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Don’t Wing It
Unless you perform as part of a professional improv troupe, you’ll need to plot out what you want to say and how you want to say it. In the weeks leading up to the wedding, look through old photos, yearbooks, tweets, Facebook posts—whatever it takes to inspire a great anecdote about the groom. Getting a head start also means you’ll have ample time to practice—a key factor in determining the success of the speech overall.
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Yes, it’s called “liquid courage” for a reason. But no, getting tanked will not help your cause. Is there anything more cringe-inducing than watching a lone person, mic in hand, ramble incoherently for minutes on end? Don’t be that guy.
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Not every speech has to be structured just so, but if you’re having trouble coming up with a general blueprint for your big moment, adopt this easy formula:
1) Deliver an opening line. This can be light and/or funny, but never embarrassing or gauche.
2) Thank the hosts of the wedding, whether that’s the couple’s parents or the newlyweds themselves.
3) Tell a story about the groom that highlights why he’s so awesome, then try and tie in those qualities with that of his new wife.
4) Wrap up your speech. This is the point where some people like to quote a line or lyric from literature or music, but as long as you end with something like “Here’s to Jane and Mike and a lifetime of happiness!” you’re golden.
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Abide by the Five-Minute Rule
No matter how charming or hilarious you are, people will get antsy listening to endless stories about you and the groom’s wild college days when they could be chowing down on cake or busting a move out on the dance floor. Your speech can be as short as 90 seconds, but try not to exceed five minutes lest the guests get restless.
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Write It Down
We’re not talking about a word-by-word script of what you plan to say (remember, you’ll want to look out into the crowd, not down at an index card). Still, drafting a simple bulleted list will help you find your place should you get off track.
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Limit Inside Jokes and Embarrassing Stories
Don’t you just hate it when you’re the only person in a group not in on a joke? So do wedding attendees. Keep your inside jokes where they belong—on the inside—and no one will feel left out. Never bring up old girlfriends and, above all, don’t try to mortify the couple with a crude joke. You may think you’re being funny, but no one else will.
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Keep It Light
The best man often speaks after the maid of honor and father of the bride. Translation: The crowd very well may be all toasted-out by the time you take the mic. You don’t have to fire off a series of one-liners or make it your personal mission to have everyone in the room in stitches, but a little levity never hurt anyone. Much like the right song can end a party on a high note, a creative and fun best man speech can begin the night on one.