How to make a NICE best man's speech.
August 11, 2019 11:50 AM   Subscribe

I have to give a best man's speech. I would like to give a good one, but on top of it being funny I would also like it to be nice. The main issue with this is that I'm not sure I'm very nice. I'm certainly not used to being nice. How do I write, and deliver a best man's speech which is both GOOD and also NICE.
posted by Just this guy, y'know to Human Relations (22 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Things that are nice are:
Complimentary
Flattering
From the heart
Your happiest memories together
Things that only you know about the person
Reasons why you like the person very much
Stuff that you hardly ever say to them because not all relationships have emotional honesty as a shared norm - now is the time to say the positive things like that

Things that aren't nice:
Overly embarrassing/humiliating without being funny
Spending too much time on their flaws
Reasons why you don't like the person
Negative opinions you have about their behavior and foibles
Stuff that you would regret saying if your speech went viral for whatever reason


There is room for a little bit of this stuff as long as it's funny and there's way more positive than negative.

I would run it by some people who know the people in question and get their feedback to make sure you have got the balance right.
posted by bleep at 12:05 PM on August 11 [5 favorites]


One piece of public speaking advice I heard years ago (probably on NPR) that I've followed since and wish more people did: don't try to be funny.

Since then, I've noticed that the speeches by non-professional speakers that I've enjoyed most are the ones where the speaker doesn't try to be funny. My advice basically boils down to: have a main idea, three main points, and don't try to be funny. If you're honest and sincere, the humor will come naturally. And I don't think anyone will complain if you keep it short and sweet.

Also see this Wedding Crashers scene:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GCYlgGWaJ78
posted by bunbury at 12:10 PM on August 11 [10 favorites]


Many decades ago when I was an angry, bitter young man, I had the same problem. I gave a speech about how I and my colleagues, the groom's other friends, had dedicated our lives to making the groom miserable, but we wound up helpless and defeated when faced with the power of his fiancée to make him happy.

You can throw in a bunch of cynical remarks about yourself and your relationship with your friend, as long as you can sincerely be happy for him about his marriage. Keep it short, way shorter than you think it has to be. As soon as you say the words "... so here's to the couple ..." everyone will start yelling and toasting and your speech is over even if you think you haven't finished yet.
posted by fuzz at 12:10 PM on August 11 [4 favorites]


The many not-nice wedding speeches I have heard have had one or more of the following elements:

- The usual trite crap that makes it sound like the married couple should hate each other ("ball-and-chain" type jokes, saying anything implying their lives are now over)
- Stories about the either of the newlyweds that are more hurtful-embarrassing than adorable-embarrassing
- Clear implications that the speech-giver doesn't like their friend's new spouse
- References to past rocky periods in the couple's relationship
- Calling out bad feelings between the families in attendance
- The speech-giver focusing mostly on themselves
- Sexual references

So, don't do those things!

Nice things to consider:

- Fond memories of the times you've spent with the couple, individually or together
- Adorable-embarrassing stories that highlight the positive qualities of the person you're best man for
- Heartfelt well-wishes for the future
posted by rhiannonstone at 12:11 PM on August 11 [10 favorites]


Anything sardonic should be mildly self-deprecating, rather than mocking the groom (or heaven forbid the bride).
posted by nantucket at 12:11 PM on August 11 [11 favorites]


Take some time to think about what qualities you love about your friend. Something specific that is special about him. Think of one particular story you have that shows these qualities*—do you have a memory of him that makes you think “that is classic [friend] at his best”? Frame the speech around this story.

* no stories that would embarrass the bride or family members of the bride or groom. I’ve gone to two different weddings where the bride having diarrhea came up in the best man speech. It hasn’t gone well either time.
posted by sallybrown at 12:12 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


I love that you're asking this!

Talk about them more than you talk about yourself. Go through when it's written and count "I / me" and then count "Him / her / they / his name / her name". You should probably have about 4 times more references to the couple than you have to yourself.

Don't talk about the couple's sexual pasts, their fights or breakups, any exes, or career failures.

When the speech is written, load up a big photo of each of their faces on your computer screen. (one at a time, so you'll do this at least twice). Pick a photo where they're making eye contact with the camera / you and where they look open-hearted. Stand up, look at the photo of their face, and read your speech to them. Imagine how they will feel hearing this on their special day. ANY weird feelings or doubts if a joke will land? Delete and re-write. Re-read the next draft to their face too. Also think about how their parents and grandparents and siblings will feel about what you're saying. You want them all to feel open and loving and happy, not cringy or nervous or embarassed.

