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Crafting a Best Man Speech: Guidance, Examples, and Tips

By: Compose.ly — September 12, 2018

wedding toast

Have you ever tried giving a speech? It’s the kind of thing that seems easy — at first. Watch an artful speech on any topic under the sun and the speaker’s words seem to flow without effort. Behind that flawless delivery, though, there were hours of preparation spent ensuring the speaker got it right.

The need for careful preparation becomes doubly important if you’re planning on giving a best man speech. Your audience expects you to deliver an address that is heartfelt, touches on your friendship with the groom, and, most importantly, celebrates the love between said groom and his partner. At the same time, you’ll have to be entertaining, insightful, and authentic if you want your speech to make a good impression with the crowd. How can you even begin to accomplish such a feat?

There are many elements that come into play when giving great best man speeches, but it all starts with writing something worth saying. A well-crafted speech provides the foundation upon which you can build an audience-capturing performance, and this guide will serve as a framework for you to start drafting an amazing wedding-day address that you’ll be proud to deliver. Read on, as we cover the five steps you’ll need to follow and some helpful tips for great speechwriting.

How to Write a Best Man Speech in 5 Steps

It’s time to get to work! Like any other speech, writing a best man speech is something you can accomplish with an orderly, step-by-step process. In particular, there are five key phases you should be sure to follow, most of which take place before you even put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, if you’re more technologically inclined).

Step 1: Decide Your Purpose

Start by asking yourself a question, “why am I giving this speech?” The literal answer, of course, is because the best man asked you to, or you asked him. What you need to search for, however, is the deeper meaning of your speech’s purpose.

A speech is a powerful tool that can call an audience to action, persuade them of a particular point of view, or, in this case, entertain them while providing information about a certain topic.

The topic you’ll be covering is the relationship between your buddy and his spouse-to-be. Your goal should be to present it in a way that speaks to the “heart” of the matter without boring your audience or becoming an overly-long rant. While you won’t be the main subject of the speech, you’ll also need to find a way to weave your personal knowledge of the groom’s relationship with his partner into your speech.

Your goal should be to present your speech a way that speaks to the “heart” of the matter without boring your audience or becoming an overly-long rant.

To stay focused on your purpose, create a sentence-long theme that will serve as your guiding star. Something along the lines of “the perfect love at the perfect time,” or “the day I realized my friend met his match.” Stick to this method, and you’ll have no problem generating excellent best man speech ideas.

Step 2: Determine Your Audience

It’s a safe bet that the wedding guests will be friends and family of the groom and his partner, but which ones and how many? Knowing who you’re addressing in advance is central to any kind of speech and will give you the ability to fine-tune your words and make them relatable.

Will there be a large crowd with dozens of attendees who don’t know one another very well? You might want to keep things general. If the audience is more familiar with each other, you have an opportunity to add a few personal touches that wouldn’t be appropriate otherwise.

Step 3: Do Your Research

Throughout your speech, you may want to tell some funny anecdotes or relate a moment in time that perfectly illustrates what the groom’s relationship with his partner is all about. While your own knowledge may suffice, you’ll be doing yourself a favor by performing some research.

It doesn’t have to be too in-depth (you’re not going after the Pulitzer Prize or anything), but checking up on basic dates, locations, names, etc. will ensure you have your facts straight. During the course of your research, you might also discover a few new details that can enhance your speech or realize there’s a better angle you can use to relay your narrative, so it’s rarely ever a wasted effort.

Draw upon other first-hand sources — friends and family of the groom, old roommates, perhaps even a former professor or employer if it’s relevant to the story you want to tell. Combine whatever information you gain with your own recollection of events to create as broad a base of material as possible for writing your speech.

Step 4: Craft Your Outline

Remember in school when you’d create an outline before writing a paper? A similar principle applies to writing a best man speech, though this outline needn’t be as detailed as one you’d use for a book report or research paper.

Start your outline with an introduction. After that, use your purpose statement from Step 1 to brainstorm the supporting ideas for your narrative will include. Pepper the outline with the important points you’re obligated to cover (complimenting the groom’s partner, congratulating the couple, etc.), and close by calling for a toast.

Big Tip
When writing the outline, don’t lose sight of that sentence-long theme you came up with. This is when you make sure it makes it into your speech.

