How to write a Best Man’s speech
When filming a wedding, the speeches can be a point when the narrative for the final edits are told. Key quotes, lifted from speeches can really take a film to the next level. But too often people hate public speaking and panic about writing speeches. In reality, the speech can be one of the most memorable moments of the whole day, for the right reasons. One of the speeches which is often remembered for the wrong reasons is the Best Man speech.
We jotted down this handy guide, based on past experience, to help any BMs to craft a truly worthy testimony to their friend.
Content of a best man speech
- Read out any messages from absent guests (cards, etc) – though this is rarely done.
- Tell a selection of stories about the groom and why he is a great bloke.
- Talk about the early days of the relationship and talk about the bride.
- Finish with a toast to the bride and groom.
What to say?
- Theme, which leads onto;
- Beginning, middle and end.
Joe has a terrible sort of speech defect. No one can understand a word he says. Strange nonsense about “blue sky thinking”, “market building”, “upstream & downstream revenue forecasts”. Thankfully he now goes to some sort of support group in Canary Wharf every day from 9 to 5 with other victims.
Dave is a bloody nightmare. He is the most deformed person I have ever met. I don’t know how Liz deals with it but I’ve had the horrible experience of passing out, slightly worse for wear, on his shoulder in a minibus coming back from the stag do in Cardiff. I have never had such an uncomfortable pillow in my life. Someone needs to get that man out of the gym and into a pie shop.
So in the first example, the real story is that Joe is an incredibly high flying corporate executive and in the second Dave is a muscle clad Adonis. It is a subtle shift but by mocking them for their talents, achievements, etc you will make people laugh, provide a bit of insight into the guy but not humiliate anyone.
A large part of your job is to give people an insight into the hidden depths of the Groom. These can be odd traits of his (the guy I was Best Man to spends all his time singing totally random songs), past achievements (e.g. Mr Centre Parcs 1998) or surprising aspects of a character which no one would know about (my best man mentioned to an audience, who know me as a gym going rugby player, that I write poetry).
Build the character so that he becomes the hero of your story, even if he is a Quixotic hero (always trying hard with great ambition but falling spectacularly short)
Beginning, Middle & End
Beginning – Introduce yourself and perhaps say how honoured you are to have this opportunity
Middle – Stories about the groom and how he met and got together with the bride. Funny or sentimental works. This is basically the past and the present of the couple’s story.
End – Toast to the Bride & Groom, which represents the future of their story.
First thing. The very important main thing. Be yourself. Don’t use template jokes from Google. A unique speech is worth so much more, especially as it is so much more personal.
So, jot down a theme, then a bullet list of stories about the groom and the couple that you want to tell. For example;
Theme: Brian (the Groom) is a massive closet Queen fan
- The time in primary school when the magician squirted water in his face from a fake flower and Brian burst into tears in front of the whole school (It’s a kind of magic)
- We won’t mentioned his chequered history with women (Fat bottomed girls)
- How Brian had just bought a top of the range racing bicycle and was taking it for a spin when he saw Lisa walk past in a tiny miniskirt and was so busy staring that he crashed into a bollard. She came to see if he was ok, he got her number. (Bicycle race)
- They soon became inseparable (Crazy little thing called love)
- He came to the hospital with me and stayed all night when my mum was taken in by ambulance. (You’re my best friend)
- And now he is married to a wonderful woman (Another one bites the dust)
This theme then suggests ideas for the performance, so in this case you could set up the line to be answered by a clip from the song played over the sound system e.g BM – “So the less said about his ex-girlfriends the better” Audio – “Fat bottomed girls you make my rocking world go round”. You could also write each item above on a separate slip of paper and rearrange them until you found the most natural order/storyboard.
Technique and style will come naturally to you based on your personality but my personal trademark writing style is always to immediately balance sentiment with humour and humour with sentiment. So if you say something funny and embarrassing, make the last sentence a little heartfelt comment. If you have just spilled your heart out, making a little funny quip at the end of it will keep the mood buoyant and make the audience laugh more. By doing this, you can add far greater depth to a speech than the audience would be able to take otherwise and you build the emotional charge and then release it again. It adds something. For example;
Geoff is probably one of the best people I know. The kindest, most loyal, best friend a man could have and I love him like a brother ….. even if his feet do smell like something from Satan’s cheese shop.
Once you have written a first draft, put it away in a real or virtual folder and don’t look at it for a week.
Editing is where the battle for the speech can be won and lost. It is guaranteed that the first draft contains too much and could be sharper. Go through and look at paragraphs. Does that small one paragraph anecdote need to be in there? Does it add anything to the bigger picture? Honestly? No? Good, cut it. Keep doing this. Then put it away for another week.
This time, read through the story. Does every paragraph, every line, deliver the impact or the message you wanted? Could it be phrased in a more simple manner? Does the punchline of a joke have room to be set up and delivered? Use gut instinct here (and show it to a trusted confidant). Tweak it, then put it away again.
Finally, unless you’ve started writing years in advance, take out the script, stand up and read it out loud. Have a pen in hand. If, when reading it, you trip over any words or have to do a tongue twister to say them, score that word out. Or rewrite it to turn three words into one. Do this until you are sure every word deserves to be there. (I should have cut a particular sentence from my best man speech but didn’t and it niggles me to this day). You are doing the literary equivalent of getting a boxer ready for a fight, every ounce of extra fat is a hindrance. You want a lean, mean speeching machine.
Then just keep reading it again and again until you’ve memorised it.
Key Pointers to writing a great best man’s speech
- 5 minutes is the target length. This is about 500 words of writing, depending on your pace.
- Write enough for 10 minutes (1000 words) and EDIT, EDIT, EDIT. This means you have a polished gem by the end.
- Avoid controversy.
- Take the mick out the Groom’s skills and talents, not his weaknesses.
- Balance sentiment with humour for the win.
- Be yourself and be original.