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If 24-hours later nobody can remember what the best man said or did, it has been a success. The official job is to reply to the bridegroom’s toast, on behalf of the bridesmaids. It is also customary to make a few light remarks about the character of the groom and his suitability for the bride.

1) Preparation

If you are given the important job of being best man at someone’s wedding - probably the most important event in their whole life - you should prepare thoroughly. Ideally, start asking around for stories several months before the big day. Plan what you want to say carefully. You should have a complete text ready three weeks before the wedding.

The speech should last about seven minutes (approximately 1000 words). By all means have notes on the day, but avoid reading from a script. You can practice by videoing yourself, taping your speech or performing in front of the mirror.

2) Avoid the Pitfalls

On the day of the speech make sure you’re aware of where you are sitting, that you are visible to all the guests, and, if you’re using a sound system, that it is working properly. Before starting, check if everyone can hear you clearly.

You should start with ‘Ladies and Gentlemen’ and then lead into a quotation, a humorous story or perhaps a few observations on the day so far. Many men would like to be scintillating, witty and professional, but that takes about ten years of practice on the comedy circuit. Just be optimistic and light-hearted.

3) Keep it Tasteful

If you make a folder for your speech clearly marked in capital letters: ‘SEX, SCANDAL & FAMILY SECRETS’ this can be a good way of concealing your notes and it should provoke some laughter even before you start. However, the things you must never mention in your speech are sex, scandal or family secrets.

There are usually at least three generations at a typical family wedding. Jokes which make the younger generation roar with laughter may leave the grandparents silent and sour-faced. The speech should be dignified and appropriate for a serious occasion.

4) Show Rather Than Tell

It is perfectly acceptable to run through a list of the groom’s qualities, but this could sound a bit sentimental and embarrassing. Far better to tell stories. Find some anecdotes which reflect the character of the groom and tell them in a way that appeals to all ages and backgrounds.

It is good to give some background details about the bridesmaids and a shrewd speaker will comment on some aspect of their appearance or behavior earlier in the day.

5) Keep it Simple

On your draft, the speech should have a beginning, a middle and an end. The beginning should aim to get the attention of the audience, the middle should entertain them and the end should be recognizable as the end.

In a seven minute speech you can tell three or four anecdotes about the groom, add some stories about his change in behavior since he met his bride, wish the couple a long and happy marriage and end with the reply to the toast.

6) Hints for being Funny

Richard Curtis, the writer of Four Weddings and a Funeral, made a point in an interview that most of the stuff he writes isn’t funny. He reaches an amusing script by constant rewriting and by trying things out on his friends and family.

In the same way if you’re composing your own jokes, you should be prepared to spend many hours rewriting them. Subtle jokes are no good, but old jokes can usually be relied upon. In-jokes are appropriate, if of course everyone in the room can understand them.

7) Troubleshooting

Have a text of your speech in your top pocket in case you forget your lines. If some of your jokes fall flat, just continue regardless. Don’t be intimidated by any heckling. If you have gone on longer than twenty minutes and you can tell that the audience is getting bored and restless, just sit down!



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