2 Jul 2022

The best man's speech

It’s wedding season, and all over the country men (and in some cases women) are nervously attempting to pen, and memorise, their best man’s speech, an excruciating ordeal for many nervous public speakers, who are torn between the honour of being asked and severe performance anxiety.

To pile up the pressure, the best man’s speech is generally expected to be the highlight of the post-wedding formalities. It is traditionally the culmination of the wedding speeches, following on from the father of the bride and the groom. The father of the bride (or whoever is chosen to act in this capacity) is expected to thank everyone who has been involved in the organisation of the wedding. He may then launch into some affectionate reminiscences about the bride, pay tribute to her achievements, welcome the groom into the family, and finishes with a toast to the “bride and groom”.

The groom’s duty is, firstly, to thank the father of the bride (or equivalent) on behalf of himself and his new wife for his speech – the first mention of “wife” is always a popular moment. He then thanks the guests, the bride’s parents (if they’re hosting the wedding), and his own parents and best man. He may say a few words about his beautiful new wife, and then – traditionally – finishes with a toast to the bridesmaids, although this is becoming less common and an alternative toast may be preferred.

Now it is the big moment. The preceding speeches have effectively dealt with the etiquette of the occasion; formal thanks have been given to all concerned with the organisation of the wedding, and an elegant tribute has been paid to the bride. The best man’s speech is intended to be a witty and entertaining account of the groom, and a sincere reflection on their friendship. It should be warm and affectionate – ultimately, it is intended as an endorsement of the groom’s character and therefore the marriage.

There is, however, great pressure on the best man to make the speech humorous, the idea being to regale the audience with amusing anecdotes about the groom’s various juvenile antics. This expectation is where many best man’s speeches break down – jokes backfire and stories of callow indiscretions stray into the “‘too much information” category. While it is traditional to cause the groom a flicker of embarrassment as he is forced to listen to accounts of his misspent youth, it is certainly not desirable to reduce him to a state of red-faced shame and humiliation.

Remember, the primary purpose of the speech is to demonstrate how the groom – despite earlier misadventures – found his way to his bride, and ultimately proved his worth. Anecdotes should all serve this purpose; rambling reminiscences that do not contribute to this central narrative are irrelevant.

It is, therefore, imperative to tread carefully. If you do not feel confident about your ability to hold the room spellbound with well-told and apposite anecdotes, it is probably safer to back-pedal a little and opt for a much more workmanlike speech – providing you keep it reasonably short it won’t be too boring and at least it won’t be embarrassing. Remember, as long as you come across as genuinely delighted with your friend’s good fortune, you will be forgiven for not leaving the guests helpless with laughter


• Prepare your speech carefully and practise delivering it, preferably in front of a friend or partner. This will show up any longueurs or lapses of taste, which can be excised. It will allow you to time the speech (aim for no more than five minutes), and will also help you to memorise it – you should avoid using notes if at all possible or ad libbing, unless you’re super-confident.

• Remember the formalities of the speech. It is customary to begin by reading out any messages – usually by text or email – from friends and relatives who couldn’t attend. Make sure that you pronounce their names correctly (ask ahead if need be).

• Once you’ve spoken about the groom, remember to include some stories about the couple – how they met, their relationship and a few warm-hearted compliments to the bride.

• The speech should conclude with reiterated thanks to all involved in organising the wedding, and a toast to the newly-weds; you should also announce the cutting of the cake, if applicable.


• Resist giving in to your nerves and drinking too much before your speech – you may be deluded enough to think it will calm you down, but it will certainly impede your performance, sometimes disastrously.

• It’s fine to refer to your friendship with the groom, but keep it short – if you’re not careful, the speech will end up being all about you, and that’s a big no-no.

• Positively no dirty or off-colour jokes or swearing – you will be talking to a broad, multi-generational audience (possibly including children), so it is better to err on the side of being bland, rather than giving offence.

• You may fancy yourself as an all-round entertainer, but don’t get over-confident – you will run the risk of upstaging the bride and groom, and you should remember that first and foremost it is their big day.


MPA House
66 Baker Street
Weybridge KT13 8AL
United Kingdom
Get In Touch
Subscription Enquiries
+44 (0)330 3339699
General Enquiries
+44 (0)20 3950 5240
Join our weekly newsletter
Subscription Form
MPA House
66 Baker Street
Weybridge KT13 8AL
United Kingdom
Designed by Anna Ocipinska. Developed by BuiltByGo. © 2022 Debrett’s. All Rights Reserved
My cart
Your cart is empty.

Looks like you haven't made a choice yet.