First off—congrats! You've been declared "best man." You, of course, have many important responsibilities—groomsmen shepherding, alcohol distributing among others. But, there's really only one task that will secure your proud ascension into the ranks of the very best best men: giving a killer toast.
The Best (and Worst) Best Man Speech Ever
The best man's speech traditionally follows the groom's speech, and it's a chance for you to say some sweet words about your relationship with the couple and wish your best pal well in his new marriage. But, if the thought of giving a speech has your kneecaps sweating, relax. We found you a coach with years of experience crafting heartfelt words to be delivered in front of crowds: Barack Obama's former speechwriter David Litt. In addition to Litt, we tapped Pete Honsberger, author of Wedding Toasts 101: The Guide to the Perfect Wedding Speech, for help with writing a best man speech
Meet the Expert
- David Litt was the speechwriter for President Barack Obama from 2011 to 2016 and is the author of the New York Times best-selling book Thanks, Obama.
- 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.
Read on for speechwriting tips, and even ideas for best man speeches, to pull off the best toast ever.
Best Man Speech Template
Getting all your thoughts and feelings down on paper can be overwhelming, especially if you're not used to sharing those sentiments with the guys. Here is a guideline for finding your flow.
Find a theme. A theme is a unifying idea that ties the whole speech together. Think of it as the takeaway of your speech, or the one thing you want guests to remember. The best way to identify your theme is by making a list of your favorite stories. "You’re not going to just write a speech from scratch. Start by brainstorming stories. Most importantly, what you’re looking for is the theme that comes out of those anecdotes," says Litt.
Build a framework. The best way to organize your thoughts is to create a blueprint of the key points you want to hit first, sort of like a toast skeleton. After you've established the roadmap, fill it in with pertinent details and memories while still ensuring you're staying on point. "Think about it in terms of ideas," says Litt. "You can get in one or two short anecdotes, maybe three, and one big idea. If those are good, you don’t need more."
Instead of thinking as the speaker, put yourself in the shoes of someone in the audience. Think about what they’re looking for rather than what you want to do.
Focus on the newlyweds. Most best men will include a story or two about their friendship with the groom, but don't center the whole speech on it. "Remember the relationship that you’re celebrating is the one between the two people getting married. You’re giving the speech because you can shine some unique light on that relationship," says Litt. "If the relationship that you’re really giving the speech about is the one between you and the groom, you’re there; things are awkward."
Share your feelings. Deliver something more meaningful than one joke after another. "Generally speaking, men think of the best man speech as a funny speech to give because we’re very uncomfortable sharing how we actually feel. But, what makes a good best man speech is the part where somebody shares how they feel. Humor is just the icing on the cake," says Litt. The newlyweds chose you to speak because you have something notable to add to their big day. Embrace your personal insight into their bond and don't try to dilute it by just being funny.
Best Man Speech Tips
Consider your audience. You can't nail a speech if you have no idea who to tailor the content to. "Feel free to ask beforehand. When I was writing speeches for the president, we had a point of contact where the speech was happening to say who exactly is in the audience. You can do a smaller scale version of that. Your point of contact is probably your friend getting married. But, the nice thing about giving a best man speech is that, ideally, it’s both specific to you and universal to the couple," says Litt.
Guests should feel like they know you a little bit, and that they know the couple really well after you’re done.
Relax. "I would say almost never start with talking about how nervous you are. I’d also say just relax. That’s a hard thing to tell someone to do. But remember, you’re not putting on a show," says Litt. "You're simply talking about your best friend and the love of their life, two people that you've probably spent a lot of time with. In the end, it should just flow and come out easily." Litt also suggests to "imagine you’re just telling a story to a group of friends because, really, you are."
Stay true to yourself. Stick with who you are and how you would normally act around your friends; you don't need to adopt a character just because you're giving a speech. For example, if you aren't normally the comedian in the group, don't try to tell a bunch of jokes. If you're not usually a super-sentimental person, don't force it. There's nothing wrong with keeping your speech more lighthearted. The couple already knows (and loves) your personality, so the more genuine you are, the better your speech will be received by both the newlyweds and their guests.
Don't rely solely on humor. While a few jokes sprinkled in can be a great tool for loosening up the crowd, don't make these the meat of your toast—especially if comedy doesn't come naturally to you. "Let me put it this way. There’s such a thing as too many bad jokes, and that number is about one. The more you treat it as an open-mic night, the less happy everyone involved is going to be. You don’t need to go in thinking, 'How do I get invited back next week?'" explains Litt.
