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First off, congratulations on being asked to be the best man. You, of course, have many important responsibilities—like groomsmen shepherding and alcohol distributing, among others—but there's only one task that will secure your proud ascension into the ranks of becoming the MVP: giving a killer toast.
The best man's speech traditionally follows the groom's speech, and is a chance for you to say some sweet words about your relationship with the couple and your best friend. But, if the thought of public speaking has your kneecaps sweating, we found you two coaches with years of experience to help ease your nerves.
Ahead, with the help of President Barack Obama's former speechwriter David Litt, and Pete Honsberger, author of Wedding Toasts 101: The Guide to the Perfect Wedding Speech, here are the best tips for writing a perfect man speech, in order to pull off the most amazing toast ever.
The Best (and Worst) Best Man Speech Ever
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.
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. And for those who are unsure of what to write for the big day, here is a guideline to help you find 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 of yourself as the speaker, imagine that you're actually standing in the audience. Think about what the audience would like to hear, 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, things [will get] 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, "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 (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, like your friend'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.
Best Man Speech Openers
Now that you understand the fundamentals of creating a great toast, your next step is to sit down and start writing. If you need a little help getting your speech going, though, our experts share a few ideas to kick-start the process.
Introduce Yourself With a Twist
Want to tell the crowd exactly why you're the best man? 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. Spice it up a bit, as anyone can do the standard, “For those of you who don’t know me….” Simply put, 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
Remember the audience when determining whether your joke should be said, but ultimately, try and see if you can get the crowd to laugh in the first 30 seconds. 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 notes.
"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. And if you get this right, you’ll hear a little giggle immediately, followed by laughter from the rest of the crowd once they figure out what you said was a joke.
“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, college, vacations, 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 topic.
“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 got them excited for the rest of your toast.
Ask a Question to Answer Throughout
If you’re questioning your toast opener, 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 speech answering that question, and you’ll never lack information to share.
Really want to capture the intrigue of everyone in the room? Start rhyming your sentences. Honsberger says he tried this in his 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 the 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 the couple’s relationship, says Honsberger. This can be serious and sentimental or funny—your choice. Just make sure it's relevant 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 during 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?
The best man gives one speech either at the wedding reception or, less commonly, the rehearsal dinner.
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 in their lives. The focus should be to highlight the relationship of the newlyweds rather than the relationship between the best man and groom.