What you come up with should look something like this:

  • Begin with captivating opener
  • Introduce yourself and give a nod to the previous speakers
  • Use a joke to lead into your story
  • Tell them your heartfelt tale
  • Tie the story to groom’s love for his partner
  • Work in a compliment about his partner
  • Congratulate the newlyweds
  • Deliver one more zinger about the groom
  • Conclude the speech and start the toast

Step 5: Create Your Speech

The moment of truth is here. It’s time to start writing your best man speech. Follow your outline and stick to the 10-80-10 rule for drafting the contents of your speech. Your opening and conclusion should account for 10% of your speech apiece. The remaining 80% is for your story, jokes, compliments, gratitude, etc.

While you’re crafting your speech, remember to keep the narrative compelling so that you can maintain your audience’s attention.

When you’re done drafting, give your speech the once over. Proofread for glaring grammatical errors and make a note of any content that doesn’t make sense. Next, polish your speech. Cut out what you don’t need to make your point. If a section “feels wrong,” then rewrite it or remove it. Remember, the end result should be something you can deliver with the utmost confidence.

Five Rules for Giving a Best Man Speech

While you’re in the midsts of planning, drafting, and editing your best man speech, be sure to follow these five rules to ensure success.

Rule 1: Hook Your Audience With the Opening

Through humor, charm, or surprise, you’ll want to grab the crowd’s attention with the opening lines of your speech. Fail, and they may well tune out whatever follows. Succeed, however, and you’ll have them hanging on your every word.

Instead of starting with a boring old “Hi, my name is …” try hitting your audience with a rhetorical question, a powerful quote, a hypothetical scenario, or even a few beats of silence to subvert their expectations. After you’ve given the audience a reason to lend their ears, you can supply a brief introduction and begin fleshing out your narrative.

Rule 2: Deliver Your Speech the Way You Talk

This bit of advice actually has two meanings. The obvious one is that you should employ clean, simple language that will sound natural when you deliver your speech. Don’t insert ten-dollar words if they aren’t part of your normal vocabulary, and keep things conversational by using short sentences.

The less obvious meaning of this tip is that the tone of your speech should match your personality. Sure, the general feeling should be upbeat, but don’t discount how you come across when you’re being authentic.

Are you a serious individual? Your demeanor will lend itself to a powerful speech with a bit more gravitas. If you’re known as a joker, however, perhaps you can take a few chances on lighthearted (and good-natured) quips? Bottom line: do what comes naturally, else you’ll run the risk of seeming insincere.

Rule 3: Avoid Obvious Pitfalls

As a general rule, never touch on anything that might be embarrassing, controversial, or offensive during your address. A wedding is a happy occasion, and your speech should help build up the groom and his partner (not tear them down).

If you decide to inject some humor into your speech, keep it tasteful and positive. No one-liners about failed relationships from the groom’s past, no stories about potentially illicit scenarios you and the groom got into during college, no slamming the food or wedding decor, and no jokes at the groom’s partner’s expense. Period.

Which isn’t to say there’s no room for being funny. If you’ve got a quick anecdote that pokes fun at the groom’s inability to cook, his lack of athletic aptitude, or any other minor personal foibles, feel free to weave those into your speech.

Rule 4: Keep It Short and Sweet

Brevity isn’t just the soul of wit, it’s the key to keeping a wedding audience from falling asleep during your speech. The crowd has other speakers they’ll need to listen to (and might already have been bored to tears by somebody else’s 10-minute monologue) so keep it brief to generate maximum impact. Don’t exceed five minutes, and, ideally, restrict your speech to two minutes.

The key to success here will be sticking to your outline and editing your prepared speech judiciously. Don’t hesitate to cut out a third (or even half) of what you come up with during your first draft. Try to make your point using as few words as possible.

Rule 5: End on a High Note

You’ll want to keep a positive vibe throughout your speech, but use your ending to ramp up the excitement just another notch. After telling the groom and his partner how much they mean to you and celebrating their love, finish with a quote or poignant statement, then propose a toast to get the show on the road.

Best Man Speech Examples

man adjusting suit

It’s one thing to talk about the theory behind writing a killer speech, but quite another to witness the results once those principles have been put into practice. To make a long story short, if you want to compose a worthwhile speech, you’ll benefit from studying the speeches of others.

