One of my best friends and I frequently have conversations that spur on blog posts or topics that I cover on my podcast. We even joked last week that one day I will have a book written about all of the interesting concepts he and I discuss and he’s going to open it up to find out it’s literally everything he ever said and I will have zero input what so ever. He’s scheduled to come on the show soon, and when he does you all will understand why I like to discuss things with him. In the mean time he’s also my speech critique specialist. Whenever I do a public speaking engagement I generally go to him first. A few weeks ago he reciprocated and asked me to critique a best man speech he was giving. This week he gave the speech at a wedding and knocked it out of the park. So I’m totally ripping off some of the things he did to share with the world what I think goes into giving a killer best man speech.
We aren’t all blessed with the ability to deliver a joke. If you aren’t that person, you know it or someone else does and hopefully they have told you. That’s ok if you can’t open with comedy just tell a story that is interesting. If you’re the best man you probably have a child hood memory that you can share that people will resonate with. For my buddy it was endless one on one football matches with the newly crowned groom in their adjoining front yard. People eat those things up. They’re happy memories, and most people played in a friend in their yard.
Don’t leave out the Bride. After all it is her day. So if you are telling a story about the groom you need to tell one about the bride as well. If you think you don’t have one you aren’t trying hard enough. There are two ways to tell her story. One just talk about the day you met her and what you saw in her that made her perfect for your best friend. I hate to say this but in case you hate the bride to be, FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT. Still struggling? Find her best friend that you know, or her Mom or Dad and ask them what they think is so special about their daughter (this can also help for later on in the speech.)
Hopefully to this point you have had the crowd in stitches. If you have they’re thinking “Oh this is a funny best man speech nice. Nothing sentimental that will make you cry.” Congratulations you have softened them up and they aren’t ready for you to wrench their heart out and Mom and Grandma forgot to get the Kleenex ready. When ever I have spoken at weddings I have always asked for a conference call with both the parents of the Bride and Groom. If they are no longer together you have more calls to make. Do not, DO NOT, leave anyone out. Weddings are absolutely a time of people feeling left out and like they weren’t important enough, even though the day should only be about the bride. Mom and Dad are probably footing the bill on both sides too, so they deserve some input.
Ask them all what they think is so special about the Bride and Groom’s relationship. Ask them if they have any funny stories about the Bride, Groom, or both of them. Ask them what it was like the first time they met the Bride (if they are the groom’s parents) or the groom (if Bride’s parents). You are bound to get some great material out of this. If you are like me you will need to take notes during every conversation so you can review it all in speech writing later. After you’ve laid all of your funny anecdotes on the crowd insert that tear jerker about the time Todd Saved Mary’s puppy from an untimely demise (not all heroes wear capes).
A part of being funny is sharing that interesting story about the time Todd was so drunk he flooded the entire dorm because he went to sleep in the shower with his blanket. If you’re going to tell an embarrassing story or make a joke just ensure it’s not about something that is a weakness of the grooms. I.E. if the best man makes a joke about the groom being ugly and the dude isn’t the greatest looking guy, that is poor form. If you think you’re going to make an ass out of the groom, then be sure to make more of an ass out of yourself before doing so. Or at least close out with such a wonderful ending that no one remembers that as the highlight of the speech.
I talk a lot about public speaking in episode 10 of the podcast. You can check out some of my go to tactics there. I won’t belabor the point but this is a really important day. You only get one chance to get up there and crush this. You don’t have to be too worried about bombing because thousands of Best Men have done it before you. What you should focus on is the fact that the groom and the Bride chose you to get up there and say something nice about them. You don’t want to miss an opportunity to make them feel amazing about each other on the one day they absolutely should.
If you memorize the speech you can always improvise later once you hit your stride and warm up the crowd. People like to watch a best man speech where the best man makes eye contact and actually talks to the Bride and Groom. If you have the speech memorized it is that much more likely you will do so. If you have to revert to paper, do so, just remember to take breaks and look up at the Bride and Groom and smile. If you get up their and lose your shit, you always have your safety blanket.
My friend who gave one of the best, best man speeches I have ever seen this week didn’t just rehearse. He called me and rehearsed the speech multiple times. He didn’t just send me the speech he wrote with a comment that said, “can you look this over?” He delivered the speech just like he would have on game day. I sat there and took notes and we discussed how he could make it better and what he should leave in or take out. He went back through and made some changes and we went over it again.
We went over delivery, tone, what jokes would hit, what jokes may not hit. We treated this with the level of attention it deserved. You should too. This way if anything odd arises on game day you are ready to respond to it. In the end my friend’s speech crushed because of his dedication to delivering an awesome best man speech. Treat it with that level of attention to detail and you will crush it too.
It seems like a lot of work for a 5 to 10 minute speech but you don’t want to blow this. As I said before, someone selected you to go up there and be the one to stand next to them on their wedding day. In the old days your position “standing up” for the groom meant that you were supporting this marriage and you would work to see it through. It still means the same today. You’re the one who will get up there and give a speech that will set the tone for the dancing and partying to follow. Treat it as such. Give your best friend and his new beautiful bride another of many moments to remember.
John McCarthy is a Father, Son, Husband and former Marine Infantry Officer. He serves his local community and just wants to push people to be better humans. Check out the Tough Talk Podcast and other writings on this website to learn more.