Frequently Asked Questions ( FAQs )

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What is comic timing?

Comic timing is essential if you want to give a funny best man speech – jokes can fall flat if they’re not told well. Good comic timing means the ability to deliver a joke and make it funny – knowing when to pause, how to build the joke or story, and how to deliver the punchline.

What is stage fright?

Stage fright affects many performers and public speakers – even professionals. Whilst being nervous before making your best man speech is a good thing and can be useful channeled, stage fright is not good. It’s more like an anxiety or panic attack just before you take to the microphone which can cause you to forget your words, shake, sweat, and in extreme cases to be physically sick or even to pass out.

What exactly do you mean by ‘professional techniques’?

Exactly that – our techniques are ones which we use offline when we coach people who come to us for help with a best man speech. They are the same public speaking and speech writing techniques used by many professional speakers and actors.

What’s the difference between a toast and a speech?

Typically, a toast is a short speech, inviting guests to drink to the health of the bride and groom. A speech is longer and will usually include the traditional elements of a best man’s speech, like a few jokes at the Groom’s expense. If you’d rather propose a toast rather than make a speech, its important that you frame your words well and deliver them with confidence – you want it to look as though you’ve chosen to say a few words, not that you couldn’t be bothered to make an effort or you’re too scared to speak for longer!

How can I be sure people will laugh at my funny best man speech?

Chances are, if you find your jokes funny, someone else will! There are a few points, though, to bear in mind.

  • You have a friendly audience. They are expecting to laugh, so this isn’t like giving a presentation at work – with the best man’s reception toast, they’re on your side from the start.
  • Make sure your jokes and stories are appropriate to your audience, as a rule of thumb, just avoid rude or risqué jokes. Likewise, try to avoid ’in’ jokes or stories which will only be relevant or funny to a handful of your friends: you may think it’s a hilarious best man speech – others might be offended or bored.
  • The way in which you tell your jokes and stories will make or break them. Put plenty of expression in your voice, and don’t be afraid to use appropriate gestures, or even suitable props. Pause before you deliver key lines and punchlines. It can help to watch good comedy actors on TV and note how they deliver their lines.
  • Try telling your jokes in different styles until you find one which you are happy with, and if possible run it past a friend, or tape yourself so you can hear what everyone else will hear on the day.
  • If you find a joke so funny yourself that you can’t finish it without laughing, keep repeating it until you can: that way, you’ll not ruin the punchline for the guests on the day.
  • Pause for a moment once you’ve delivered your punchline – it will give the audience a cue that they are supposed to laugh. When they laugh, let them: don’t start speaking again until they’ve finished.
  • In the unlikely event of the joke falling absolutely flat (which it may well do if it’s in poor taste) , think of a fallback – like turning to the groom and saying ‘Dave, that was yours - I told you it wasn’t funny’, or “I was testing that one for another best man who’s up here next week. I’ll tell him it was lousy!”. Don’t dwell on it, just lift the tone of your voice slightly and move on with the next section of your speech.

I need ideas for an African American best man speech!

Traditional best man speeches – whatever your heritage and background, always add a certain something to the occasion. There are a number of books around which provide inspiration for African American speeches: we like Tamara Nikuradse’s ‘African American Wedding Readings’.

If you’re going to be proposing a heartfelt, traditional toast, make sure you know how you’re going to deliver it and you don’t get caught out by the emotion of the occasion. Make sure also that you don’t sound like you’re just reading something from a book – you want it to sound as thought these are your words and sentiments too, whoever the original author:

  • make sure you know exactly what you’re going to say – don’t think that you can talk around a few bullet points on the day;

  • practice your speech out loud, in front of a mirror, so you know exactly how to say it.

  • A useful technique for avoiding sounding like a robot reading something out is to say it as though you were describing someone saying it as part of a conversation. So instead of saying “I’d like to thank the beautiful bridesmaids”, you’d probably say something like “she was telling us how she’d like to thank the beautiful bridesmaids for all their help”. Thinking of it this way will give what you say a more natural sound and feel, rather that coming across as too ‘speechy’.

  • Make sure you know how to breathe properly (it sounds strange we know, but it’s crucial to giving a confident speech) and don’t rush it!

How do I make a best man toast to the bridesmaids without sounding cheesy?

It’s traditionally the groom who makes the toast to the bridesmaids, and the best man answers on their behalf. If the Maid of Honor is making a speech, she’ll probably reply to the groom herself, so you won’t need to do it. If in doubt, check with the bride and groom who is toasting whom – as the final speaker, you don’t want to look stupid by proposing a toast that’s already been made.

If you do find yourself having to propose a toast to the bridesmaids first think of something genuine to say. Do they look lovely? Have they been a great help and support to the bride during the wedding preparations? Whatever comment you choose to make – and please don’t make it a sexist one – it’s the way that you say it which will determine whether your sound like a sleazy gameshow host or a genuine friend of the family.

Once you’ve decided on something to say, practice saying your toast in several different ways. You may want to record yourself so you can hear what other people will hear, or ask a trusted friend to tell you whether or not it sounds right.

If you’re comfortable with what you’re saying and you say it with confidence, chances are you WILL sound sincere, and not cheesy. Body language is important, remember NEVER to touch your face with your hands during your speech – it sends out a subconscious message that you are lying.

You might also like to try the technique in the FAQ above: rather that saying “I’d like to thank the beautiful bridesmaids” , think of how you’d describe someone else saying it.

You’d probably say something like “she was telling us how she’d like to thank the beautiful bridesmaids for all their help” instead. Thinking of it in the third person this way will give it a more natural sound and feel, rather that coming across as stilted or insincere.

