Is It Ever Appropriate To Stop The Best Man’s Speech?
The wedding is in full swing, everything has gone off without a hitch, the mood is jovial and a long night of dancing, drinking and celebrating stretches out in front of you. When all of a sudden you hear the clink clink clink of glasses and a nervous silence falls over the room. All eyes turn to face the top table where the best man is on his feet, holding a microphone and sifting through the papers that lie in front of him.
As a wedding planner, or even when I’m just the wedding coordinator, I find this moment to be extremely nerve-wracking. I’m not personally involved in the wedding, just professionally, and it’s likely that I’ve never met the best man before today. But I can’t help but feel anxious on his behalf. It’s like watching a comedian on Britain’s Got Talent. You don’t know them from Adam, but you want them to do well to avoid a cringingly awkward silence. This is how I feel moments before the speech starts and I’m always secretly praying that it goes well. Not just for him, but for the bride and groom too. It’s their wedding that could potentially suffer from any backlash.
Some best men manage to get the speech absolutely spot on. They make enough tongue-in-cheek remarks to have the audience in stitches, but they air on the side of caution and throw in a few charming sentiments for good measure. And then there are the best men who seem to be the most socially inappropriate beings to ever walk the planet. And the bizarre thing is, they might be lovely people in real life, but there’s just something about the pressure of living up to that ‘laddy persona’ that makes some men get the tone very, very wrong.
It’s as if they’ve never bothered to read any advice on the matter or run their general thoughts past the groom beforehand. A quick Google of ‘best man speech tips’ throws up hundreds of results which all direct the recipient to the key things to avoid: Never mention exes - the bride’s or groom’s. It’s poor taste, it never tends to end well, and it’s just unnecessary. Never talk about what debauchery happened on the Stag Do, unless the bride and her family know about it, and even then if it’s rude then just don’t bother. Does the bride’s grandma really need to hear about what the groom got up to when he was 12 tequilas-deep? I think not. The final golden rule is never make any sexual references - this may already be accounted for by tips 1 and 2, but it’s a pretty important piece of advice that lots of best men seem to completely disregard. It’s a wedding, it’s a family occasion more than anything else and there may even be kids present. If you can’t be funny without mentioning sex then you’re not funny. Simple as. And you should make your speech the gushing kind where you talk about what a thoroughly decent fella your best mate is.
So to the guys who don’t check out these articles (GQ has dozens, just throwing it out there) and then don’t double-check with the groom first to ensure the speech is permissible, then you’re heading for trouble. Plus, you have to spend the rest of the wedding on the receiving end of judging looks from the bride and groom’s family, and you don’t want that.
I’ve heard a few best man speeches over the years that have really had me head-in-hands wanting the world to swallow me up on their behalf. But one of the worst ones had to be Justin Johannsen’s speech at Pippa Middleton's wedding to James Matthews. In advance, everyone was more concerned with what would be included in James’ brother, Spencer’s, speech given that he has quite the reputation thanks to Made In Chelsea. He’s a known lothario, has done his fair share of backstabbing, and has a questionable relationship with the truth. He lied about being on steroids whilst appearing on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here and was subsequently fired from the show. This, compared to the other best man, who is a businessman, triathlete and mountaineer, and it was easy to see who the guests and family of the bride and groom were more concerned about when it came to making the speech.
However, it was widely reported after the wedding that Spencer’s speech had been warm, charming and funny - pretty much everything you’d want from a best man speech. Justin’s, on the other hand, was a different story. He compared Pippa to a dog, referred to a night out where he and James were desperately ‘on the pull’, and made a lewd sexual remark to finish things off. So he pretty much made every mistake possible, in front of all of family and Royals. I like to think that I have a pretty decent sense of humour, but I was shocked about this brazen attitude to giving a speech which seemed to have a complete lack of respect for Pippa, James and the guests in attendance. FYI, boys, ending your speech with “I hope you have a great honeymoon in Wales, at least that’s what I think is happening as I heard you’re just going to Bangor for a couple of weeks” is never a good idea.
So, the real question at the heart of this blog post is, is it ever okay to stop a best man’s speech if you feel like it’s crossed a line or is going too far? I’m sure some people think that it’s far more embarrassing to get up in the middle of the ‘performance’ and end it than to just let it continue, but I disagree. Although I don’t think it should even reach this point anyway.
How to avoid it? Have your partner chat with the best man initially and explain the tone you are both hoping for from his speech. This acts as a preventative measure, rather than damage control and so you have more of a chance of getting through to him before he’s put pen to paper. Explain that while it’s fine for him to share funny and humiliating stories, you’d prefer what he says to be family-friendly. To be honest, he’ll probably be grateful for the tips!
Always have someone check the best man’s speech. Possibly not the groom as this speech is really aimed at him and it is nice to leave it as a surprise, as long as it is a nice surprise. But as the bride you have the right to ensure it’s appropriate, or perhaps ask the Maid of Honour if she would mind reading it so that you have an objective opinion. A best man speech can still be funny without being overtly sexual and crude, and it’s always advantageous to get a second viewpoint.
You don’t actually have to get your best man to do the speech if you think that it’s too much of a risk and could potentially sour your day. Weddings have less stringent rules these days and it’s perfectly acceptable to ask another one of the groomsmen to deliver the speech instead.
If it’s too late for you to do any of the above then I think it is perfectly okay to put an end to the speech if it’s making you feel uncomfortable. It’s your wedding day - you don’t need to sit there and be embarrassed or humiliated all for the sake of tradition. If you’re not okay with jokes about feminists, or sexual innuendos, etc. and the speech is packed full of them simply find an appropriate point (i.e. not mid-sentence) to stand up, take the microphone, and genuinely thank them for their speech.
Yes, it’s a fairly bold move but best man speeches are rarely forgotten unless they’re really boring. You don’t want people banging on for years about how outrageous the best man’s speech was. You want your wedding to be remembered for all of the right reasons.