Suddenly after all the high jinks of the stag weekend you've realised you're going to have to transform into an articulate genius, beguiling the audience with amusing anecdotes and sharp repartee in your much awaited best man‘s speech.
If you haven't done a bestman’s speech before don't worry, it's honestly not as bad as you think. And if you have done it before and are still worried don't be. With preparation and a bit of fine tuning, you'll have the tipsy audience in the palm of your hand, surprisingly laughing at your jokes and post-speech receiving the odd request for a phone number from a few young lovelies ...ok the last one may be pushing it but you never know.
Over the years surveys have shown that fear of speaking in public ranks higher than most other phobias; it consistently beats fear of flying, fear of spiders or snakes and also of dying.
It even has a name - Glossophobia. It is a common affliction, the most unlikely people suffer from it, even seasoned public speakers and stand-up comedians - so you're in good company.
Your role as Bestman is a multiple one. As the groom's most highly regarded friend, it is your job to tastefully humiliate him in an amusing fashion. As host, you will read out telegrams and pass on any practical announcements - anything people need to know, for instance, about the evening's activities (unless you've appointed an MC). And as traditional head of the wedding assistants you will also speak on behalf of the bridesmaids, in most cases thanking the groom.
Prepare thoroughly! Plan what you want to say carefully. Write a speech to practice as soon as you have a moment. That'll give you more time to hear how it sounds. More importantly, it'll make you so familiar with the speech that by the time you stand up, you'll know just what you want to say. Ideally, start several weeks before the big day. You should have a complete text ready three weeks; before the wedding. Practice the pauses, the intonations of your voice, the anecdotes. The more you practice delivering your speech the less nervous you will be. And remember by displaying that you've put even a little thought and effort into what you're saying, you'll impress your mate, his new wife and the rest of the wedding party; all manner of sins will be forgiven.
Decide whether you are going to memorise your speech, work from notes, or read it. If you are not an experienced speaker, working solely from memory is not recommended but try to avoid reading word for word from a script. If you really feel you must read it - nobody will mind. The thought uppermost in your audience's mind will be, 'I'm just glad I'm not having to do that.' If you can, reduce your speech to a number of headings and key points and write them on a number of small cards. (Don't forget to number the cards.) Working from these, your award winning bestman’s speech will not only come flooding back but you will find yourself presenting it in a far more spontaneous manner than if you were reading it. (Keep the full speech in your pocket - just in case! And also leave another copy somewhere else as a back up). You can practice by videoing yourself, taping your speech, performing in front of the mirror or reading it for critical feedback to friends. It's generally agreed the ideal speech should last five to seven minutes (approximately 1000 words).
This part's down to you and it's one of the reasons why you're the groom's choice as Bestman, you know him well. There are some basic guidelines for example the speech should have a structure - beginning (greeting, thank yous, introduction) + middle (the good stuff) + end (wind down and toast). You may find the following suggestions useful sources:
Well-chosen physical gags can work wonders, but make sure they're easy to set up and not given away before the main event of the bestman's speech. One thing that works very well is a projector with some photos of the groom. This has everyone laughing and gives you control of the pace.
One of the best ways to find out more about the subjects of your bestman’s speech is to talk to their friends and relatives. Each will have a different perspective on the groom, and spending some time researching is sure to gather some edgy anecdotal gems. Perhaps an early bedwetting condition may surface, a few dodgy old photos!
Once you've dredged the inner circle, you could extend your research to other areas of the past. Look through old photo albums, letters and cuttings - any of these might provide something funny to read out or hold up. Track down people your subjects went to school or worked with, former teachers and bosses. One best man - the groom's brother - went through his brother's old school books and found an essay, written at the age of 11, entitled 'The Girl I will Marry'. Naturally, his reading of this valuable document went down a treat on the big day.
