Getting the best man's gig is a big deal. Sadly, it also comes with a lorry-load of grief revolving around keeping your mate happy, organising a decent stag-do and, most importantly, performing the biggest speech of your life. No pressure.
We've seen SAS soldiers and hardened war reporters crumble at the thought of giving a best man's speech, which is why we've prepared this simple guide to help make it a moment to remember. For the right reasons.
1 Source The Stories A best man's speech needs plenty of preparation. As a bloke, this is as appealing as asking your girlfriend for map-reading tips, but you're going to have bite the bullet. What you're after is a selection of mildly humiliating stories about the groom, which you should accrue – well in advance – by getting in touch with key friends on all areas of his life. Breadth is what you're looking for at first, allowing you to zero in on the details when narrowing it down. A warning: tales of him losing his trousers on a school field trip are fine. That one about the time he spent two grand on "gentlemen's entertainment" in Vilnius isn't.
2 Write. And Rewrite Know what makes the best Amereican sitcoms conistently funny? Because the teams behind them rewrite and edit the script until every line is a killer and no line isn't there for a reason. This is what you have to do. When you've picked the best stories, build the speech around them, work it into a simple structure or narrative (eg chronological) and start redrafting it down to super-tight setpiece not a second longer than seven minutes. Yes, seven. Yours is the last speech of the day – go on too long and the call of the free bar will drown out another tedious anecdote about your mate's golf swing.
3 Start Practicing Some people – stand-up comedians and Irishmen in pubs – can speak off-the-cuff for hours on end without a prompt. This is not you. The thing every best man dreads is forgetting his speech, so make it easy for yourself by printing it out in full, using a large font and italicising the gags. If that's a bit too literal for you, simply write down some prompts on index cards and work from them.
In the weeks and days leading up to the wedding, you will need to get to know this speech better than your own CV. With practice comes the confidence to maintain eye contact with the audience when you perform it. As Seamus Hilley of Stand Up Speeches explains, "A good tip is to record the speech on your phone then listen back to it before you go to bed. Do that a few times and it'll be embedded in your memory."
4 Play To Your Nerves Whether the thought of public speaking strikes the fear of God into you or you're in possession of Obama-like ease in front of a crowd, everyone experiences nerves before giving a speech. While we can't prescribe anything to banish them for good, nerves can be tamed by proper preparation and perhaps a couple of beers (and only a couple). One thing: nerves will make you speak quickly, so make a conscious effort to take your time, building in deliberate and natural pauses along the way.
5 Avoid The Google Trap Writing gags isn't easy, but don't be tempted to nick one-liners off the internet. "When it comes to jokes," says Hilley, "Google is not your friend. All the good ones have been heard before, so stick with observational stuff about the groom that's funny." Another thing: resist the temptation to tell in-jokes which only one table – usually a table full of wankers – find amusing. It's self- indulgent, rather like a drum solo at a gig.
6 Finish On A High At the end of the ribbing and character assasination, you must remember to bring it back to the couple. The bride is always stunning and the groom, though lucky to have her, is a thoroughly decent fellow. Say how happy you are for them and what a credit they are to their families, then ask the audience to be "upstanding" – a word only used in wedding speeches – before toasting them. Then that's it, it's over. You can now bathe in the applause and concentrate on either flirting with the bridesmaid or getting into a row with your missus. Happy days.