Gentlemen, welcome to the amazing honor of writing and delivering a best man toast. It’s a responsibility, of course, but you’ve been chosen, and it’s time to step up and stand out in a crowd of average speeches. It’s not for your own vanity, either. This is your chance to show serious love to someone you care about, to help the happy couple make their big day even more memorable, and to connect the couple with the audience in a unique way.
I’ve been in your shoes multiple times. And with a little research, a lot of observation at weddings, and a dash of preparation, I’ve embraced wedding toasts as fun and exciting rather than intimidating. In fact, in 2019, I “wrote the book” on the subject: "Wedding Toasts 101: The Guide to the Perfect Wedding Speech." If you’re like me, you’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to speeches. Here’s to you being not just good, but great!
Meet the Expert
Pete Honsberger has been a serial groomsman, speaker, and wedding toast advisor for most of his adult life. When it comes to wedding toasts, he's seen just about everything.
And remember, you don’t have to be a great writer or polished public speaker to succeed in your toast. You just have to tap into what you already know about the couple and put in the time to make it special.
The opener is absolutely critical because you have about 30 seconds to capture the attention and intrigue of the audience.
First things first: You need to start with a bang. I call this "the opener" (ground-breaking title, I know). In your best man toast, the opener is absolutely critical because you have about 30 seconds to capture the attention and intrigue of the audience. Think about what will draw people in, and which memory, quote, or joke about the couple will hook the crowd. It begins simply with a line or few lines that pique the interest of the couple and the crowd. It’s an opportunity to grab attention, to build intrigue, and to communicate a hypothetical, “Put that vodka soda down and listen!”
Below, 10 suggestions for a unique opener to level-up your best man toast.
Introduce Yourself With a Twist
Want to tell the crowd exactly why you're a VIP? Get straight to the point and tell them how you know the guy! Most importantly, add some flavor to the first few lines. Anyone can do the dreaded, “For those of you who don’t know me….” Spice it up a bit. Zig where the audience expects you to zag. Ask yourself what a twist would look like in your own introduction.
“Good evening, if you’re in this room and don’t know me by now, then you’re probably at the wrong wedding. I am, of course, [your name], and I’ve been best friends with [groom] for 25 years…”
“Hello and welcome to tonight’s reception. [name of groom], YOU truly are MY biggest fan. Wait, that didn’t come out right…As I was saying…”
Crack a Joke, Even a Corny One
You could argue that there’s no better way to start a toast then a well-landed joke. Keep in mind the audience when determining whether your joke fits, but if you can get the audience to laugh in the first 30 seconds, you’re in. I’m talking about a real laugh, too. Not pity laughs or cringe-y chuckles.
To achieve this, you simply need to reach into your own bag of jokes or look one up online. I’d encourage you to first spend a little time reflecting on your own comedic ability. If you’re coming up empty, then consult outside resources.
"Hello, I’m the best man [your name]. This entire day has been beautiful so far. In fact, I’m getting emotional. The wedding cake has me in TIERS. (looking at a 3-tiered cake).”
"You’re probably wondering why I asked you all here tonight…well, I can promise it’s not for my Chippendales performance. You’ll have to stick around to the last song for that."
Be Hilarious With a Straight Face
While still technically a joke, this is you working hard to sound serious while saying something absurd. It makes the audience think, which then leads them to lean in and pay close attention to your toast.
If you do this right, you’ll hear a little bit of laughter immediately, and then the rest of the crowd will laugh after a few seconds of figuring out that what you just said was a joke. It’s beautiful to see that sequence unfold.
“Good evening, I am [your name], the best man and [relationship to groom] of [name of groom]. Tonight we’re in a room full of great men –doctors, lawyers, military veterans, and successful businesspeople –yet I am the 'best.' His words, not mine.”
"As Abraham Lincoln once said, [say something outrageous than Lincoln obviously never said—an inspirational quote, movie line, piece of advice, etc.] … and that’s what brings us all together tonight to celebrate [couple's name].”
Introduce a Recurring Theme
Choosing an overall toast theme can help you start strong. If you decide that your relationship with the groom can be summed up by sports, by college, by vacations, by a mutual love of running, or whatever fits you, that can be your theme. And if that’s the case, your opener is simply the first, or the best, story you have related to that specific theme.
The inspiration for this actually came from a maid of honor toast I witnessed. The MOH wanted her theme to be about “opposites attracting,” so she mentioned many ways in which the bride and groom, as well as her, were opposites. There’s no doubt that you can pull from this idea and find a consistent theme for your best man speech.
“Hello and welcome, my name’s [your name], and I’m here to talk about my amazing friends Mike and Liz. They are truly a story of opposites attracting.
For example, Liz’s favorite food is french fries, and Mike is allergic to potatoes. Mike has an obsession with ice cream, and Liz is lactose intolerant (pause for laughter).
Thankfully, things have a way of working out, and we are gathered tonight to celebrate the most important thing they have in common…incredibly good looks. I mean, LOVE.”
Just like that, you’ve captured the audience, let them into the world of the married couple, and excited them for the rest of your toast.
