Writing a speech is an art form. And like any good artist, you need to nail the basics first, follow a few tried and true guidelines, and then infuse your personality and emotions into your speech in order to make it yours.
That’s what separates good artists from great artists. Good artists are good, but their work is forgettable. Great artists inspire and move you, and that’s what makes them easy to remember. It’s all in the way you make people feel, and since this is a sentimental subject for everyone, that won’t be too hard to pull off if you just speak from the heart.
Actually, communicating from the heart is the most important piece of advice for writing your vows too. If you need some inspiration for those, check out our guide on How To Write Heart-Felt Wedding Vows.
Speaking of which, you might want to think about how you’re going to differentiate the tone of your speech from that of your vows. Although you want to keep both of them within the realm of your style and personality, you also don’t want to just repeat your vows in your speech.
Now that you have that in mind, get a pen and paper (or your computer) ready and jot down your ideas as you read each of these best man speech tips.
#1 Keep It Simple and Short
Think about the last work presentation you sat through when someone went on for what seemed like forever. Even if the topic was important, were you really able to follow along the whole time? Didn’t you kind of drift off once in a while?
That’s the thing most of us need to accept right now: it’s pretty rare to be so compelling that you hold an audience’s attention for long stretches of time. Even the best stand-ups and TED Talks can lose your focus for a while. And these guys have this art form down to a T.
So, for grooms, we recommend not going over five minutes. Otherwise you run the risk of forgetting your lines, getting long-winded, losing everyone’s focus (including your own) and adding too many details that take away from the sentiment.
It also needs to be easy for others to understand and easy for you to deliver. Don’t create a complicated storyboard with characters and plot lines. Though infusing a story here or there is a great idea, and we’ll get into how to do that in a minute, you still want the speech to be something anyone listening will get.
#2 Keep It True To You
Are you a funny guy? OK, so then you’re allowed to consider adding a little joke in there. But, please, for the love of all things good, don’t turn the whole speech into a comedy show! Your job is not to entertain; it’s to convey a heart-felt message. So, if you feel confident that your joke will not embarrass anyone (especially your wife), then go for it.
The point is to make sure you are staying true to who you are. If you’re not the funny guy, then don’t feel like you need to go down that path. Maybe you’re the silent and serious one. In that case, you will convey your message in a more succinct and serious tone.
If you’re not sure how to go about this, you can take an inventory of your main values and personality traits. Think about how you can let those shine in a genuine, uncontrived way.
#3 Start With A Story
This is where we hit the ground running. Starting strong is the best way to ensure you can finish strong. And, in our opinion, the best groom speeches are the ones that start with a personal story that grabs attention.
But, it’s also important to choose the story wisely. First of all, it has to be something that doesn’t have inside jokes that no one but you and one other person get. It needs to be a story that can be easily felt and understood even by your cousin’s date.
It also needs to be free of any potential misunderstandings. This is crucial. Please do not take the risk of spilling a secret or crossing the boundary of anyone’s privacy – especially your bride. We don’t need to tell you how many times this blunder has wreaked havoc on special occasions.
Stumped? Just come up with three stories that tell of the moments your lady really moved you. Perhaps the moment you really knew she was the one. Or the time you realized how kind and generous she was. Which brings us to the next, very important, tip.
#4 Be Mindful Of Your Bride
With all due respect, at the end of the day, no one listening to this speech really matters as much as the woman you’re marrying. Uncle Eddie will laugh at your joke and then forget about it the next day. Your brother-in-law will feel proud of the story you told about how great his sister is, but he’s not coming home with you guys tonight.
This is your chance to connect with her without the formality of ceremony and vows. This is your chance to relay to her, in a casual moment, why you’re the luckiest guy in the world right now.
So other than avoiding things that might hurt or embarrass her, think of how you can tell her she’s special.
Calling her beautiful is of course a great idea, but it should not be the only compliment. So, make a list of your favorite qualities about this woman. What makes her stand out? What makes her so adorable? What are some of her hidden, wonderful traits or accomplishments that she is too humble to show off?
Now, choose a couple of them to weave into your speech. Make eye contact, give her a wink or a smile, and raise your glass to her.
#5 Give A Shout-Out To Family And Friends
This one can get a little tricky. For starters, you can mention your parents and her parents and that would be enough. But if you feel like you really want to include brothers, sisters, cousins, best friends or anyone else, you will need to keep a balance.
How do you include some without upsetting others?
Now, to answer the next question that might pop up for some: what if a parent is deceased, or only one set of parents are in attendance, or there’s some tension between you and one of the parents?
This is where you need to employ delicacy. If a parent is deceased, it’s actually very sweet to include them. If there is tension between you and one of the parents on either side, just keep it to simple “thank yous” or focus on the one positive thing you both share. If only one set of parents are in attendance, perhaps due to some family quarrel, you will need to discuss this with your wife.
#6 Are You Going To Add Media?
This can be a hit or miss, depending on how you use it. If you’re thinking of using slides, videos, music or props (like memorabilia), it needs to be tight. What that means is: no fluff and nothing too weird.
Do not include photos that are unflattering to the people in them, don’t add a video of something only somewhat relevant, music needs to be subtle and the volume shouldn’t be too loud, and keep props tasteful.
In our opinion though, this is better left to the best man in his speech. His speech can be the funny/crazy one. We’ve even seen groomsmen do fun games and quizzes as part of the entertainment. But if you really want to add media, keep it simple, on point and, once again, nothing that could embarrass anyone.
#7 The Practical Matters
We recommend that you section the time you’ve decided on for your speech into one or two minute themes. For example, the first minute is the story, then you get into how lovely you think your wife is, then maybe get into some of the hopes and dreams you have for your future together, then you get into the shout-outs for the family and friends.
Short, sweet and easy to remember.
As for rehearsing, that’s a given. You need to rehearse, and please do so with a voice recorder, or better yet, a video camera. There is a reason why most professional actors and speakers do this, it’s because when you hear and see yourself played back to you, you will notice things that you could never have noticed by rehearsing just in front of a mirror.
When you’ve got it down, rehearse it again, this time in front of a friend – an honest friend who will give you honest feedback.
And finally, please use notes. You should actually make sure you have notes on you even if you memorized the speech. Spotlights can sometimes make people forget even the sincerest and dearest things. So, make some easy-to-read notes and good luck!
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