One of the greatest honours that can be bestowed upon a gentleman is the responsibility of being a best man. It is humbling, heartening and a vote of confidence in both your social skills and personal worth.
But it can also be an enormous burden.
Once the glow of this kindest of compliments has faded, and the halcyon days leading up to the stag have climaxed in a night of fine food, finer cigars and the finest of whiskies, panic will likely begin to set in.
Those drunken heartfelt professions of friendship and slurred well-wishing words may have come easy at the bar, but when faced with putting pen to paper, it’s easy to freeze.
And, even if you do manage to complete this most exacting of tasks, and eke some sycophantic sentiments out of a well-chewed biro, that’s only half the struggle. You’ve still got to perform the damn thing.
So, with the pressure ringing in your ears like the chimes from a church belfry, how can you prepare for the biggest day of their life?
Do your homework
Don’t be fooled by the artful wit and effortless badinage of the world’s greatest public speakers. The only way to make a speech sound joyously off the cuff is through stringent preparation.
A month or so before the wedding, begin jotting down any (appropriate) anecdotes, stories or memories you have of your best man – and then determine what material will work well at the top table.
Stealthily glean from the groom himself how he met his wife-to-be, and use this to lay the foundation of your speech. Of course, depending on their depravity, the happy couple themselves could scupper your speech at this point. Fingers crossed for ‘tender’ rather than ‘Tinder’.
Keep it simple, and add jokes
Let’s be honest, as confident as you are in your writing ability, it probably won’t pay off to shake up the tried and tested template of a best man speech. Don’t get post-modern with your ponderings.
Create a compelling opening line to grab the audience’s attention, and then introduce yourself – so they know who you are. Then write a couple of jokes to get everyone on your side, and follow those up with some compliments and character assassination – each in moderation.
Weave compliments in throughout, tell some brief stories about why marriage will be good for the groom and then bite the bullet and bare your heart – jerking torrents of tears in the process.
Practice over and over again
Stand in front of the mirror, recite it in the shower or perform your speech when sat in traffic – just make sure you know what marks to hit, when to hit them and what comes next.
Practice indeed makes perfect, so ensure you learn your lines. But don’t over-prepare, you don’t want to run the risk of robotic delivery.
Stay sober and keep your cool
As the hour nears, it’ll be tempting to take the edge off with a glass or six of Veuve Clicquot. One or two should suffice, however, as there is nothing worse than an untucked, glassy-eyed best man slurring his way through a half-remembered speech.
A nice touch is to read out messages from those unable to attend, which will both set a traditional and heartfelt tone to your speech but also give you a chance to settle your nerves by reading straight from the cards.
Avoid controversial topics
You may not have written any risqué jokes, or cut your speech close to the bone, but when you’re up there – buoyed by the laughter of the guests – a little voice in your head may try to convince you to dip into the blue humour. Do not listen to this voice – he is trying to sabotage your speech.
The rugby club received wisdom that says the dirtier the anecdote, the funnier the speech, is an incorrect and dangerous misconception. More often than not, lowering yourself to honeymoon innuendos, stories about ex-girlfriends and phrases like ‘ball-and-chain’ will make you look both underprepared and witless. Inside jokes will fall similarly flat.
Wrap it up and toast your thanks
Brevity is the soul of wit – and long shall it remain. Stick to the plan – around the seven minute mark – and end by thanking the couple’s parents for such a brilliant day. Raise a glass, toast the couple and take your seat. Then take a victory sip yourself, soak up the applause and feel content that you are, as your title predicted, the best.