Another possible source of good bestman’s speech material is horoscopes. Find out the star signs of your subjects, look into the associated characteristics and traits, and compare them with the person/people you're talking about. Much fun can be had, especially where the typical qualities don't match or where the star sign's vices do! Instead of star signs you could use Chinese animal signs that work in very much the same way. Other ways to use horoscopes include finding books that discuss star-sign compatibility and/or quoting the horoscope of the day from a paper. Of course, it doesn't really have to be that actual day's column, and if you can create an ironic contrast between the theory and the reality - if for instance, your horoscope for the wedding day reads 'not much happening today' - you're bound to get a laugh.
Track down a newspaper(s) for the day your subject was born and try to find an article that will fit the person you are writing about, or adapt a story to suit. You might be able to get an old photograph and incorporate it into the article - try to make it look authentic and then get it blown up as big as possible so it can be displayed whilst you're speaking. Another way to get historical would be to refer to key events that happened the day your subject was born/got engaged/got married etc, e.g. 'John was born in the year that man first walked on the moon ... and he's certainly starry eyed tonight'. Look at current news stories you could put a twist on. Play around with the headlines and attach visuals to the article. Anyone with a PC and scanner can produce quite impressive looking newspaper mock-ups.
More material can be found in looking at the couple's names, and what they really mean. If you're trying to make a point in the bestman's speech about someone's qualities, the fact that their name comes from the Latin for 'strength' or 'love' etc can be a striking way of underlining the message. There is potential for comedy here, too, if there's an interesting contrast between the personality and the meaning or by comparing the meanings of the names of both partners.
Think of famous people with the same name as your bride or groom and compare them to that celebrity in terms of job, image, clothes, status etc. Or does the bride or groom have a celebrity or person they admire? Do they mirror themselves on a famous person? What pop star did they want to be as a child? Any comparisons or anecdotes on the similarities (and differences!) between your subject and their idol can be a good source of fun too.
On the day of the bestman's speech make sure you're aware of where you're sitting, that you are visible to all the guests, and, if you're using a sound system, that it is working properly. Before starting, check if everyone can hear you clearly. The plain fact is you probably will get nervous. But you should know this: most people do. In fact, if there's no adrenaline, it'll be less of a speech. The important thing is to keep it in perspective. For starters, remember that you're not taking an exam, you've been chosen because you mean a lot to the couple tieing the knot and you're talking to friends. A wedding reception is likely to be the warmest audience you'll ever have, they're on your side. Enjoy yourself. Your life doesn't depend on it. You're not getting paid and it will be over in a few hundred seconds. So give it your best shot - and enjoy! Just relax, go ahead and tell your story. If you are really nervous and afraid that it shows - tell the audience. Begin with something like, "I was going to make a speech now, but my tongue appears to be welded to the roof of my mouth" or "The following speech is brought to you in association with Immodium." or "I haven't been this nervous since (name of groom) and I were up before the parole board". Don't speak when you're looking down at your notes. Look down for a moment, look up, smile at everyone, speak - then repeat process. You don't need to talk constantly - it gives guests a break, and if you're not afraid of silence, you'll look confident, so everyone can relax. Remember that in between speaking, silence feels approximately ten times longer than it is, so take it nice and slow. Don't hurry through the speech - speak slowly, be measured, with lots of pauses. It's easy to speed up until you sound as if you are commentating on the Derby. Don't worry with some decent preparation a little confidence you'll deliver a great bestman's speech!
As you can see speech planning takes a bit of doing, getting the right balance, the jokes, the one-liners, the theme, the disposition et al. You know at StagWeb we are big believers in value and expert assistance and while we don't write speeches ourselves we can recommend a resource to check out; head over to Simply the bestman's speech page for extra tips and some very useful tools including a £5 database of speeches! Save on the speech and you've got more time and budget for the stag do!
• Best man's advice - a quick breakdown of what you need to know
• Best man's speech - introduction, this could help!
• Best man's speech top tips - top tips in a list
• Best man duties - what's expected of the best man