Ask a Question to Answer Throughout
If you’re questioning your approach to opening your toast, try leaning into that approach. Instead of looking for the answer, embrace the question.
Think about what you would want to know about the groom if you were a distant relative or family friend sitting in the audience. What would be an interesting question to explore about the couple? Use that.
“Good evening. My name is [your name] and I’ve known [groom] for more than [#] years. As I was preparing this toast, one question consistently rang in my mind: How do I summarize a friendship that has lasted since we [when you met]? Believe it or not, [groom] was [name a quirk or characteristic about him] back then, too.”
“But really, how can I possibly speak to all of our experiences in just a few minutes without turning it into one big inside joke? Do I talk about …?”
Then, spend the rest of the toast answering that question, and you’ll never lack for information to share.
Really want to capture the intrigue of everyone in the room? Start rhyming your sentences. I tried this in my first ever wedding toast, and the result was an audience hanging on every sentence, wondering what the next line would be.
“Good evening ladies and gentlemen, I am Dan's younger brother, Pete. Many of you, I already know. Some, I have yet to meet.
Dan and Kate, thank you so much for this amazing chance, to speak on your special day … by the way, I call first dance. (crowd boos in jest) Sorry, but I called it!
I’ve looked up to Dan ever since I’ve had sight. He was always bigger than me, and he was always right.
Being the oldest of four boys couldn’t have been an easy thing. But in a house full of hyenas, Dan was the Lion King."
Read a Definition from a Dictionary
Here’s a chance to leverage one of the most straightforward and honest resources in existence: the dictionary. No fake news in there. All you need to do is find one word that defines either the couple’s relationship, or it comes to mind when you think of an amazing wedding and an amazing relationship.
This can be serious & sentimental or funny. Your choice. Just make sure it has impact and relevance to the couple.
“Google’s second definition of the word ‘love’ says, ‘A great interest and pleasure in something or someone.’ I think this is beautiful and an understatement when I think of [bride] and [groom]’s marriage. Although I was a little concerned when, under the definition, the word “love” was used in a sentence as ‘His love for football.’ Hmm, strange…”
“Who’s ready to dance tonight? Wikipedia defines the word ‘dance’ as ‘a performing art form consisting of purposefully selected sequences of human movement,’ and those words have honestly never come to mind when I think of [groom] dancing. I might be kidding, but there’s only one way to find out!”
Tell the Story of How You Met
If the groom is a friend, chances are you have a good story of the first time you met or early in your friendship. If it’s your brother or family member, simply use one of your first memories together, whether playing, adventuring, getting into trouble or other.
“The year was 1993, the class was kindergarten. I was building a beautiful tower of blocks when out of nowhere, they were knocked to the ground by a classmate without mercy or even an apology. That classmate was Matt, and we’ve been best friends ever since. And Matt, I’m sorry for throwing the blocks at your head after that.”
Begin With a Quote
Simple and overused? Maybe. Effective? Absolutely.
I don’t know about you, but I have memorable quotes with nearly every one of my friends. Some come from movies, while others were established by athletic coaches, teachers, or inside jokes. If you want to make the groom smile immediately in your toast, use a quote that you both recognize. If there’s one that his partner appreciates, too, even better.
The most important reminder when using a quote is to ensure the audience feels like they’re part of it, too. Unless the quote is universally known, briefly mention its origin right after saying it. Let them into the joke and they’ll be with you for the rest of the toast.
“Good evening everyone, my name is [your name], and I’m the best man tonight. When coach [name] used to tell you to ‘Be an Athlete,’ this is what he meant. When anyone on our team missed a tackle, it was ‘be an athlete,’ when our jerseys weren’t tucked in, same saying. We’ve adopted that as a cure for any issues in life. When [groom] really wanted to introduce himself to [bride], the solution was simple. ‘Be an athlete.’ And he was. So if you see [groom] miss a step on the dance floor later, be sure to remind him to ‘Be an athlete.’"
Read Something in a Different Language
Looking for a way to involve international members of the family in your toast? Look no further than practicing a phrase and reciting it in their native language to begin your toast.
If that doesn’t apply in your situation, yet you still want to shake things up and be unique, you can translate a wedding-related sentence into another language. It will be intriguing, and you’ll sound smart!
“Hello and welcome to everyone in both families on such a beautiful day. Me llamo Pedro y necesito que te diviertas porque esta boda es muy cara (wait for laughter from Spanish speakers). If you don’t speak Spanish, I said that I need everyone to have fun because this wedding is really expensive!”
Want bonus points? Utilize a prop for added effect.
- Video/slideshow (especially in virtual toasts)
- Hat or costume that will have the groom slapping his knees with laughter (be careful to run this by someone trustworthy beforehand to ensure that it doesn’t cross any lines)
- Smoke/fog machine
- Picture of the groom blown up into poster size
- Invite a guest speaker for a quick cameo, emphasis on “quick”
Lastly, don’t worry about having it "all figured out." If you pick one of these openers and then have a better idea two weeks from now, that’s perfectly normal! Happens to the best of us. The key is to get started. Begin the recollection process of your favorite memories, noteworthy interactions with the couple, and things that stand out about them. It’s amazing how additional ideas and memories snowball once you get going.