Where to start...
One of my biggest cringes during a speech? When the best-man turns to a bride and say's "Megan, you have never looked more beautiful, and that dress, wow." Why? Because he's clearly reading it off of his phone, and wrote it way before seeing her! It's filler, and I will always vote to skip filler content.
-Any joke about a car alarms going off, being towed, etc.
-Compliments or jokes without substance behind them
-"The dictionary defines love as...."
-"Wow, if you told me Megan and Thommy would be getting married today, after meeting at that frat party at Pitt- Go Panthers! We don't have to talk about our college days beling blacked out. Oh, I never would have believed you."
-"I know y'all just want to eat, so I'll make this quick"
What to include instead: Heartfelt, meaningful memories. How you met, a time you were in trouble and your best friend supported you, the time you met them as a couple.
-"In 2003, I had just transferred to an all new school in an all new state. I was sitting alone in the lunchroom when a little braces-filled, smiling brunette plopped down beside me and asked if I'd listened to the new Backstreet Boys album. And that's how I met Ella, the person who would become my best friend through middle school, my roommate in college, and today, the most beautiful bride I've ever seen."
-"I knew that Birdie and Ben were soulmates the first time we went on a weekend trip together. They both agreed that we should get home before sundown, because they needed to make sure their gardens got sufficient water in this dry spell- oh, and they didn't want to miss the crotchet class at the public library. I thought oh my gosh, these two are two of the same old-folk-in-a-young-body souls."
-"The first time they took an overnight trip together, she told us they stayed up ALLLL NIGHT together (dramatic pause)... discussing their favorite books and eating pizza, you dirty-minded-people!"
-The first time I met Mike, I was about 14 and just got off of a six-hour Amtrak ride to DC. My first adventure traveling, all on my own. I felt confident and cool as a cucumber. Until Grace texted me that she "actually wouldn't be able to come get me, sorry, but Mike will be there! He's about 5'10", you'll find each other" (pause for a small laugh) She told him "to find a short, brunette girl who kind of looks like me." As it turns out, there are a lot of 5'10" adult-ish men in Union Station AND a lot of short brunette youths. I just kept pointing like "hey, are you Mike?" to anyone who remotely fit the description, as if Michael hasn't been the most popular baby boy name from 1954 to 1998. No problem. Almost immediately, I knew this person would be part of our family as the older brother I never had. (This is truly how my brother-in-law and I met! Eventually we texted each other to meet in front of the McDonalds, which luckily, there was only one of.)
What to never, ever include:
-Anything, and I mean anything, that mentions an ex. I mean it. We've seen it. Don't do it.
-Jokes about money and the cost of food/venues. It reads as horribly tacky.
-Anything that's too personal or embarrassing. I get it, you want to razzle and poke fun. But it's far better to do it in a complimentary way- I personally teased my sister about how her Barbies set up functioning governments when we were kids, and that that's why her career in DC has taken off so well. You could poke fun at the ten, color coded binders of wedding planning they have, or maybe how nervous they were to propose. Those stories are sweet and special, can get a laugh, but don't put anyone in an awkward place.
Keep it Short and Sweet, think about delivery.
Between Tiktok and Instagram Reels, our attention span has been cut short. Five minutes is the sweet spot, and the maximum should not exceed around eight minutes. The parent, couple, and wedding party speeches most commonly happen between entrances and dinner- and people want to eat! Nothing is worse than having guests awkwardly eating a salad or eyeing up the bar as you're pouring your heart out, so keeping your well-wishes in a controlled time will help keep attention on the couple. Not only that, but practicing and keeping your timeslot tight will make the speech feel far more purposeful and thought-out. I'm NOT saying you have to write word for word what you'll say- but a bullet list is a good way to keep on subject. We see so many times when a speech is going great, until a little tangent happens- suddenly it's four minutes later and no one knows what happened or where this story is going!
I highly recommend thinking about the medium you're presenting on too- do you want your friends to look back on you holding torn notebook paper, print outs, a cell phone, a little moleskin book? These photos last forever and are meaningful, and your speech deserves to be remembered elegantly.
If you're typing your speech in advance, one and a half to two pages on a Word document is ideal.
It's a given that if you were chosen to be best-person for a person, you're probably closer to them and their friends than you are their husband/wife/partner. It's totally okay to focus on why your friendship has been so incredible, but in the end, it should always wrap up with the newly weds in focus. You're not being graded on this speech like you may have been in your public speaking class in college- this is a moment to celebrate your friendship, talk them up, and make your friends feel incredible while sharing more about them to their family, who may not have had the same front-row-seat in their relationship. Think about your speech as a movie trailer to your best friends lives- what stories would make you want to go see it? What memories can you paint of picture of for their new in-laws and family alike?
I love to end a speech with final zinger and to introduce the next speaker. In our family, we have four separate cousins who all married Mikes- so I wrapped my speech with an inside joke that was easily translatable- "Grace, I'm so glad you met your Mike", a play on "meeting your prince charming." It brought any other memories of each of them individually together, and I love anything that's a play on words or pun. Alternatively, ending on a sappy or emotional note can be a great segway into a parent speech, knowing it will be sentimental and sweet. One time, a son was giving a speech for his father, and closed out on that he thought his dad was superman as a child, and now, twenty-some years later, he knows that he is.
Making the recipient of the speech feel loved, valued, and boosted should always be the focus, with little loving points and antidotes sprinkled in throughout. Following these tips will help you deliver a speech that's not only focuses on, but remembered by guests and the couple throughout their marriage.