What to say
A few things you might want to cover:
- Relay your name, title (that’d be ‘best man’) and relationship to the groom (and bride)
- Thank the bride’s parents if they are hosting the wedding
- Some words of tribute for your parents
- A story about the groom or couple
- A closing toast to the bride and groom
How to say it
If it’s genuine, you can’t go too wrong. Reflect your personality, as well as that of the bride and groom. There’s no pre-requisite that the best man's speech must have the crowd in stitches, so if comedy’s not your bag, try heartfelt: some sentiments on love, marriage or the couple. Even if you do have a list of gags as long as your arm, don’t neglect the sincere part. And ensure the jokes aren’t mean-spirited. It’s a wedding, not the Oscars. Have a dig at the groom if appropriate, but never embarrass the bride. Anecdotes are great, but keep ‘em clean. No cursing or yarns about the groom’s past sexual conquests. Include the bride—you’re toasting them both. Don’t get smashed beforehand and don’t be indulgent—keep it brief, around four or five minutes, max. Any more and it’d want to be really, really good.
Work out what you want to say, but don’t script it: if nerves end up derailing your train of thought, things will get messy if you can’t get back on track. Jot down a few key points for backup if need be, but don’t read. Practice to death and if any parts prove consistently tricky, change them. Consider whether you’ll be behind a podium, at a mic stand or have a radio mic. If it’s either of the latter, you’re free to take the mic and move around the room if you like… just don’t spook everyone by pacing around manically.
Pulling it off
The temptation may be to get away from the mic as soon as is humanly possible but that’ll backfire. Before starting, adjust the mic if it’s fixed to a stand or podium and test that it’s working. To get maximum traction from your words and not come off as rushed or nervous, don’t begin until the crowd has chilled and speak clearly at a measured pace. You’re making a toast, so don’t forget to take a glass. The glass has the additional benefit of keeping your hands occupied and signalling the end of the toast when raised.
Should some degree of tutoring be required, contact www.toastmasters.org.au, a not-for-profit club that helps develop communication skills and your best man's speech. Meetings are held twice monthly all across Australia and New Zealand. Alternatively, a quick online search may help locate a private tutor.