Top 10 Best Man Speech Mistakes

slip-up-709045_640We’ve all been there, a guest at a wedding where the best man delivers a speech that everyone remembers – but for all the wrong reasons. Here’s how to avoid this happening to you and your speech.


1.   Fail to prepare, prepare to fail…

Many veteran best men will claim they just knocked up their speech the night before, or did the whole speech off the top of their heads. Why should they need to prepare? Did you not realise that this level of sparkling wit just comes to them naturally??

Do not listen to these people – chances are they are either (a) lieing, or (b) did a pretty poor speech.

Professional public speakers will put in hours, days, weeks or even months preparing, so why should you be any different? Start to prepare as soon as you know you’re going to have to do the speech: no less than a month before the day itself, and ideally 3 months before or even longer. It is never too early to start.

If you really want to be seen as a last minute genius speechmaker, my tip is to prepare properly – and then lie about it!


2.   Who needs to practice?

Starting as early as possible gives you more time to practice. This lets you edit, amend and polish your speech so that it is as good as it can possibly be. Importantly, constant practice allows you to get comfortable with your speech so that, come the day itself, it will be committed to memory – one less thing to worry about.


3.   Not understanding the audience

Different strokes for different folks, as the phrase goes. Different audiences like different things, so what might be funny or engaging for one audience won’t work for another. Take the time to understand what the make-up of your audience will be. A speech which is full of rowdy jokes and innuendos will not necessarily work as well for a family audience than it would in front of your mates.


4.   Getting drunk before the speech

Speeches are nerve-wracking things to have to do, and a temptation is to turn to alcohol for a bit of Dutch Courage. This can be a particular issue at a wedding where alcohol is practically on tap and everyone else is drinking.

Avoid this temptation. By all means have a drink to join in, but don’t overdo it. We all believe that when drunk we are amusing, articulate raconteurs but the truth is far from the case. Slurring your words, losing your place, going off piste – these are the risks you run if you allow yourself to get drunk. Particularly embarrassing if, as is often the case, the proceedings are being recorded.

So keep it light before the speech, and save the hard stuff as a reward for a job well done.


5.   Using in-jokes

In-jokes only work if everyone in the room knows what they mean. Otherwise they’re confusing, distracting, annoying and worse will exclude those not in the know. If there’s a particularly good one that you really have to use, then make sure you fully explain it, and that the explaining doesn’t take away from the humour. If it in doubt, cut it from your speech.


6.   Straying into controversial territory

This links in very closely to the above point about knowing your audience. There is a time and a place for getting laughs out of controversial subjects, but a wedding speech is not it. Comedians may get away with jokes about religion, or politics, or how somebody looks. But that’s because people (usually) know what to expect when they buy their ticket. Insulting some or all of your audience is a guaranteed way to lose them.


7.   Being too harsh / critical

Best man speeches are typically a chance to rib the groom and share a few humorous and embarrassing anecdotes. However, there is a line here which you should not cross. If an audience thinks you’re being overly critical or picking on him, then they’ll side with him against you.


8.   Mind the bride

No matter what you may think about her, it’s the bride’s big day and so you should go out of your way to not upset her. In fact you should be as complementary as you can. The groom may be fair game (within reason), but picking on the bride is a big no-no.


9.   Talking too quiet or too quick

If an audience can’t hear or understand you then they will quickly give up, so make full use of your practice time to ensure you speak loud and clear enough for all corners of the room to hear, and at a nice, measured pace.


10. Overstaying your welcome

Usually the best man’s speech will be the last one, right at the end of a long day. Everyone will have eaten and drunk too much and in many cases be itching to hit the dancefloor. Less is definitely more in this situation, so keep it short, sweet and punchy. Five minutes max is a good rule of thumb. Any longer and you’ll be risking a mutiny.




Peter D Oxley
Pete Oxley is a freelance writer and business manager who lives in the English Home Counties. He enjoys reading and writing in a wide range of areas but his main passions are sci-fi, fantasy, historical fiction and Steampunk. Influences include HG Wells, Charles Dickens, Neil Gaiman, KW Jeter, Scott Lynch, Clive Barker and Joss Whedon. Author of the non-fiction book "The Wedding Speech Manual" and the historical fantasy series "The Infernal Aether". He lives with his wife, two young sons and a slowly growing guitar collection. Probably a masochist: aside from writing and willingly speaking in front of large crowds of strangers, Pete spends his spare time playing music badly and supporting football teams that play badly.

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