The happy couple: Pippa Middleton and her husband James Matthews

Etiquette & Speeches

The dos and really huge don'ts of wedding speeches

The best man didn't win at Pippa Middleton's big day, comparing her to a pooch. There are better ways of bringing a crowd to its feet

The entire world's eyes were trained on the (almost) royal wedding between Pippa Middleton and James Matthews, so it's fair to say that most of the wedding party were feeling more than a few jitters. But that didn't stop Matthew's best man Justin Johannsen stepping up to the mic and dropping a speech that's perhaps best described as near the knuckle.

It all started innocently enough, with Johannsen paying tribute to guests who had travelled far and wide for the wedding. But any favour he worked up with the room was swiftly destroyed with mentions of buttock clenching, lads' weekends and gay bars. And the less said about the ill-advised comparison of Matthews' (very) blushing bride to a spaniel, the better. A wonky best man's speech, with its mentions of stag weekends and the ball and chain, is by now a threadbare cliché. Yet the smart best man, according to the experts, has mercifully dispensed of this tradition. It's fair to say that the pressure is on regardless: a groom or bride's father can get away with being overly sentimental about the bride, but a best man's job is to ostensibly be the 'entertaining' one.

Yet it's possible to bring the crowd to its feet (in a good way) with a barnstormer of a best man's speech, with the help of a few dos and don'ts.


DO break out the soppiness

"Being funny would be the old style view of how to do a best man's speech but you'll find in the last few years as the Irish men become ever so slightly better at talking about their feelings, there's more space to be genuine," notes Lorcan Nyham, senior consultant at The Communications Clinic.

"The first question I ask the best men who come in here for help with their speeches is, 'are you funny?' If you're not funny in real life, stick to safe and genuine."

DO know your audience

Even if you're the undisputed King of Bantz in your social circle, a wedding is a vast swathe of people, many of whom will not get your humour.

"If someone is the 'funny guy', they will feel the pressure to be funny even more," says Nyham. "But if you keep the focus on making the table full of the guys from college, or the lads from home laugh, it's a disaster. Besides, there's no way they will laugh if you're saying something desperately inappropriate."

Adds Orla Brosnan from the Etiquette School of Ireland: "You don't have to be rude or funny; it's a natural thing that as the best man, it's expected to insult the groom, you should not do this to your best pal. It can ruin a special day for the bride and groom. Don't be crude or insulting, there are grandparents in the room, and you can make guests feel uncomfortable."

DON'T Slag off the bride

Of all the things that are verboten, this is top of the list. No matter how familiar or comfortable you are with her, understand that there's a time and place for a sisterly dig. "The whole ball and chain thing goes down really badly given the day that's in it, as do insider jokes that only you guys know about," observes Nyham. "If he's shy and she's outgoing, say something simple like how she brings out the best in him."

Brosnan, meanwhile, has supremely simple advice: "Do not say you really are in love with the bride, always have been and wish it was you marrying her, as is what happened at a wedding I was at," she says. "And don't mention ex girlfriends, as it's not the time to remind the bride that her new husband was once in love with someone else. You're there as a best friend, fine, but remember that not everyone knows the couple like you do."

DO leave Robbie Keane/Conor McGregor/the O'Donovan brothers out of it

It's become a bit trendy to pull out a viral showstopper featuring slides, PowerPoint gimmicks and a wonky iPhone video of an accosted-on-the-street celebrity wishing 'um, Mark, and eh, his new bride' a happy life together. Do away with the complications and stick to simple. Who wants to be scuppered by technological glitches anyway?

DON'T plagiarise

Don't let what happened to Melania Trump happen to you. "It's never a good idea to use internet downloaded speeches, as many people will have heard them before, and your originality and credibility will be ruined forever," advises Brosnan. "A genuine, authentic, natural positive speech is always the best."

DO stick to a simple formula

Among Brosnan's cut-out-and-keep tips: "Keep your speech simple, with a clear beginning, middle and end. Get the key message across, and use three stories. Tell the stories with genuine feeling and be authentic and confident. Maintain good posture, keep a good pace and tone. Articulate your words. And focus on friendly faces in the audience if you get nervous."

DO prepare

"Work out well in advance what you will say about people by getting great stories from other friends," says Nyham. "Be sure to practise saying this stuff aloud in advance. And get the opinions of a few trustworthy people about your speech beforehand."

DO know what to do with hecklers

Hecklers are usually the people closest to the best man who don't care if they are sabotaging anyone's big moment. "Setting the tone early is important," advises Nyham. "For the first 90 seconds, get on the strong foot, and if people see you're confident, they'll be less likely to heckle." Another tip: "Don't make constant references to the time, like, 'I'll only keep you a short while' or 'I only have a few quick words to say'," notes Nyham. "No-one really cares about how long you will speak, but it does make you seem less confident."