Devote 10-20% of the speech to the bride, their relationship and how happy he is with her. Not in comparison to exes, either- just positive things you notice about him that have changed since she came along.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:14 PM on August 11 [21 favorites]


Wow, I really approve of this question! All of the best man speeches I've sat through have been mean, mostly because the guy tried to be funny, but it didn't come off right. I'd advise not trying to be funny, but if you have to, maybe stick to dad jokes... If it's a genuine (and short) speech, people will love it. Honestly, the general meanness of best-man speeches has really made an impact on me, and I've been trying to be more comfortable being honestly nice and complimentary to people in my life without trying to hide behind jokes because I feel vulnerable... But anyway! Great instinct!
posted by catcafe at 12:43 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


Listen to this Malcolm Gladwell story from The Moth and do the exact opposite.
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:49 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


You question is a great opening!

"As the best man I have the enviable honor of giving a speech. I would like to give a good one--funny, sure---but on top of it being funny I would also like it to be nice. The main issue with this is that I'm not sure I'm very nice. I'm certainly not used to being nice. But for this friend [nod to the groom] it was important to me that I write a speech which is both GOOD and also NICE. Because he deserves that. Here's why ..... [and launch into a few stories that show, rather than tell, why groom is a great friend and bestest human ever and so deserving of this happiness.]"

When in doubt, end on the more sentimental of stories rather than on the jokier of stories.
posted by cocoagirl at 12:50 PM on August 11 [14 favorites]


Ok this might sound a bit wrong, but... you probably wouldn’t have a problem if you had to (god forbid) write his obituary. By which I mean, you would frame it as kind things he’d done, how important he was to certain people, how well he was thought of, what he meant to you, etc. I always think it’s such a shame that people save all the wonderful things they’d say about someone until they’re dead and it’s too late. Well thankfully he’s not (yay) he’s wonderfully happy, and you get to be part of a joyous day in his life and to say all the amazing things you’d want him to hear you say. Good luck!
posted by billiebee at 12:53 PM on August 11 [3 favorites]


Keep it short. It's not your day and you are standing between people and fun. Tell one (1) anecdote. Ideally one he told you and has forgotten about. Be kind.
posted by doiheartwentyone at 1:37 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


Oh and: The best man's speech is a toast. The whole thing. Your entire purpose is to say "To the bride and groom". Your job is to make everyone feel that is the most natural thing in the world to do.
posted by doiheartwentyone at 1:44 PM on August 11 [3 favorites]


Does it have to be funny?
posted by amtho at 2:00 PM on August 11 [3 favorites]


Nth the recommendations to be short. Five minutes tops. I'd recommend writing out your speech ahead of time to make sure you keep it short and stay nice. For my twin brother's wedding I did a lot of self-deprecating humor and riffed on the decade we were born in (the 80s). Metaphors are another way to spice up your speech. For example I said something like, "My twin brother and I go way back. We first met as roommates 9 months before we were born. Our landlord was a wonderful woman named (our Mother's name)."

Practice your speech beforehand. You'll feel less stressed and it will help nail down your delivery. Memorizing a 4 or 5 minute speech is hard so I'd read it off something like a note card. Good Luck!
posted by mundo at 2:30 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


5 minutes is an exceedingly long toast considering the circumstances. Keep it short, genuine and about the groom and/or couple.

Remember, your continued talking is keeping people from drinking.
posted by mmascolino at 7:20 PM on August 11


I have given three "best man" speeches and been on the receiving end of one (actually a tag team by both of my brothers). I have listened to maybe two dozen more.

My advice to you is to be sincere and to sound like you. If you are a funny guy, be yourself and your humor will come out. If you are not a nice person, be the best of who you are. People that know you as say sarcastic or caustic who are listening to you nice guy speech will see through it and it will not be believed.

Do not be mean, but do not lose your voice. You are presumably the best man because the groom likes and respects you for who you are. Be you. Keep it short and concise and most of all sincere.
posted by AugustWest at 8:10 PM on August 11


The best funny stories for public consumption are ones that secretly show off a person's most admirable qualities.

He goes through all these ridiculous steps to keep a pointless promise that he never should have made, none of it works, and he looks like kind of a doofus, but the message of the story is "he's loyal and honest even when other people wouldn't bother." He deliberately makes a hilarious ass of himself in public trying to cheer up a sad friend, but the message of the story is "he's kind and wants people to be happy and isn't too concerned about his own appearances." He breaks a bunch of mostly-arbitrary social norms when he first starts dating his now-wife, and you play that up to mock him, but the message is "he loves her so much that he can't help but be real and authentic instead of following the rules."

