Even though I’ve gone to tons of weddings as a wedding photographer, toasts are still one of my favorite parts of the wedding. Hush, I’m serious: I get immediately emotional when a close friend or family member steps up to say nice things about the people getting married. Well, I do when the speech is good—but that doesn’t mean they all are. So today we’re going to address the dos and don’ts of the best man speech, which has it’s own particular way of sometimes going… off the rails. Way off the rails, if the stories I’ve heard from the APW staff are any indication.
So here are fourteen points (some of which I wish didn’t have to be made, but trust me, they do), plus a handy best man speech script to get you to magic. The good kind of magic.
1.Do Be personal, but appropriate. Weddings are an ideal time to give in to all of those heartfelt feels you have somewhere, deep inside. Go for it.
2.do not Make fart jokes. This is obvious, right? In fact, maybe don’t make any jokes that aren’t just a way of saying, “I love you and your partner,” or if you don’t know exactly how the joke will land. For example, a broad joke at the expense of your friend is probably fine (“We all know George loves his truck, so it’s a testament to how great Lucy is that you are not listening to me give a toast congratulating George and his truck on a happy life together”), but a very specific joke that no one else will get is not okay (“Well there was this one time we were all in the woods, and it was Steve’s birthday, and so we got him an ice cream cake and he got terrible diarrhea and pooped outside. And well, he’s a good guy, and he’s my best friend, even if he pooped that one time”).
3.do plan ahead. You don’t have to show up with a perfectly edited speech, but a few weeks before the wedding is a good time to sit down and think about what you want to say. (Plus you then have plenty of time to practice.)
4.do not run longer than your allotted time. Trust. No one wants to listen to ten minutes of memories that they played no part in, video game references, or inside jokes. Two to five minutes is fantastic, especially if you skew shorter.
5.do be thankful. Expressing gratitude toward the couple, their family, and anyone who helped make the wedding happen is always a great points winner.
6.DO NOT make quotes your entire speech. Sure, if you both love the same movie, you’ll both get it and laugh uproariously, but absolutely no one else will.
7.do have a story to tell. It doesn’t have to be long or even poetic, and it doesn’t have to be funny, but at this point in the wedding people are usually ready to tuck in and listen to something. Something nice. Talk about playing soccer or Mario Kart together as kids, talk about hanging out at a bar together in college (but DO NOT talk about the time you hung out at a strip club). Then, for bonus points, parlay that tale into a similar story about the couple that reinforces why they’re a great fit.
8.do not ignore your friend’s partner. If you’re playing the role of best man, I think it’s safe to assume you’ve interacted with the partner of your friend more than a handful of times—so why would you fail to mention this person at least once? It can be a fun story about how you two didn’t like each other at all when you met and now do, or something sweet about how great the couple is together. Come on. You can do it.
9.do compliment the parents—if it’s the truth. I once shot a wedding where the best man included a special shout out to the bride’s mom, because she was the “hot mom” while they were all growing up. Her mom loved the acknowledgement, and all the guys in the friend circle roundly agreed. Know your audience: if this would play well, totally include it. It was an unexpected hit. If you’re not sure if it play well, I cannot repeat enough: SKIP IT.
10.do not make it about you. Sure, context is good (“I met Evan when we were in karate together…”) but keep it brief. The speech isn’t about you, and it isn’t even just about your friend—ideally, it’s about the couple getting married.
11.do end on a positive note. It doesn’t have to be sugary sweet, and should definitely not be a lie, but make sure you end on a strong, happy note that keeps people feeling good.
12.do not mention: Ex-partners of either member of the couple, sex, the divorce rate, or kids (unless the couple is very open about definitely wanting to have them right away).
13.do try to memorize parts of your speech. You don’t have to nail it, but make sure you’re orating, not just reading off a piece of paper, especially at the beginning—connecting with guests is key. People feel more when you connect with your eyes and movements.
14.do not be rude. Guys, I have a terrible mouth on me, but I know when it is and is not appropriate to drop a choice fuck or two. Mind your manners.
Now that you have the basics on lock, we have a best man speech template that will guide you to perfection… as long as you stay away from that-time-the-groom-blacked-out.
The Perfect Best Man Speech Template
Hi everyone, I’m , ’s best man/best person/#1 fan.
I want to thank for asking me to be part of his/her big day. It really means a lot.
And thanks to my fellow wedding party members for all your work in making today special. You all look lovely/foxy/badass and it’s been fun/an adventure/unforgettable hanging out with all of you.
and I have been friends for years. We’ve had a lot of good times together—we’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly, and lived to tell the tales. Of which there are many.
But one in particular stands out.
It was the time (Fill in story. Make it a suitable one!) .
But that’s when I knew what an awesome/caring/funny/most excellent person (name) is. And it makes me so beyond happy that he/she has found someone who sees and appreciates that.
(Name of partner), you are marrying the best friend a person could ask for. You really bring out the best in him/her and I know he/she truly cares for you as well.
(Both persons’ names), I am so excited for the both of you, and I know you’re going to be a great team. I wish you nothing but love and joy for many years to come.
what was the greatest best man speech you’ve ever heard? What was the worst? what worked—and what totally didn’t?