Even if you’ve found a comedy nugget in the depths of your Google search, it’s still not good enough for a true friend’s speech. Chances are even Auntie Hilary will have heard it before and your speech will be met with as many groans as it is genuine laughter.
Being witty relies on knowing the groom, recognising his unique character traits and tailoring the humour around him. It’s not ‘jokes’ about the couple honeymooning in Bangor or a PowerPoint slideshow of the groom’s teenage haircuts. These days the guests expect a bit more!
Here, some tips from the wedding speech writing experts at Speechy on how to write a witty best man speech that’s fit for a modern wedding.
Be proactive and do your research. Email mates to provide good anecdotes. Ask the groom’s parents for help (decades of untapped material there!).
If the bride isn’t giving a speech, then get her on-side to dish the dirt. What’s it like living with the groom and what would she like to change about him? Surprise the groom with your insights into his relationship!
Of course, ask yourself lots of questions – does the groom have a guilty pleasure? Is he obsessive about anything? Identify his quirky eccentricities (his photographic memory of the Nandos menu or his unusually short T-Rex arms?) and find the traits that his friends and family will recognise as ‘him’.
Remember the adage, ‘It’s funny because it’s true’.
Imagine the groom is a character in a sitcom. What type of person would he be? The health freak who transforms into a kebab-eating monster after a pint? The workaholic engineer who still calls on his dad to help him with an Ikea flat-pack? The family man who has a secret life in his shed?
Once you’ve got that basic premise, use anecdotes to help build on the character you’ve created. It all needs to have an element of truth but feel free to exaggerate and use a little creative license.
Your speech shouldn’t just be a collection of anecdotes, one-liners and a nice bit at the end – it needs to tell a story. Building a narrative ensures your audience is hooked from beginning to end, and it’s always preferable to a cut-and-paste job.
Find a theme that will help you connect all your material. It doesn’t need to be complicated. It could just be a re-telling of your bromance (cut short by the arrival of the bride on to the scene) or it could be your personal guide to how the groom functions.
If you manage to crack a great theme, then your speech goes into the premier league.
Even if you think you’ve got loads of great material, your speech should be no more than 1300 words. No one ever listened to a best man speech and said, “If only it was longer”.
Once you write your first draft, challenge yourself to make it half the length and we guarantee it will be stronger as a result. As Ernest Hemingway reassuringly said, “The first draft of anything is shit”.
It’s the same with jokes, tell them in the least amount of words possible. It makes it sharper and ensures people don’t get the joke before you’ve actually said it!
Within the first couple of sentences ideally. This will relax you immediately, which in turn relaxes the audience.
If you’re really struggling for content, it’s legitimate to hunt down some witty quotes about marriage and relationships. Two max: one near the top, one towards the end.
Unlike Googled gags, here you must credit the author, so make sure they’re relatively well known or provide some sort of context (e.g. twentieth-century philosopher) for those rugby lads at the back.
Keep it clean – innuendo is fine, swearing isn’t. No mentions of exes.
No ‘in-jokes’ the majority of people won’t get. Nothing overly mean or material that will force the groom to apologise to the bride later.
So much humour relies on the delivery. Try to memorise your speech so you’re familiar with it, but use cue cards on the day. Unless you’re a professional comedian, why would you give yourself the unnecessary challenge of delivering the subtleties of humour without notes?! There’s just no need.
Before printing your speech, leave spacing where you think there will be laughter on the day to ensure you pause. Nothing worse than talking over the laughter you’ve worked so hard to get.
If you’re using A4 paper, then only print text on the top half of the paper. This ensures you’re always looking up and can maintain as much eye contact with the guests as possible.
Sadly Dutch courage is a myth (alcohol will actually make you more nervous), so you’re just going to have to fake confidence.
Start by smiling. Simple but effective and scientifically proven to be infectious. Talk slower than you would naturally. This will immediately make you seem more confident.
Easier said than done but if you look like you’re enjoying it, other people will too. Everyone wants you to do well, so react to any ad hoc heckles in the good-hearted spirit they’re intended.
Remember, it’s less than 10 minutes until the toast and the point that you can start attacking the wine!
Speechy is a team of ex-BBC TV scriptwriters who now specialise in wedding speeches. Make a speech to be proud of with its quality speech templates, speech reviews and bespoke speeches.