1. You’re not Kevin Bridges at The Hydro. Don’t try to be absolutely hilarious. If you’re the best man there will however be a reasonable expectation that you might be a bit silly or amusing. Just don’t serve up jokes you found on Google, or experiment with some “zany” spoken word performance.
2. Don’t use sheets of A4. It’s too easy to jumble them up and get yourself flustered. If you’re nervous, you will also start waving those sheets around like you’re trying to land a nearby aircraft. Use small prompt cards, and you can also grip them (if necessary) to disguise any shaking.
3. Speaking of the shakes, getting absolutely smashed is not going to give you superpowers. You will go off on regrettable tangents, start trading dubious in-jokes with specific guests, or ad-lib something you later regret. Do however consider having a coffee or a caffeine drink about 15 minutes before showtime to give yourself a little boost.
4. Know your audience and know the occasion. If you’re the best man/best woman/maid of honour, now is not the time for a gory evaluation of the bride and/or groom’s prior love life or romantic misadventures. If you’re a parent, now is not the time to boast that you’re loaded and paid for everything. If you’re a bride or groom, now is not the time to reveal that you did not in fact meet through mutual friends, as previously advertised, but in actual fact on Tinder at 4am.
5. Know your material. Practice, practice, then practice a little more. Don’t try to be word-perfect or you will end up weepy and angry. But do have a good overall grasp of what you are going to say.
6. Make an effort to speak slowly and clearly. During a period working in London, I once had to deliver an important speech after a weekend spent at a wedding in Glasgow. Unfortunately my accent had “Gone Glasgow” without me realising it. I wasn’t speaking as slowly or clearly as usual. In fact, when I tried to speak to a colleague, she winced as if I was hitting her over the head with a baseball bat. I made the effort to slow myself down and enunciate more clearly prior to the speech.
7. Try not to speak for much longer than ten minutes. Think showbiz – leave ‘em wanting more, and your speech will be more fondly remembered.
8. Use a microphone. Even if you are the most laid back person in the room, it’s worth being a bit pedantic about this. Using a microphone will make it much easier for guests to hear you. Someone heckling that they can’t hear you will knock you off your stride. Hecklers are like jackals – cowardly and vicious – and if you let one heckler emerge, several more will follow.
9. There are settled traditions for who should raise certain toasts and say certain thank yous. Don’t get carried away and end up thanking the bride, the groom, the bridesmaids, God, and Meryl Streep.
10. And last of all, remember that nobody actually wants you to fail. Unless, perhaps, you’re the best man. No pressure!
If in doubt, drop me a line.