We all know that weddings are about celebrating the bride and groom. But let's be honest, it's not the sappy vows or the cake cutting we look forward to - It's the open bar, the chance to dance like a fool for three hours without being judged, and hopefully, if we are really lucky, an epic Best Man Speech.
I know a thing or two about these. Since my first post-college wedding in June of 2007, I have been to 29 weddings! Between high school friends, fraternity brothers and college friends, and co-workers, my last seven summers have been spent traveling the country to celebrate holy matrimony. And I'm proud to say all 29 marriages are still going strong - so consider me the good luck guest.
As a communication major in college and a self-proclaimed public speaker extraordinaire, I was stoked when one of my best friends, Dustin, asked me to officiate he and his wife's wedding in Seattle. On top of reading the typical mushy stuff about loving each other forever, they asked me to write my own personal words about them. A year later, I officiated another wedding, same format (albeit a Jewish wedding), but I got to hone my wedding speaking skills. Finally, after seeing 28 other best man speeches in the last decade, I got to give my own Best Man Speech! My best friend from college, Pat, asked me to be his Best Man, and lets just say I rolled 12 years of stories into an 8 minute roast for the ages.
There are three very important factors in giving a best man speech:
1) Know Your Audience
Fortunately for me, the three wedding speeches I have given were at marriages where I knew the bride and groom (as well most of their family and friends), so most jokes pleased the entire audience. However, it is crucial that you consider the audience that you are speaking to and know where to draw the lines and where you can cross them. The Maid of Honor Speech may be all sappy and teary-eyed, but if you're the Best Man, the gloves are off.
2) Practice Makes Perfect
So often I see Best Men try to "wing" their speech or tell a story that they decided would be funny 4 weeks ago and are just now retelling it. It's not so much the story, but the delivery that matters. Being able to keep the audience's attention when there is an open bar and food waiting for them is a feat on it's own.
And third, but most important:
3) Length Does Not Matter (haha), Content Does.
Did you care that Titanic was three hours long? No. Have you ever been to an amazing party that was "too long"? No. Have you ever been on a great vacation that went "too long"? No. Why? Because when you enjoy something, lengthy doesn't matter. When I was preparing to give my Best Man Speech, everyone said, "David, you have to keep it under 3-4 minutes". Sure, this is nice if you're giving the invocation, but I have 10 years of history with this guy and 150 people expecting me to deliver something great, three minutes is just getting started. My best man speech was 8:42 seconds long, and not a single person complained about the length. Why? Because the content and flow were succinct. Each story had a message or a punchline, and everyone was on the edge of their seats waiting for what's next.
So, Best Men, remember, the wedding day is a time for the bride and groom to be celebrated, but if you take my advice, the only thing people will remember the next day is you.