I think the Best Man speeches that go off the rails are the ones that stop having secret messages about the groom's good qualities, and start just ragging on him for the sake of ragging on him. Which is... also a valid kind of funny story, just not one you tell in front of someone's new grandmother-in-law.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:17 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Occasional wedding photographer here. Best Man speeches have turned into a Roast. But the best man speech is not a roast. It's also not a stand up comedy routine. It's something else.

The purpose of the best man speech is this: Long enough ago, when travel was more expensive, many people on the bride's side were meeting the groom or the groom's family for the first time. You know the groom really well. The bride's extended family and friends may not. Your speech should introduce the groom to everyone else. And further, your job is to endorse the groom to the bride's family. They are accepting him into their family. You are telling them why this is a good idea. You know the groom pretty well if you're the best man, and you probably find him pretty likable.

So tell us about the groom. Tell us about how you met, and how you spent your time together when you were becoming friends. Tell us about how the Groom helped you through a tough time, or a story from a trip you took together. Tell us about meeting the groom's parents and family, and a moment that revealed the best of their character. Tell us about the time you laughed the hardest together. Tell us about a time you looked up to him the most. Tell us about the kindest thing thing they did for you. Tell us about the first time the groom mentioned the bride's name to you. Tell us about something nice the groom said about the bride when they were just starting out. Tell us about something you observed about the bride and groom together that makes you think they'll have a long and happy partnership.

There don't sound like any jokes in there, and that's ok. People are ready to laugh and enjoy themselves at weddings, and often many of them are older, and just the stories you'll tell of younger people trying to make their way to adulthood and making mistakes along the way are charming and funny. Even if you are frat brothers, one is the maximum limit for stories that involve alcohol, and zero is the number of previous romantic partners your stories should involve. Stories about encounters with law enforcement are forbidden, unless the bride is related to a police officer. (These are your poker table or bachelor party stories. This is a 2 for 1 AskMe. You're welcome.)

OK, write all that down at least a month before the wedding. It's going to be really long, and that's ok, but not because you're going to speak for a long time! Instead, you'll wait for a bit, because you've given yourself a lot of time before the wedding. Then you'll pick the speech back up again and mercilessly cut it down to 5 minutes or less. 500 words is about right. End with a toast to the bride and groom genuinely wishing them well. They've just made one of the biggest decisions of their lives, and you've been asked to come and support them publicly, so do so.
posted by thenormshow at 8:37 PM on August 11 [21 favorites]


A middle ground on being funny or not being funny is advice I heard ages ago on wedding speeches: take your funniest joke out. I am funny in person and people laugh at my speeches but this has helped me for sure.

Remember that your audience is not you and the groom and your close circle. That audience will probably be cheering you on to really go for it. Your audience is the whole thing - family, friends, colleagues. What's funniest to you is probably funny for reasons not funny to them.

In the best man speeches I've given I've asked the friends and family of the groom for nice anecdotes - not necessarily to use them, but to get more of an idea of how to describe them. In one case I referenced the existence of lots of embarrassing stories without going into what they are.

On delivery you need to find a way to speak naturally and sincerely. For me this means having a good structure with key points and then improvising the exact words. In practice I would have tried experiments with the words so the improvisation isn't out of nothing.
posted by squishles at 8:00 AM on August 12 [1 favorite]


So tell us about the groom. Tell us about how you met, and how you spent your time together when you were becoming friends. Tell us about how the Groom helped you through a tough time, or a story from a trip you took together. Tell us about meeting the groom's parents and family, and a moment that revealed the best of their character. Tell us about the time you laughed the hardest together. Tell us about a time you looked up to him the most. Tell us about the kindest thing thing they did for you. Tell us about the first time the groom mentioned the bride's name to you. Tell us about something nice the groom said about the bride when they were just starting out. Tell us about something you observed about the bride and groom together that makes you think they'll have a long and happy partnership.

This is the answer. This is the template for every good wedding toast I've ever heard or given.
posted by Ragged Richard at 8:23 AM on August 12 [2 favorites]


When I made father-of-the-groom remarks, I googled around and found some snappy quotes. It gave me a start.

In my role, I also thanked people. It's one of the few times you can say nice things about people in front of a crowd.

Try to work the things you want to say into a narrative. People like a story.

And don't drink more than a wee dram before.
posted by SemiSalt at 12:20 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


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