In this post I want to write about being Best Man at my best friend’s wedding last year. I’ve also uploaded a video version, featuring photos of me in my grey suit on the day.
Last year I had the honour of being Best Man at my best friend’s wedding. Which, of course, meant I had to give a speech, something I’ve very rarely had to do before. Standing up and addressing a crowd of people isn’t an experience I revel in, as it makes me feel very nervous and self-conscious. Not being able to see makes it even harder, as I can’t see the reactions of people in the audience or refer to notes very easily. There are plenty of visually impaired and blind people who can do public speaking really easily, but I’m certainly not one of them. So it was going to be a challenge.
However, despite being nervous about the prospect, I certainly wasn’t going to turn it down. I wanted to give it a good go for my friend, and was very happy to do so. I felt I had it in me if I made sure I prepared for it well, and I knew that the people there would all be supportive. It also helped that I was actually one of two Best Men, which relieved the pressure a bit as well. I personally knew the groom from school, while the other Best Man was a family friend, so we were able to approach our respective speeches with different experiences and anecdotes.
I didn’t have a lot of experience to call upon though. My earliest recollection of talking to big groups of people was in my teenage years at school, when we held a mock election to coincide with the real General Election the adults were voting in. It was a good way to educate us about politics, so it was worth following along with. But to this day I have no idea how one particular teacher talked me into standing as a candidate, as it really wasn’t something I wanted to do. I did enter, though, and used all the manifesto material I was given as best I could. And somehow, I actually managed to win – although I think that was due to the policies of the party I was standing for, rather than any charisma on my part! I was too dumbstruck when I was announced as the winner to give any kind of winning speech, instead just opting for a shy “Thank You”. Had I been prepared to win, I might have had something ready, but I was completely caught off guard.
Beyond school, I also had to do a few little presentations as part of my university course, which I found difficult. We did do them as group presentations though, which certainly helped, but it was still hard for me. I was very nervous, and didn’t do a super job as a consequence. But I got through it, and it didn’t stop me getting a 2:1 at the end of my three years, so I’m not concerned. I’ve never had to give presentations to groups at work, thankfully, so being Best Man was the first time in ages that I was having to do any kind of public speaking.
I had plenty of time to prepare, having been offered the role of Best Man many months in advance. So I didn’t need to start writing a proper speech immediately. But from the outset I did start jotting down notes on my computer, whenever little thoughts or memories about my friend came to mind, or if I had any ideas for jokes I could tell. Doing that really helped, as I had quite a lot of things noted down in the end. It’s surprising how it all adds up really.
About 2 months before the wedding, I then started doing some proper research, looking up websites and Youtube videos about giving Best Man speeches. All of which was very helpful, and I started laying out an initial draft of my speech based on their advice – introducing myself to the audience, explaining how I knew the groom, figuring out what jokes and stories I could include, and finishing with the more heartfelt stuff.
I then kept editing it a bit at a time in the weeks leading up to the wedding, rewording and rearranging things, perfecting my jokes and stories, etc, until I was as happy with it as I felt I could be. I’m not a professional speech writer, but I was pleased with what I’d come up with, because it was personal and came from the heart, not just ripped straight from an internet template (though they were extremely useful to read). Then for the last couple of weeks I just kept going over and over it, memorising it as best I could.
Because there were two Best Men, our speeches didn’t need to be too long. And that was good, because it forced both of us to trim down our speeches to what we felt was our best stuff. We didn’t see each other’s speeches whilst we were writing them – instead, once we had got as far as we could on our own, we then shared them and did a bit of negotiation and minor rewriting to ensure we weren’t repeating each other. We did show our speeches to a couple of other people as well, who also gave very positive feedback, but otherwise we kept them to ourselves so as not to spoil any surprises. We agreed to organise our speeches as a ‘sandwich’ – meaning I did the introduction with some jokes and a couple of stories, then the other Best Man told his jokes and stories, and then I finished with messages from absent friends and words of support on behalf of us and everyone else.
On the day itself, we were both understandably nervous, but both our speeches went very well. I thought it would be hard not being able to see the crowd to judge how I was doing. But thankfully there were plenty of audio clues – laughter and applause in the right places, and some people going “awww” in the sweeter moments – so that all helped.
I had also printed out a few brief notes in very large print that I could (and did) quickly refer to occasionally if I needed to. I was careful only to write short prompts that wouldn’t give anything away (e.g. punchlines to jokes) to anybody else that might see them. I did, however, type out a few messages from absent friends in full, as there was no need to memorise those.
So once I’d got started and got into the rhythm of speaking, I did feel more comfortable as my speech progressed. None of the above stopped my nerves – they were always there and made me fumble my words once or twice – but I had sufficient confidence to give it my best shot. So it worked out very well in the end, and it was enjoyable to do. Both our speeches got very positive feedback from the guests afterwards, so we were very proud.
I’m not going to show all the speech given its personal nature, but I will share my opening jokes, as I am proud of them given the reaction they got. I had deliberately avoided using any jokes from the internet, as there are many common Best Man jokes that come up time and time again, so they just seem predictable and lazy. So I thought up my own gags instead. It wasn’t easy, but once I got a couple of ideas in mind, I was then able to spend time getting the wording right.
My opening joke is my favourite, as I can still remember the way the audience reacted as it progressed. It works better when spoken, so it sounds heartfelt and genuine, but it still reads well. The only thing you need to know is that the wedding took place in September 2015 – you’ll be able to figure out the exact date by the end if you really want to…
Tonight I am proud to celebrate a very special and lucky man. An intelligent guy who has made the most of his time, through sheer hard work, a keen desire to help others and a refusal to give up. A happy, humorous, dare I say even handsome chap, who has travelled widely and made countless friends, the most special of all being the beautiful lady he has by his side.
It really is a great joy and a relief to see that, finally, after all the waiting and the build-up and excitement, and knowing full well it was going to happen eventually… that Doctor Who is back for a new series tonight!
As I went through that joke, people in the audience clearly thought I was being really sweet about the bride and groom, which meant the twist at the end was very satisfying, even more so when I got a round of applause for it.
I also like the joke I followed it with, as again did the crowd. The word ‘we’ at the start refers to the groom, the other Best Man and myself.
Talking of TV, we were all a bit nervous at the groom’s flat this morning, so I was going to suggest that we play a video game to pass the time and relax.
In particular, I was going to suggest a wrestling game that we like playing. But it occurred to me that was inappropriate. Not because of the nature of the game as such – I just felt that walking through a crowd to get into a ring, so you can publicly surrender everything to someone fitter and stronger than you, was probably on the groom’s mind enough already…
The whole day was wonderful, and I have lots of fond memories of it, including photos and video footage – none of which I’ll bore you with (there was no video of our speeches anyway). But I will finish with one more Doctor Who related item, as I am a fan of the show. By way of thanks, the groom gave both of us Best Men some cufflinks to wear with our suits on the day, and I’m still delighted with my Tardis ones.