In doing so, you’ll gain a feel for how you can make the leap from a vague outline of what you want to talk about during your minutes in the spotlight to a tight script that will maximize your chances of wowing the wedding crowd.

The following best man speech examples cover several potential scenarios. We’ll be providing a breakdown of the strategy you’ll want to take when tasked with writing and delivering a particular style of speech.

While not every variety will apply to your specific circumstance, we nonetheless encourage you to read through them all. That way, you’ll feel comfortable adjusting your gameplan if you get the sense your first drafts aren’t working out quite how you envisioned.

A General Best Man Speech

In cases where you have a good relationship with the groom (it’s why he asked you to be his best man, after all) but you don’t feel particularly comfortable trying to be funny (or baring your naked soul) in front of a large crowd, you’ll do well sticking to a general speech format.

This kind of wedding speech will allow you to express your gratitude, offer congratulations, and show off some sincere charm without taking a chance on (and potentially falling short of) deliberate laughs/heartfelt tears from the audience.

The Approach

As this is the wedding speech equivalent of a “Jack of All Trades,” you’ll also need to concede that you’re the “Master of None” and proceed accordingly.

Keep the overarching tone light and playful, but avoid heading too deep into comedic waters. Tug gently at the audience’s heartstrings, but refrain from going full bore with sentimentality. In short, you should play the balancing act and avoid leaning too hard toward any one direction.

Don’t confuse this advice for meaning your speech should lack substance, however. By the time you’re done with your address, you’ll have successfully conveyed an appropriate level of admiration for the wedding couple while simultaneously providing some insight that the audience might not have known.

Avoid leading with a joke (if you don’t feel like you can be funny on demand), and instead opt for a quote or surprising fact about the groom (or your friendship with them). Weave in a light narrative that will bring a tender smile to the audience’s faces, and be sure to sing the praises of the newlyweds throughout your speech.

The Example

The author Clifton Fadiman once said that a “measure of friendship consists not in the number of things friends can discuss, but in the number of things they need no longer mention.” That must surely be true, because Philip [the groom] never talked that much to me about Sofia [the bride], yet I could see how much he loved her all the same.

Their love started with a gentle spark. I first noticed it when he started combing his hair and actually ironing his clothes. “Someone’s going on a date,” I thought to myself. He’d head out from our apartment a few evenings every week with a subtle pep in his step and return with a smile that wouldn’t leave his face until the next morning.

That love grew into a welcoming fire. By the time I finally got to meet the mysterious Sofia, you could feel the warmth of the bond she and Philip shared just by standing near. Phil never pulled me aside to talk about how madly in love he was, but he never needed to because I could sense it in their every interaction.

The smiles, the jokes, the laughs — they all said to me, “true love.” Seeing as we’re gathered here to celebrate a wedding, I’m confident in proclaiming my hunch was correct.

Sofia, I thank you for making Philip a happy man, and Phil, I’m glad I got to watch you grow into the man I see here today.

To you both, this has been a truly inspirational journey. You guys have been great to me, and I know you’ll be great together. Cheers to the bride and groom — may that beautiful flame you started never die. [Raise glass and end speech]

A Best Man Speech for a Brother

You’ve known the groom his whole life, or vice versa, so there’s a deep history here to explore. You’re probably the best of friends, but even if your sibling bond isn’t as deep as some others you’ve seen throughout the years, you can explore this relationship (and that between the groom and his partner) through the lens of a brotherly speech.

Regardless of whether your brother is younger or older than you, this speech style will allow you to dive into lesser-known aspects of the groom’s upbringings, hidden character depths, and motivations that your unique perspective makes clear.

The Approach

You’ll want to establish your sibling relationship early in your address, then lean on it for the duration of your speech. Lead with a quip about the “best brother in the world,” share a fun story from the past that only you (and a few other family members) would know, or use a powerful quote about brotherhood to start off strong.

Continue with fond memories of your brother that illustrate his progression from youth to present, making it clear that you respect the person he has become and excited for him to begin this new phase of his life. Include glowing praise for the groom’s partner, wish the newlyweds well, then conclude by kicking off that all-important toast.

