It was one of the most hotly anticipated weddings of the year, a Royal wedding of sorts, but it appears even Pippa Middleton and the Royal family aren’t immune from a bad speech at the wedding. Best man Justin Johannsen gave a speech that left guests and media outlets stunned for all the wrong reasons. I really hate to be negative, knowing just how hard it is to stand up and speak in front of a crowd at the best of time, but I do think it is worth dissecting the speech so we can all learn a few things.
1. Don’t forget the etiquette
The best man started with: ‘Thank you to you all from being here today, some having travelled as both families have roots in Yorkshire …. Thank you to all the flower girls and page boys, who have helped make today so special. They have had a very long day.’
The best man started without an introduction. As a guest, I am almost certain to know the bride and groom but that’s about it. I like to start with a thank you to the MC for the introduction and then briefly tell the audience about yourself. This isn’t about you, so two lines max should do it.
2. Don’t copy from the internet
‘I’m not married. But I took a girl home, my mother didn’t like her. Took another girl home and my mother still didn’t like her.
‘So I went out and picked a girl that looked like my mother, took her home, and my father didn’t like her.’
This is not a new joke. And you can tell not only because it is formulaic and it smacks of ‘Dad Joke’ but the fact that it was carelessly inserted between two other random lines shows to me he was scratching at the bottom of the Google barrel.
Before you start writing your speech jot down your key points and stories. There is a general structure to these things, and for good reason. Do some research, you can find templates and outlines online, don’t ever copy, but think before you speak.
3. Don’t EVER insult the bride. EVER.
‘Now to the love of James’ life: beautiful, energetic, loyal, soft-mouthed, comes on command, great behind. But that is enough about Jame’s spaniel, Rafa, I’m here to talk about James’ love, Pippa.’
Wow. Just wow. Where do you start? For one thing, you just compared the bride to a dog. Secondly, it’s not funny or original. As best man it is expected that there will be a bit of light ribbing of the groom, but never the bride. Once you’ve written the line, stop, pause, think about it from the couple’s perspective on the most important (and expensive) day of their lives and perhaps readjust – or better yet, test your speech out in advance.
4. Know your audience
Regardless of whether this was a Royal wedding or not, at the very least the Bride’s parents will be there and most likely grandparents too. Referring at the close of the speech that the groom is going to ‘Bangor’ for two weeks of the honeymoon – get it? Bang-her? – is so far from appropriate it actually is embarrassing. This is not the bucks, not the engagement party even – be appropriate or you can ruin it for a lot of people. Let’s also not forget every phone is a camera and video these days – think before you speak.
5. You don’t have to be funny!
I know there is a lot of pressure on best men to be funny. They are one of the most anticipated speeches of any wedding, but the fact is, if you’re not funny, trying to be funny is the worst thing you can do. I have to stress this – you do not have to be funny as a best man. The best speeches for anyone in the bridal party come from the heart. It sounds clichéd but stop and ask yourself, ‘my best friend is getting married to the woman of his dreams, what would I really like to say to him?’ Trust me – ‘nawww!’ is way better than awkward silence and sympathy laughs.
I hope this helps with your speech preparations and there is plenty to take away from this fail. Don’t be remembered for the wrong reasons with your best man speech! If you’re not sure or stuck, get help!!