Important advice for your best man speech.
What to do. What not to do. What to say. What not to say.
By- Casey & Kaylee York
Years of officiating both religious and non-religious wedding ceremonies has given us a unique perspective on the best and worst of wedding etiquette. The best-man speech is always a make or break moment for the reception. From our time witnessing beautiful celebrations of life partnership, and the occasional train wreck, here is a comprehensive list of do’s and don’ts for the best man’s speech.
Things the best man speech should include
Be an arbiter between two families
This is likely the first time many members of the bride and groom’s family are meeting each other, and therefore forming impressions which may last a lifetime. By approaching your speech as a formal introduction of not only two people, but two families, you may create an atmosphere that is conducive to warm, meaningful conversation between strangers.
Share past accomplishments
One way to celebrate the union between these two families, and to make the members proud to receive each other, is highlighting the academic, sporting, or career-oriented accolades of the bride and groom (or brides, or grooms). Did the bride make first-in-state for playing bassoon? Is the groom a lawyer from a long line of attorneys? Preach about any “points of pride” you can glean from either family. Think not only of the things in which your friends take pride, but remember the events or qualities your friends’ parents are proud of.
Highlight positive traits of both/sell your buddy
This is where we get personal. There is a great difference between listing someone’s accomplishments, and highlighting the personal attributes that got them there — and both should be leveraged for the “master” grade best-man speech. We can easily segue from the groom running a half marathon, to the determination, resolve, and integrity it took to train for such a goal. We ultimately land on how this attribute will help to ensure a strong union between the partners.
Remember: It is important to be true to how the parties see themselves
We all have biases in our perception of ourselves which may distort our views of our abilities and weaknesses, and no one invited you to speak at this wedding for your “epic truth-bombs.” You may see your friend as a decent-ish accountant, and a terrible, yet determined, rock climber, but if your friend is particularly proud of their climbing ability you should highlight a time when they made themselves proud.
Pro-tip: Build in ice-breakers
These can be beginnings of anecdotes, (non-embarrassing) which guests may ask the couple about as an ice-breaker. It can be awkward to introduce yourself at a wedding, especially for those who dread the awkward silence after coming to introduce themselves armed only with their name and position in the family. “Hey, I’m Uncle Bill.” is a bit of a conversational dead-end. Dropping a snippet about the groom doing something interesting abroad, or any of their favorite life stories, can be an opportunity for people to engage the couple in a real conversation by asking them to elaborate.
It is never a bad idea to clear these potentially interesting life events with the bride and groom. This way they can be prepared to tell their tale, and also help you avoid any snafus or embarrassment.
Things the best man speech should not include
Don’t mention physical appearance
Even if you think you are being complimentary, even if you have heard the party in question brag about this feature, it is a bad idea to mention physical appearance. This is far more likely to cause discomfort to the couple being united or their family members. Someone can be proud of a physical asset without wanting it celebrated in front of two families. The less obvious problem with the choice to address physical features during this speech, is the observation that young relationships are especially vulnerable to fits of jealousy, and your appraisal of someone’s appearance can be a nucleation point for the insecurities that many people will encounter while turning “two me’s into a we”.
Don’t mention past partners
This may seem obvious, but not even in a disparaging manner is it appropriate to mention past relationships/flames. This can sour the event for everyone by reminding them of more trying times. This day is for celebrating the new and the wonderful, and we can do that without reminding people of a darker past. Comments which allude to a very high, or very low number of previous partners also falls into this massive DON’T.
Don’t be pessimistic
You were not invited to speak at this event so you could “red pill” the levity out of the reception. Your personal view on the “dubious nature of monogamous relationships” is not the memory anyone is hoping to take home. The organic method to a speech like this is to observe the energy of the room. Start your speech with a tone that will not be a jarring contrast to the milieu of the party, and throughout it, move the crowd toward an exuberance for the choice this couple has made. Pair this with a mutual optimism that the great unknown that awaits this couple will be a journey through life’s most fulfilling experiences.
Don’t improvise under the influence
There is a high likelihood that only you think you are hilarious when you are drunk, and a higher likelihood that your newfound confidence is due to an inability to perceive deserved internal criticisms. Using an inebriating substance of any kind before the speech should be avoided for every reason except to avoid withdrawal. To comfort oneself at the expense of a quality performance is ultimately very selfish. If you want to imbibe, it is best to do so after your duties have been performed, and only to the extent that you don’t become the center of attention.
Don’t make it about you
Apart from anaphylaxis, there isn’t really a decent reason to be the center of attention at your friend’s wedding. Even during the best-man speech when all eyes are on you, it is your job to direct that attention to the great qualities of the individuals bonding their lives through marriage. It is important to remember that you have been chosen for this duty because your closeness to the betrothed grants you a unique perspective on the attributes that make them a particularly worthwhile life partner.
This list distills down pretty neatly to three major components. Take the job seriously, highlight the best qualities of the person who trusted you with this honor, and by all means avoid surprises. You may pride yourself on shocking humor, or your ability to draw an equal mix of groans and chuckles, but unless the couple has explicitly signed-off on these humorous bits, you should play it safe. The couple very likely has an ideal version of this event imagined, and the odds are slim that any surprise will be welcome or unselfish.
You have a golden opportunity to be a part of making sure your friend has the life they desire, but also an opportunity to grow your friendship with the bride and groom in a way that is mutually fulfilling.
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