Keep things positive. Even if you think it's well-meaning, don't turn the toast into a roast or make jokes at the couple's expense. "I’ve seen best man speeches where someone thinks, 'Oh, my job is to roast the groom.' Unless the couple specifically told you that’s your job, that’s not your job. The way to think about jokes is that you don’t want people to be laughing at the groom or at the couple. You want people to be laughing because they suddenly know the groom better than they did before." says Litt.
Don't upstage the newlyweds. Litt's previous boss (aka former President Obama) really enjoyed telling other people's stories at speaking engagements, and this ultimately strengthened his messages. "His speeches are not really about him. They’re about other people," says Litt. Channel Obama by keeping your speech focused on the couple. "You’re not performing. You’re there because you know someone and care about them, and you’re sharing that with a bunch of other people. Even a great best man speech is not supposed to steal the show. If somebody says, 'That speech was nice but almost forgettable because we were so focused on the bride and groom,' that’s a win. You don’t need to be the star," advises Litt.
Make sure it's appropriate. "My general rule for wedding speeches is: If you have to ask yourself, 'Is this appropriate?' it’s not. And if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t know, ask a friend. If they give you that slightly horrified look, listen to that look," explains Litt. Keep in mind that your audience will include guests of various generations and cultures and include people like your buddy's grandparents, boss, and colleagues. Refrain from mentioning anything that you wouldn't want your grandma or boss to know.
Get a second opinion. Remember, you'll be delivering this toast in front of an audience (as if you could forget, right?). So it doesn't hurt to get some feedback on what you're planning on saying. "If you’re the kind of person who has a track record of going a little too far with your surprises, you should be self-aware enough to run this by a third party—maybe another close friend or a friend of the bride," says Litt.
Practice. The last thing you want to do is stand up and give a speech that you've never said out loud. "The best thing to do is practice with a friend. Anybody giving a big speech rehearses beforehand. If you’ve already gotten good feedback from field-testing your remarks with a smaller group, then you’re going to come out on the wedding day comfortably knowing you have a good speech. It's that uncertainty that can be scary when you’re up there speaking," says Litt.
Keep it short. Let's be realistic: Super-long wedding toasts annoy guests. "I’ve never been to a wedding where anyone said, 'That was a great wedding, but the best man speech was just too short and that ruined it.' I would say five minutes is the absolute maximum. Three minutes is fine. There’s no question that if you’re reading this, you’ve sat through a speech that was too long. But when you start writing a speech, you almost never think, 'Is this going to be too long?'" explains Litt.
Limit your drinks. Don't embarrass yourself by slurring through your toast. "Being one drink in works for some people, but being more than one drink in is never a good idea. At that moment when you’re like, 'You know what I need? Another couple of shots.' That is never what you need," advises Litt.
A Best Man Speech Example to Make Your Own
We asked Litt if he had heard any standout best man speeches that immediately came to mind, and he was happy to share a particular favorite. His words below:
"I was just at a wedding where the best man gave one of the best best man speeches I’ve ever heard. The premise was that the groom was governed by something called 'Andy’s law,' which is, as the best man explained, the opposite of Murphy’s law. So instead of 'anything that can go wrong will go wrong,' the best man went through all these different examples where things had just totally played out in the groom’s favor somewhat unexpectedly. Then, the end of the speech was about how the ultimate example of Andy’s law was finding Liz, his now-wife. It was very funny, but also, in the end, it was very sweet."
Best Man Speech Openers
Your speech has to begin somewhere. Ahead, our experts share a few ideas to kick off your toast.
Introduce Yourself With a Twist
Want to tell the crowd exactly why you're a VIP? Honsberger says to get straight to the point and tell them how you know the groom. 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
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. To achieve this, Honsberger says to simply 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," he says.
"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 three-tiered cake).”
"You’re probably wondering why I asked you all here tonight…well, I can promise it’s not for my "Magic Mike" 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. Honsberger points out that it makes the guests 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 Honsberger 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, says Honsberger. 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. Honsberger says he 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. All you need to do is find one word that defines either the couple’s relationship, or comes to mind when you think of an amazing wedding and an amazing relationship, says Honsberger.
This can be serious and 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 a 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, or getting into trouble.
“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. 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!”
When does the best man speech take place?
The best man traditionally speaks at the wedding reception following the maid of honor, though some couples may schedule the speeches during the rehearsal dinner instead.
How many speeches does the best man give?
What are best man speeches about?
The best man's speech serves as a special lens for the audience to better understand the groom, and the newlyweds, through his significant position within their lives. The focus should be to highlight the relationship of the newlyweds rather than the relationship between the best man and groom.