Nothing can make or break a wedding feast more than the speeches. Ideally they will unify a room in celebratory laughter, and even cause a few wet eyes. But misjudged, they can sour the whole mood of the day.
And the speech with the highest risk of doing the second, but the greatest opportunity of doing the first is the best man’s speech. Today I have a guest post by Speak-Easily to provide you with some wedding speech tips.
Whether over-confident or under-confident at speaking in public, or somewhere in the middle, how do you approach this highly exposed moment in the middle of what is a profoundly emotional, expensive and high-stakes day? The secret, as with any public speaking, is in doing your thinking ahead of time and getting your story clear.
Please note – I’m going to write this as if the groom and best man are both male. So please just substitute the genders if your situation is different.
Who are your audience?
One of the worst faults a best man can do is to only speak to the other friends of the groom, at best ignoring all the other guests, at worst offending them. You are there to speak to everyone.
In order of importance: the bride, the groom, her family, his family, her friends, his friends. The reason it is that way round (bride first), is that you will be less known to the bride’s connections, so it is more important that you make an effort to connect with them.
This may already give you a way in to your speech. A little story about how you met the groom and became friends (or something from childhood, if you are related) will introduce you to the audience members who don’t really know you yet. It’s inclusive to the guests who have only just met you and let’s us know a little about why you’re the best man.
What do the audience need?
The rest of the speech has to create an emotional journey that meets the needs of all the different sections of the audience. The biggest mistake you can make here is to focus on your needs. Your ‘needs’ might be to be successful, to come across as supremely funny and to not come across as an imbecile. However, your needs are irrelevant! Focus on what your audience needs. Fulfil that and you will be popular and successful, fail to fulfill that and you’ll blow it.
For example (personalise these for the people you know): the bride will want to feel welcomed and admired, the groom will want to feel loved, popular and celebrated, the family and friends will both want to celebrate and admire the couple. They may also feel protective.
Can you see how these needs are completely at odds with the cultural habit we have of encouraging a best man to pick the worst stories he can find about the groom in order to embarrass and humiliate him?
A cultural habit that is solely there to meet the best man’s needs/fears about being entertaining? Give the audience what they want, and that is welcome, admiration, celebration and love.