The Example

If you could flashback twenty years and tell me and Johnny [the groom] that I’d be doing a speech at his wedding someday, we wouldn’t have believed you. That’s partly because neither of us knew what a wedding was at the time, but also because we’d have been too busy pretending to be Batman and Robin to care.

We were the heroes of our own story: I’d lead us into adventure and excitement (by which I mean roaming the neighborhood looking for places we had no business being) and Johnny would be right by my side, chomping at the bit to join in on both the fun and the eventual scolding from mom.

We grew up, of course, and while we did, part of me feared our Dynamic Duo would be no more — that our days as “superheroes” would be but a memory. Alas, they are, but as Marc Brown once said, “sometimes, being a brother is even better than being a superhero.” I’m happy to confirm that this is indeed the case.

Johnny, watching you grow has meant the world to me. Seeing you go your own way — find a great job, a great home, and now, an amazing wife.

I can think of no greater joy. It fills me with pride knowing that my former “sidekick” is now the hero of his own story, and the greatest tales are yet to come.

To Elizabeth [the bride], I must say that this transformation would not have been complete without you. With intelligence, elegance, and grace, you’ve helped Johnny discover his true potential, given unimaginable support through thick and thin, and encouraged my baby brother to be the kind of man we all aspire to be. You make him unbelievably happy, and for that, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

It is my great pleasure to witness you start this new chapter in your lives; I can’t wait to see what path your story takes next.

Congratulations to you both, and may the days ahead bring a bounty of love and happiness. Let’s toast the bride and groom! [Raise glass and end speech]

A Funny Best Man Speech

You know the groom like the back of your hand and you’ve already got a reputation for being the humorous scoundrel of the group. Few strategies will fit your personality better than a funny best man speech, so prepare yourself to flex those comedic chops.

This kind of speech will allow you to showcase the groom (and yourself) in a jovial light, entertaining the audience with quips and quick stories that play up your best buddy’s foibles while simultaneously letting everyone know what a stand-up guy he really is.

The Approach

There’s a thin line to tread here, as you’ll need to be amusing without being blatantly offensive. Keep the language clean. Lightly tease the groom, but don’t venture into outright put-downs or embarrassment. Avoid joking negatively about the groom’s partner, and use a bit of playful self-deprecation to showcase your adulation for the couple if possible.

At the same time, you’ll want to avoid coming across like a clown (you’re the best man, not a jester). Have the audience laugh with you — never at you. Start your speech emphatically, with a lead-in gag, then keep it moving to build on your momentum. At the finish line, wrap things up with a call to cheer and your job will be complete.

The Example

Ladies and Gentlemen, dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to witness the union of Frank [the groom] and Carol [the bride] in holy matrimony, and my unceremonious demotion to Frank’s second best friend in the whole wide world.

Seriously, though, today has been fantastic, and I can’t think of a more perfect couple than this one.

Trust me. I knew this was true love when the Yankees started the season 0-7 and Mr. New York over here was still running around with a big smile on his face. You’ve got to be a special woman to distract Frank from baseball, and Carol is about as special as they come. In addition to being as beautiful as a blazing sunset, she’s been handing me my buttocks at rummy since I first met her — now that’s talent.

In all honesty, you two have given us the shining example for what the power of love can do — any force of nature that can get Frank buy a new pair of shoes for once is one I welcome with open arms.

You’re the best friends anyone could ever ask for, and I wish you both a long and joyful life together. Cheers. [Raise glass and end speech]

Wrapping Up

wedding-glasses-wine

Study these examples carefully to gain some insights into how you can structure your own speech and perfect your tone to mesh with your personality. In writing your speech, remember to stay on point, choose your words precisely, and keep it brief to hold the audience’s attention.

Coming up with a great speech might seem like a Herculean task at first, but follow our advice and you’ll be well on your way to success.

Need Some Help? Hire Professional Speechwriters

If you find yourself experiencing a bout of writer’s block, think about calling in some professional speechwriting help to get the creative juices flowing.

With Compose.ly, we take the time to get to know you and your situation before we craft your speech. Whether you want something serious and heartfelt or something funny, we’re happy to write one that perfectly meets your needs.

You don’t have to stress about writing your best man speech. We can help, and you can spend your energy supporting your best friend and enjoying the day.

This post was written by Compose.ly writer Dwight Hill.