Monday, 29 January 2018

The Best Man Speech

wedding invitation

The wedding invitations including art and logos were created by my brother who is a graphics designer. You can find him on Instagram and on Behance.

I'm gonna level with you guys. Writing the best man speech for my brother's wedding was probably one of the hardest things I've ever had to write. I had about 2-3 months to write it, and I spent most of that time panicking that I couldn't write anything good.

Just between you and me? I've written plenty about Jack. I've written a draft of vows - sad but true, especially sad now given our recent split. But writing about the relationships of others isn't my strong point, unless they are a fictional couple that I created from my own brain. I spent many afternoons holed up in Costa with toasties and hot chocolates trying to form even the rough outline of the speech but to no real avail. I think part of the issue for me was Googling all the 'how to write a best man speech' and looking up examples that people had written online. I find it very different to be a little sister writing the speech for my big brother, than how a best pal would write one or even a little brother would write one. Eventually, one afternoon at home after a long break from trying to write it, I sat down and I found my footing. Four strong paragraphs that were actually much easier to write than I'd ever have expected.

So, here are some of the things I did and didn't do when writing my speech. 

I DIDN'T OPEN WITH A ONE-LINER

Literally every article and how-to guide I read on writing a best man's speech told me that I should open with a one-liner to get the crowd laughing and ease myself in. But I don't like cheesy, stupid jokes and I don't like small-talk and breaking the ice. I wanted to get to the meat of the speech in seconds, not minutes, and I am somebody with a dry and sarcastic sense of humour, as opposed to the awkward kind of thing usually included in speeches. 

For me, I couldn't write a speech if I didn't write in a voice that sounded like mine. I couldn't pretend to be somebody I'm not. Anyone who knows me will tell you my humour is dry as fuck and I hate pointless conversations about the weather. Own the speech, make it your own. Write it as you yourself would talk. Don't try to be somebody else. Don't try to be polite and charming if you're a bit of a potty-mouth like I am, or else the crowd will likely be able to tell you're faking.

I DIDN'T FOCUS ON THE BRIDE

This may sound harsh but it was an important point for me. Most speeches tell you to talk about the bride by including how she has affected the groom, and they will tell you about complimenting the bride and generally not ignoring her. 

I am not particularly well acquainted with my brother's girlfriend, so it felt completely unnatural for me to do any of the above things that you're "supposed" to do. It's nothing against the bride, but I really struggled to write this part when I was going to include it because, again, it's what the guides told me to include. So instead of bumbling along, trying to write stuff that wasn't flowing, I decided to cut it out altogether. If you're friends with the bride, by all means, this is a step you are probably capable of including, but it didn't sit right with me. 

My references to the bride in my own speech included noting her as an inspiration for my brother in the way that he is an inspiration to me, and in the ending paragraph that wishes them both well in their marriage.

Plus, let's face it. The groom is largely overlooked in the wedding ceremony so it seemed more fitting to me to write about my brother than his Mrs.

I TALKED ABOUT ME

The speech isn't really supposed to be about you, and I read a couple of guides that were super strict about this because "the guests don't really care about you", to put it bluntly. Things were a bit different for me in the way that it was a very small wedding, so the guests included me and my immediate family, my brother's best friends - most of whom I've known since my childhood or teen years - and a small group of the bride's family and friends. On the whole, it was quite a small group of people in attendance, so there was no need for me to have to go out of my way to explain that I was Sean's sister, and I felt like my brother and family would have the time of day to hear what I had to say. 

I am a deeply cynical person about love and happiness, even now that I'm in my own relationship, so this to me felt like an important talking point or segway into another topic of conversation - my brother's marriage. 

I TOOK UNORTHODOX INSPIRATION

For me, the biggest inspiration was the speech written for Sherlock season three, where Watson gets married. Although in reality, I'd find Sherlock to be an obnoxious asshole if I ever met him or somebody like him, I find his character to be relatable in parts. It's definitely a weird place to go for inspiration, but the speech Steven Moffat wrote for the hit BBC show was something I felt like I could take inspiration from, rather than all the typical speeches scoured over the internet that all stuck by the same rules

Despite taking inspiration, I will say that everything I said was true, and I didn't change my feelings to fit the inspiration I drew from Sherlock. His cynicism, realism and lack of understanding when it comes to people's relationships are things I can relate to, so I kept these aspects in mind as I wrote my speech.

I DIDN'T TALK ABOUT A SPECIFIC MEMORY

Contrary to what all the guides tell you you should do, you don't have to write about a specific memory. I actually formed my 'memories', which are generally vague because I have a horrific memory, into a mass in which I found a theme - a theme that I had a big brother who looked out for me and would protect me and keep an eye on me, always. It's a known fact that despite our differences, my brother has always very much taken his 'big brother' role seriously, so I used this to talk about as a whole, as opposed to a specific memory. I found this made for a much more emotional speech than trying to figure out how I could angle a memory so it would fit into the speech. 

I JUST WROTE...

I tried to draw up a rough outline of the speech, what I wanted it to contain and where I wanted it to go. But ultimately I ended up just writing, and the finished result was a near-perfect product. I switched two paragraphs around and then edited a sentence or two, swapped a word here or there. The best advice I'd give you would be to write, don't think too hard, and then when you think you're done, look back on it and see what you could change, improve, and swap. 

Don't be afraid to talk about your writing process of the speech. I actually discussed how I found it hard, how I didn't want to do a shit job of it, and how I never expected to really write a best man speech.

...BUT IF YOU NEED A ROUGH GUIDE

I broke my piece down into four main paragraphs. I started by talking about my relationship with my brother, how I find him to be an inspiration and how much he has influenced me - so many things I enjoy and are a part of me today are such because he introduced me to them, including 30 Seconds to Mars, Due South and dinosaurs.

I then went on to talk about the theme of Sean being my protector, of being somebody who always had my back. In paragraph three I discussed my cynicism, and I wrapped it up in para four by saying that, to paraphrase, despite my cynicism, I know from past experience we can only go forward onto bigger and brighter things. (The full thing sounds better, BTW). My final sentence led on from this, wishing the newlyweds a happy marriage full of love, respect, adventure etc.

What are your tips for those writing a best man speech? Do you have any other relevant speech writing tips?

Instagram

© Amanda Jayne. Design by FCD.