Disclosure: I love a good best man speech. I tend to play it cool, but let’s be honest: I’ve made a living working in weddings, which means I love how on that one day, everyone shares how much they love you (even guys, who normally don’t wear their hearts on their sleeves). And that means that best man toasts are one of my favorite parts of the wedding. And while we all know that best man speeches have a long and sometimes sordid history, watching a guy tear up over how much he loves his friend from childhood can really, truly, bring down the house. I know, because it happened at our wedding. For us, the best man speech was one of the true highlights of the wedding reception, and I’d like to make that a universal wedding truth.
What the world needs now is more touching and emotional best man speeches, so today we’re going to address the dos and don’ts of the best man speech. We all know that this toast has its 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. (Though the best man speech at my friend’s wedding, where the fourteen-year-old best man tearfully announced the bride’s secret-only-to-the-parent’s-friends pregnancy is one for the ages. So that sort of off the rails we’ll allow, at least if you’re fourteen.)
So here are our twelve dos and don’ts, plus a handy best man speech script to get you to magic. The good kind of magic.
- Do be personal, but be appropriate. You may not have the kind of friendship where you sit and have long talks about how much you love each other. (I know very few men with friendships like this.) So this may be your one chance to let your friend know how much you really care about them. It’s socially sanctioned, and the crowd will eat it up. So get your love for your best friend, brother, chess partner, or just all around great friend on paper, and speak your feelings. This once, at least.
- Do not make jokes in dubious taste. 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,” particularly 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 Chris loves his board games, so it’s a testament to how great Michelle is that you are not listening to me give a toast congratulating Chris and his board games on a happy life together”), but a very specific joke that no one else will get is not okay, particularly if it isn’t clean as a whistle. (“Well, there was this one time we got stoned, and decided to drive a car, and we accidentally drove it into a wall. But getting married to Cindy is a way better choice than driving a car into a wall, so I think this will probably end up fine.”)
- 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.)
- Do not run longer than your allotted time. 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 fine, but two minutes is better.
- Do be thankful. Expressing gratitude toward the couple, their family, and anyone who helped make the wedding happen is always a good thing.
- Do not make it about you. Sure, context is good (“I met Evan when we were in karate together…”) but keep it brief. And for goodness sakes, do not try to tell the story of your life, or your friend’s life, or your life together, while people start wondering if the bar is open for refills. Keep in mind, this speech isn’t about you, and it isn’t even just about your friend—really, it’s about the couple getting married.
- 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.
- Do not ignore your friend’s partner. If you know and love your friend’s partner, lay it on thick. Realistically, this may be the only time you ever tell them how much you care about them. But if you don’t know them that well (or like them that much—hey, it happens) just talk about how happy they make your friend, and leave it at that.
- 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.
- Do not mention: Ex-partners of either member of the couple, sex, the divorce rate, or kids the couple might have in the future (unless the couple is very open about definitely wanting to have them right away, or a bride is actually currently pregnant, see above).
- Do end on a positive note. It doesn’t have to be sugary sweet, but make sure you end on a strong, happy note.
- Do not be rude. I curse as much as the next sailor, but wedding toasts are generally not the place to drop the f-bomb. Mind your manners, even if you’ve had a drink already. Especially if you’ve had a drink already.
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.
I know you all want to dish about the worst best man speech you’ve ever heard. But while you’re at it, share the greatest one as well.