A Best Man’s Guide to Delivering a Great Speech

In this article:

The Secret Formula
Follow a Theme and Visualize the Framework
All about the Newlyweds
Projecting the Best Man
Relax, Keep it short, and Stay Sober
Last Notes from the Guru

In the long history of men and brotherhood, there have been good best man speeches, bad speeches, and the viral-on-youtube kind of best man speeches. That last one often involves getting too drunk to talk or slurring into the mic for a less-than-good auditory experience.

Beyond the responsibilities traditional to the title, like being the man with the bottle, distributor of cigars, and the shepherd of groomsmen, the speech is the most prominent and formidable challenge.

Yes, the Best Man Speech is one of a man’s finest hours. It is an esteemed gent’s chance to share the best experiences with the newly wedded couple, tell a story or two, and be the best mate you can be to the groom.

But as old as the title may be, many of today’s gentlemen have yet to fully grasp the daunting task of carrying one’s own in best man’s toast. Some have written scripts but have failed to deliver compelling stories as they fumbled through their papers. A fewer number have dared the impromptu route and got lost in their own narratives.

Needless to say, writing a great speech is a process. It takes creativity, humor, and some good memories to deliver a toast to remember. Be careful with those memories, though; you wouldn’t want to sound too crazy. Leave the spicy ones for the party.

The Secret Formula

Barack Obama is, without a doubt, one of the more refined orators of the 21st century. As good as tips from the man himself would help with today’s current endeavor, the former president of the United States may be busy with more important matters.

So instead, let’s get tips from the man behind his words, Barack Obama’s former speechwriter David Litt.

Like your favorite aunt’s best apple pie recipe ever, a great best man toast would have formulae to follow. Luckily, the esteemed David Litt has you covered with a list he made through years of professional experience on that front.

Follow a Theme and Visualize the Framework

Themes allow the best man to revolve around a specific idea. It ties the speech together. The best approach to a theme is to think about the one thing you want your guests to remember and just run with it. Start by making a list of remarkable stories you want to tell. The look for 

“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.

After you have your theme, it’s time that you build a framework. Organize and create critical points you want to discuss. Think of it as the building blueprint of your entire speech. ONce you have the scheme going, fill it up with some anecdotes and make sure you stay on point. 

“Think about it in terms of ideas… you can get in one or two short anecdotes, maybe three, and one big idea. If those are good, you don’t need more,” Litt added.

All about the Newlyweds

This usually isn’t needed to be said but make sure your speech focuses on the newlyweds. Whatever you do, do not upstage the newlywed. Remember that you are but a mere instrument in telling their story. Your speech is relevant only because it tells the story of their love from an angle only you can.

The best man is chosen because of the unique perspective they have on the story of the newlyweds. You are the best man because you are someone who cares for them — and it’s something you’re sharing with all the guests present. A great best man speech does not steal the show. Litt summed it up in a few choice words: “you don’t need to be the star.”

Projecting the Best Man

Quick advice from Litt:

“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.”

This is a seasoned and decorated speechwriter’s way of saying, “share your feelings.” There is more than the daunting best man’s speech than just a standup comedy. You were chosen to deliver the duty of best man because you possess the ability to contribute something notable to their big day. Surrender yourself and your tendency to hide feelings behind humor by delivering your personal views about their bond on a deeper level.

Also, remember, before you present yourself to anyone, consider your audience. The best way to nail a speech is to tailor it to whoever is listening to it.

“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 POC 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.

The mission is to make guests feel like they know you — even if it’s just a little bit. They should also feel like they know the couple a bit more when you’re done.

Relax, Keep it short, and Stay Sober

It might surprise you why this needs to be said. A quick youtube search on drunk best men’s toasts will provide some clarity rather quickly.

“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,” Litt advised and summarized it quite eloquently.

If you are sober and you’re finally up there, make sure you relax. People can get cold feet, maybe even a little stage fright. But if you do, remember that it’s not a performance you’re delivering; it’s a narration of your unique adventures with the newlyweds — your best friend and the love of his life.

“In the end, it should just flow and come out easily… imagine you’re just telling a story to a group of friends because, really, you are,” Litt advised.

While telling your story, remember to still keep it short. 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?'” Litt explains.

There you have it. The answer to the age-old question on how long best man wedding toasts should be — five minutes.

One thing that could help you shorten your speech is not relying too much on humor. A few jokes that are thrown here and there can be a great way to rile up the crowd but don’t make it the centerpiece of your toast

“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.

Last Notes from the Guru

Keep things positive. Make sure you set things up in the appropriate mood. It’s a celebration, and only positive vibes should be allowed. If you’re still worried about how you’ll be delivering your toast, get some practice beforehand with a friend. Get a second opinion.

“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.

It’s always good to get some practice before game day. Best men carry pivotal roles in weddings — it’s not one to be estimated. Make sure that you poise yourself with dignity, like a real gentleman, and remember to prepare for anything that may come your way.

“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—may be another close friend or a friend of the bride,” says Litt.

If best man speeches are the matter at hand, who else to trust than the man who wrote speeches for Barack Obama himself. Thank you David Litt.

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