As it turns out, my Best Man, Jason, just so happened to deliver the most incredible speech ever given at any wedding. No joking. That not just my opinion, either. All the guests we’d invited to the wedding came up to us afterwards, shaking their heads in amazement. It was the talk of the day.
Absolutely no exaggeration. Not a bit.
It was a piece of art that was part really clever concept, part heartfelt and intelligent writing, and a huge portion of careful preparation and practice. Now listen, I'll be more than happy to let you read it. And maybe – just maybe – if you use his clever concept as a starting point, and you take the time to follow my hints on how to really deliver it correctly – you may just be able to pull off a super best man speech that no one will ever forget.
How It All Started
My friend has never been known to be conventional. We figured as much when he knocked on our door one day a few weeks before the wedding with what appeared to be a survey.
“I want you guys to fill these out,” he said.
As usual, I figured something very Jason-like was afoot. We had been friends for about twenty years and I was well aware of his M.O., so I just shrugged and began to fill mine out. My future wife, unaware of Jason’s usual hijinks, looked a bit perplexed, but was eventually cajoled into filling hers’ out. The survey was a page full off questions, like:
What is your favorite candy bar?
Did you like the movie “Titanic?”
Who was your favorite character on “The Brady Bunch?”
What celebrity do people say you most resemble?
Why is your future husband/wife the right person for you?
So, we carefully filled out each of these silly little questionaires and gave them back to Jason. We had no idea what he was up to. Boy, did we never.
The Wedding Day
The wedding was spectacular and it was pretty much going off without a hitch. The time came for us – the bride and groom, to have their first toast. Jason stood up from his seat and tapped lightly on his glass to get everyone’s attention. Everyone turned in his direction, and this was what he said:
“When Tom asked me to be his best man, I obviously realized I would be giving a toast. And I certainly felt I could easily come up here and say wonderful things about Tom and Julie and their relationship, but I really wanted to be able to express something that went beyond just gut feeling and observation.
I wanted to be able to say something more absolute, something that had some serious empirical data behind it. So I decided to create the most accurate compatibility survey known to man. This survey was carefully designed to test the exact areas of the human mind where attraction and potential for relationship take place.
There were five questions, and I’d like to share Julie’s and Tom’s results with you. The first question was, ‘Did you like the movie “Titanic?”’ Julie’s answer was “yes.” And Tom’s said “no.” Now what this told me was that Julie is indeed female and Tom is male, which I considered a positive result in terms of their compatibility. So we were off to a good start.
But then came question number two. What is your favorite candy bar? Julie said “Nutrageous.” And Tom said “Payday.” I know that on the surface this might seem good, both bars having nuts and all, but let me ask you, what type of person likes Payday? An independent thinker. Maybe a little too independent.
I moved on to question three. If you were a character on the Brady Bunch, which one would you be? Julie said “Jan.” And Tom said, “Sam the Butcher.” Tom also added, “Cause he’s the one with all the meat.” Jan and Sam the Butcher. Not exactly a match made in heaven, folks.
Question four. What celebrity do people say you most resemble? Julie said, “Connie Chung.” Tom said, “Moby, with a thyroid problem.” At this point, not only was I questioning their compatibility, I was seriously questioning Tom’s mental stability. I mean what was I going to say for their toast? Congratulations Connie and Moby? I can’t endorse that.
So I moved on to the fifth question. I asked Julie, “Why is Tom the right person for you?” And she said, “Because he’s like my other half. We see the world the same way, like the same things, share the same sense of humor. But most of all it just feels “right” when I’m with him.”
And I asked Tom, “Why is Julie the right person for you?” And he said, “Because, no matter how much love I give to her, I get it back double. And then some. Because, with her, I can finally see my future and a life I can’t wait to live. Because being with her is as easy as breathing and just as necessary for me to live. She is everything to me. Everything.”
After I read those answers, I thought to myself… Payday? Maybe. Maybe Payday and Nutrageous can walk off in the sunset together and one day have beautiful chewy, peanut-buttery children. Maybe there’s a reason Sam the Butcher never married Alice. Maybe he had his eyes on Jan the whole time. Who knows.
But honestly, I obviously was having a little fun with this survey, but when I did read those answers and as I read them today, I was and am moved by Julie’s and Tom’s obvious love for one another.
I’ve known Tom for 20 years, and I can honestly say he is one of the kindest, funniest, most wonderful people I have ever known, and I’ve never seen him happier than he has been since he met you Julie. I can’t tell you how proud and honored I am to be able to stand up here and toast your future together.
To Tom and Julie, may you support one another as best friends, may you always create joy for each other, and may you have a long life of love and happiness.”
The guests all erupted into thunderous applause and we both gave him a big hug. With his speech, he hadn’t delivered a fumbled and half-baked toast like all the others we’d ever seen. Instead, he had given to us an incredible gift that we would always remember. But, I was to find out later that it had not come easy. It was the result of hours of writing and preparation.
The good news is…you can do it, too.
It should be pointed out that the reason that I can print out the speech in its entirety is due to the fact that Jason took the time to write it out in the first place. Much too often, Best Men or Maids Of Honor get up in front of everybody and try to just wing it. That is a disasterously bad idea.
Look, speeches are a whole lot easier when you know exactly what you will say to begin with. If you add on top of the stress and delivery the extra difficulty of coming up with something to say on the fly — I can virtually guarantee that you're only going to end up shooting yourself in the foot. Only a choice few can pull it off — and I don't mean to insult you — but my guess is that you're probably not one of them.
Take the time. Even if you don't use Jason's concept, do yourself a favor and write what you are going to say — word for word. Don't leave a single word to chance. You'll be so glad you did.
Re-Writing And Preparation
I spoke to Jason later about what it took to put the speech together. I was amazed to hear that he had started writing it right after we had filled the survey out — weeks before the wedding. After finishing the first draft, he tried out reading it to someone he trusted. Using their feedback, he cut out bits they didn't like and rewrote it several times until the speech flowed and hit all the right notes he wanted it to hit.
After getting the speech just the way he wanted it, he then memorized it. Yep, you heard me — he memorized it — and practiced it in front of several friends. They gave him invaluable tips on his delivery and helped him to really get used to saying it in front of people. Many times, something that looks funny on paper can really come out sounding awkward when you say it out loud. Taking this extra bit of effort can really pay off. It makes the difference between a memorable speech — and a forgetable one that was written on a napkin ten minutes before you stand up.
A Little Liquid Courage, But Not A Lot
I wrote about in my article on bachelor party toasts. It's OK if you need a little bit to drink in order to loosen yourself up, but don’t use this as an excuse to drink like a fish before getting up in front of everybody. If you get up in front of everybody and slur and weave back and forth like some sort of sloppy bum, you could end up ruining the whole reception for the bride and groom. At the very least, you will embarrass yourself and make a complete fool out of yourself.
In order to get yourself ready, there are some good books about giving speeches that can help you prepare. I recommend Can You Say A Few Words by Joan Detz. The Lost Art of the Great Speech by Richard Dowis, and How To Give A Damn Good Speech (Even When You Have No Time To Prepare) by Phillip R. Theibert. While these may not be free, any one of them can give you a good primer on how give a speech that everyone will love.