-liners.
After you’ve delivered your opening line and created a bit of rapport with the audience you should be looking to introduce yourself and do some acknowledgements. Here you’re looking to thank a few people. It’s worth bearing in mind that there will have already been a number of thank yous that will have been very sincerely delivered. Your job is to say yours in an amusing or funny way!
As best man, tradition dictates it’s your job to thank the bridesmaids on behalf of the groom and there are numerous ways to do this in a jokey manner. For example you can make a gag about the bridesmaids having to dance with you. You’ll find many examples of this within the SpeechMate tool.
In the bridge you’ll want to talk about how you felt when asked to be a best man. If you think you’ll be nervous on the day – which the majority of guys will be – then you can make joke of it to take the pressure off. Everyone likes an underdog and admitting you’re nervous will get the audience rooting for you to do well. You can also use your responsibilities as best man to make a joke during this stage. For example:
“I can assure everyone that I have taken the role as best man seriously and one of my most important duties was to make sure that the groom got a good night’s sleep before the wedding day. Well I can reveal that last night Tom slept like a baby. He wet the bed and woke up every half hour crying and wanting his Mummy.”
Use this section to move on to the meat of the speech, which if you’ll pardon the pun what we call the roast. Ba-boom!
The roast is a light hearted assassination of the groom’s character and in this section you’re going to want to pick a few traits that he’s known for and poke fun at them. This is the point where you’ll want to bring in one or two stories bring it to life. Remember to keep it clean if you can!
After you’ve given the groom a bit of stick in the roast, move on to how he and the bride met. This part is optional depending on time, and how comfortable you feel talking about their courtship. But I think it’s a good idea as it brings the bride into the picture and is therefore more inclusive. You may want to talk here about how head over heels the groom was when he met the bride. And include some of the stupid stuff he did to win her over. Again more opportunity for gags that can be populated for you using SpeechMate.
In the course of my research in to what makes a great best man speech, I found that speeches with the strongest approval ratings featured some kind of sentiment in the final third of the speech. The reason sentiment tends to work better at the end is because the audience need to connect with you first.
Think of a best man speech a bit like a movie for a moment. Successful films have been found to have characters who we as the audience relate to, and importantly, care about. It’s only once this has bond has been developed that the scriptwriters introduce tragedy, or an uplifting event – they don’t do it at the start. It’s because by later on the movie we have developed an emotional connection with the main character.
The first part of your speech is to entertain and amuse the audience. When you’re doing that you’re establishing a connection with them. You introduce the sentiment later on, towards the end of the speech, as this is when they’re going to be most receptive.
There are broadly three things to cover off in this part. The first thing you want to do is acknowledge the friendship. At the end of the day you’ve been selected to be the best man. This is one of your best friends. You should therefore say, from the heart, how much you value the relationship and how honoured you are to have been chosen.
The second thing to talk about is the marriage and how happy you are for both of them. This brings the bride into the speech and makes it more inclusive.
And finally, you should look to mention the future. Marriage is a big milestone in anyone’s life. It is a time to reflect on the past and also to look forward. Here you are acknowledging that important step and giving heartfelt best wishes for the future.
To round things off, a bit of marital advice always goes down well before giving a genuine and heartfelt toast. Get some ideas for this here. You should be looking for your speech to be around 10-12 minutes which is typically around 1,300 words in total. So that was a bit of a whistle-stop run through of how the anatomy of a best man speech and one that we use to help you build your own speech as part of SpeechMate.
Get Your Best Man Speech Guide
If you’d like advice on any other parts of your speech then download our comprehensive 28-page guide to Best Man speeches including:
- How to write a speech that’s memorable for all the right reasons
- How to actually deliver the speech (very important this part, don’t skip)
- And lastly… how to know if it’s actually any good