Best Man Toasting Basics

The best tips for giving a best man speech.
Best man toasting
Photo by Jessica Frey Photography

The toasting hour can be a highlight—or prime secondhand embarrassment time—of any wedding. The key to a successful toast is being prepared. Read on to learn how to make your speech funny, appropriate and memorable.

Planning

Advance planning is the first step to giving the perfect toast, so write down what you're going to say. It's wonderful to improvise, but if the spontaneity bug doesn't bite as you stare down at a hundred expectant faces, you won't live it down for years. Reading your toast word for word is also a no-no: Use note cards to write an outline or key words that will prompt you with your toast (though you may want to give the happy couple a written copy of the entire toast).

Practice ahead of time. Say your toast out loud a few times to get used to the idea. Practicing will also let you know how long your toast is. Three or four minutes may seem like a lifetime at first, but after a few run-throughs. you'll feel like a pro.

Content

Wondering how to show that you really care about your buddy? The exact words are up to you, but you can follow this formula to get started:

  • You can end—or begin—with a quote. Look here for some inspiration.
  • Thank the parents of the bride and groom if they paid for the event. If the couple is footing the bill themselves, thank them for inviting everyone to share their day.
  • Identify yourself and your relationship to the couple (not everyone will know who you are).
  • Tell a touching yet humorous story about how the newlyweds first met.
  • Relate an amusing, and maybe even embarrassing, story about your escapades with the groom.
  • End with a message of hope and congratulate the couple.

Finally, upon pain of terrible embarrassment, do not:

  • Tell ex-girlfriend-of-the-groom stories.
  • Make fun of the bride.
  • Tell risqué jokes—someone's grandmother will probably be there.
  • Tell inside jokes most guests won't understand.
  • Ramble on about how you'll miss the good old days.
  • Make the groom look like a slacker, loser or a drunk.

Giving the Toast

You'll know it's game time when the MC announces you at the beginning of the reception (or after dinner, depending on the wedding schedule). Once you're clutching the microphone, what next? Follow these tips and you can't go wrong:

  • Be prepared. Don't think you'll come up with something witty at the last second. You may end up staring like a deer in headlights as the wedding guests squirm in their seats.
  • Speak slowly. Don't rush through your speech, and try to speak as clearly as you can.
  • Speak loudly enough so guests all the way in the back can hear you.
  • Keep it brief: five minutes, tops. If you sense audience restlessness, wrap it up.
  • Don't stare at your notes—engage your audience. Look not only at the couple, but at the rest of the audience too.
  • Guests expect to be entertained, not instructed, so don't try to force-feed a life lesson down their throats. Keep it sweet and light.
  • Stay (relatively) sober. You don't want to be remembered as the inappropriate guy who made off-color jokes about the groom's mother. One drink of liquid courage may help you with your toast. Five will definitely hinder you.
  • One last tip: Write out your toast and give it to the groom. He'll be touched that you cared so much.