How long should the best man speech be?

About 5 -10 minutes is fine. Too much shorter, and you look like you’ve not really made an effort. Too much longer and even the best public speakers may find that the audience is slipping away. Bear in min that you’re probably the last of the wedding party to speak, and everyone’s been sitting still for some time by now.

I want to give a short best man speech – what do I need to include?

A short best man speech, if it’s to follow the traditional format should include:
  • A response to the grooms’ toast to the bridesmaids.
  • A few brief words about the groom, how you know him what his friendship means to you.
  • A few words about how happy he and his bride will be together.
  • A toast to the bride and groom.

It could all be over in a few minutes!

If you ARE giving a short speech, make sure you’re still able to deliver it with confidence: you want to look as though you’ve chosen just to say a few words – you don’t want to look as thought you’ve not been able to / couldn’t be bothered to say any more.

What’s the order of the best man speech?

As long as your keep all bases covered at some point during your speech, it doesn’t matter too much what order you put it all in, as long as you don’t miss anything out, and as long as it flows. A wedding toast from the best man would come at the end, though. Broadly speaking, you’ll need to:

  • Respond to the groom’s toast to the bridesmaids (or, if he’s not made that toast and no-one else has either, propose a toast to the bridesmaids yourself).
  • Say something about how you met / your relationship with the groom.
  • Say briefly how the bride and groom met.
  • Make some jokes at the grooms’ expense (as long as they’re not in poor taste).
  • A few words of ‘advice’ for the married couple, or quotations about married life.
  • Read out any messages from absent friends (or you can do this after the toast).
  • Propose a toast to the bride and groom.

When does the best man give the toast?

Traditionally, the toast from the best man to the bride and groom comes at the end of his speech. You’ll need to check with the bride and groom if they want you to announce the cutting of the cake, or if they want you to read out some messages and cards from absent friends.

Although some best men prefer to read these messages after they’ve proposed a toast, the speech tends to flow better if the toast takes place after a few messages – it tends to bring the speech to a fitting end, with everyone on their feet raising their glasses to the happy couple.

When everyone is seated again, after your toast, you can announce the cutting of the cake of whatever is to happen next (the maid of honor speech, for example). If there’s an MC, though, they’ll do this – you just finish up right after your toast.

What’s the order of speeches at the reception?

Traditionally, it’s the father of the bride who speaks first, then the groom, then the best man.

Of course, it’s increasingly the case that the bride, the maid of honor and sometimes mother of the bride or groom will make a speech. The bride’s speech usually comes after the groom’s. The Maid of Honor’s would come after your best man speech.

Bear in mind that the Bride and Groom should have the final say as to the running order of the wedding reception speeches, and that if there is an MC, you should let him know this running order for him to announce you all. If there is no MC, you’ll have to announce each speaker.

This can be an advantage: you get used to standing up in front of the audience before your speech….. and you have a chance to have the last word after the Maid of Honor speech!

When I speak in public I go to pieces. How can I calm my best man speech nerves?

Preparation is the key for this one. If you think of your speech as a big ordeal, it’s going to be daunting – so break it down into manageable chunks.

There are several relaxation techniques and methods for overcoming nerves in our e-book, both while preparing your wedding day speech, and on the big day itself . Here are some, in brief:

  • Prepare your speech – make sure you know what you are going to say. The better prepared you are the more confident about it you’ll be.

  • Practice your best man speech – and say it out loud, don’t just go through it in your mind. Get used to how it feels to say it, and try different ways of saying it (preferably in front of a mirror so you can see what you’re doing too) until you’re comfortable with it.

  • Whenever you think of your approaching speech, DON’T picture yourself in a worst case scenario, shaking and sweating and gasping for breath. Picture yourself standing confidently, giving a great speech which everyone enjoys; you’re basking in the applause and admiration of all the guests afterwards. It might not feel believable at first, but positive visualization is an important part of your preparation. Start thinking “what would a great public speaker do?” …and then try to copy that, and step into that role.

  • On the day don’t try to beat nerves with alcohol – you could easily end up overdoing it and making a complete fool of yourself. We’ve seen it ourselves many times. Sip water (not too much, or you’ll have to dash to the restroom) and perhaps try adding a few drops of Bach’s Flower Remedies ‘Rescue Remedy’ to help calm you down.

  • Breathing properly is vital. If you are in a panic, you your muscles tense up, you take shorter breaths, you go into the ‘fight or flight’ response (the body’s natural response to perceived threats), and your voice will let you down and give you away. Concentrate on taking full, deep breaths: this will ensure that you have enough vocal volume to get your speech out and heard by all, and controlled breathing is very good for relaxation.

I’m giving a best man speech and don’t really know the bride. What can I say?

Given that your speech traditionally revolves around making specific toasts and making jokes at the groom’s expense, this might not be as much of an issue as you think. Stick with your basic template of:

  • Reply to the groom’s toast to the bridesmaids (if he’s forgotten, you should toast the bridesmaids).
  • Make a few jokes at the Grooms expense – how you met etc.
  • Say how the bride and groom met.
  • A few words of ‘advice’ for the married couple.
  • Read out any messages from absent friends and family.
  • Propose a toast to the bride and groom.

You WILL, however, need to know a little about the bride: not just some of the obvious information like how she met the groom, but whether or not she has a sense of humour, and any ‘no-go’ areas for the speech. The groom may have a pretty good idea of these, but if he doesn’t, it’d be worth finding out, just in case there are some family sensitivities of which you are unaware.

The way in which you present your speech will be important in making a good impression on the bride, her family and the guests. If you present it in an open and confident manner, you will come across as sincere, honest and likeable.

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