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Whether your mind is completely blank or swimming with hilarious gags, when it comes to delivering the best man's speech there are certain things you need to avoid.
Crude jokes might get the thumbs up from the groomsmen but could make the rest of the audience feel uncomfortable or insulted. Long-winded stories can quickly bore a crowd and a poorly delivered speech will leave everyone cringing.
To make sure you don't upset your buddy on the big day (not to mention the bride!) follow these 10 don'ts and you'll go down in the best man hall of fame.
1. Don't get drunk
We can't say this enough – do not get drunk before your best man's speech. It's tempting to have a few drinks to calm the nerves but stick to just one or two. You might think alcohol will give you confidence, but you're more likely to stumble, lose your place or slip up in the speech and it will be obvious to your audience that you're drunk.
2. Don't mess with the bride
Making fun of the groom is expected in the best man's speech, but the bride is absolutely off limits. It's her special day and she doesn't want you embarrassing her in front of her family and friends, so when mentioning the bride keep it complimentary. If you're not a big fan of the bride you're probably not the greatest choice for best man, but if you'd made it this far just be polite.
3. Avoid inappropriate subjects
There are certain subjects you just shouldn't bring up when making the best man's speech. Ex-girlfriends and stag night strippers, criminal convictions or dabbles with drugs should be left out of it, along with any emotional baggage of the bride or groom, problems in the run-up to the wedding or negativity about marriage and relationships.
4. Don't swear
Swearing and adult humour should be avoided in the best man's speech. Remember, your audience might include a range of ages, from children to great-grandparents, and even things that you don't consider inappropriate could offend others.
5. Don't be too harsh
As we said, you're expected to poke a little fun at the groom in your speech but it's important not to take things too far. First of all, consider what kind of person he is – would he mind you making a few jokes at his expense, or would it really knock him back? Mix your jokes with sentimental and heartfelt comments about how much your buddy means to you, and how proud you are of him – you can't go wrong!
6. Is it actually funny?
Have you ever noticed that when you tell that 20-minute, long-winded story about you and your mate's "hysterical" gap year it never quite gets the big laugh you were expecting? Yeah… don't tell that one. Short, funny stories that don't need a lot of explaining are great, but lengthy tales and in-jokes that no one else gets need to be avoided. Practise your jokes and funny stories on someone that hasn't heard them before then gauge their reaction before including them in your speech.
7. Remember, it's not all about you
The best man is an important role in any wedding but it's not the most important. You won't be the only one making a speech at dinner and most of the audience will be keen to hit the dancefloor or the bar, so don't hog the mic too long. A best man's speech ideally should be about five to seven minutes and definitely no longer than 10.
8. Don't mumble and stumble
If you're nervous about giving your speech, it can be easy to mumble or rush through it, so keep this in mind. You need to speak clearly and probably a bit louder and slower than you think. Take a deep breath before you start and keep a glass of water to hand. Don't write your speech out word for word; try to learn it in advance but use notecards if you need a little help. Don't look down the whole time; make eye-contact and smile. Don't panic if you lose your place; take another deep breath or make a little joke of it – the audience is on your side, they want you to do well.
9. Not great at public speaking? Don't push yourself too far
There's a lot of pressure on the best man to make an entertaining speech but if you really struggle with public speaking, don't push yourself too far or you'll just be a nervous wreck on the day. Keep it short, sweet and simple – a few words about the groom and a toast to the happy couple.
10. Don't leave it until the last minute
If you're struggling to write your best man's speech, it's easy to sweep it under the carpet and forget about it. Unless you're a seasoned public speaker, it's really not a good idea to deliver the best man's speech off the cuff. Giving an unrehearsed speech can often result in rambling, stumbling over your words and going on too long. Make yourself sit down and write the speech a few weeks in advance and then practice it a few times before the big day.
If you're looking for more ‘dos' than ‘don'ts', read our article on how to write the perfect best man's speech.