It’s probable that Detroit based beat box Eminem wasn’t referring to the role of best man when he said – ‘You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow; This opportunity comes once in a lifetime yo’ – but here at iamthestbestman we think the same sentiment applies!
When the curtain drops, the big day draws to its close and you’ve delivered your best man speech, there’s no going back and so we thought it would be helpful for the uninitiated to hear from those who have already trodden the path, and hence heed the wise words of Mr. Marshall Mathers.
In this article, former best man Dave Armstrong talks last minute nerves, happy endings and his new found appreciation of tour guides.
When were you best man and to who?
Last year to my best mate Clive. We met at uni 15 years ago and instantly hit it off. We did the same course, lived together and went on some pretty crazy lads holidays. We remained great friends and have kept in touch even though we live in different parts of the country these days.
What was your initial reaction when asked to be Best Man?
Well, to be really honest, it wasn’t a complete surprise. It came up a few years ago when we got drunk so I guess I thought I was on ‘the shortlist’ so to speak. But you never know and I didn’t want to assume anything. When he did ask, it was a great moment and I was both flattered and humbled.
What was the best part?
I was pretty nervous in the build up to the best man speech. I wanted to give a good account of myself and invested a lot of time to get it in to the best shape that I could. I felt a sense of responsibility, and in that sense put a lot of pressure on myself to deliver. When it was all over, there was a mix of relief and euphoria that it didn’t bomb!. I felt a natural high afterwards and had a lot of people congratulate me which felt great! Maybe they were just being kind I don’t know, but either way it felt good! So in answer to the question, the best part was the end! Not because being best man was a bad experience, but because all the effort came to a climax with a big reward. Sounds a bit rude that, but you know what I mean!
What was the worst?
The night before the wedding. It all felt very real at that point. The guests started to arrive and I was acutely aware that the clock was counting down to the moment when I would have to stand up and deliver a best man speech! It didn’t help that I was still tinkering with the copy and so there was a slight sense of panic and doubt that I was going to falter. There were a couple of hours in there that were really not good!
If you were to do it again, what three things would you do differently?
I’d make the first day of the stag do more structured. Ours was a big group and it splintered off in to sub-groups on the Friday night. Some partied harder than the others, and so when Saturday came, it was harder than it needed to be to get everyone on the same page.
If I had my time again I would also have gotten the outline of the best man speech down sooner. I went straight in to the detail rather than create a framework or structure to work from. In the absence of an outline it was difficult to piece together the different anecdotes and for a time I found myself going round in circles.
The final thing I would have done differently is practiced the delivery of the best man speech more. It went pretty well but I think if I was to do it for a second time I could have improved it by around 15-20% with a bit more rehearsal. Had I not been tinkering with it until so late in the day, I would have given myself the time to practice more so I guess
On average, how much time did you spend on the role in a week?
Based on my experience, the job of being a best man isn’t something that requires an evenly allocated spread amount of time between accepting and completing the role. In my case at least, it spiked with the stag do and speech preparation.
Both periods were pretty intensive and there were a couple of times when it was really quite demanding. If I was a bit better at planning I guess I could have tried to tackle some of the tasks earlier which would have saved me some time and stress, but then again, hindsight is a wonderful thing!
How did you go about preparing your best man speech?
I started by getting as much material as I could about the groom. I had a bank of my own of course but having known Clive since uni there was a gap in the years prior to our meeting. The stag do provided rich pickings in this regard as there were a couple of guys there who were school friends.
So I wrote down all the stories that I thought might be included which created a best man speech that was far too long. There were also some in there that were either too inappropriate or too boring and then looked to edit it down to focus on quality and rearrange it to get the best running order.
What, if anything, would you do differently?
Maybe I’m getting on a bit these days but I would have rested a bit more, before and during, the stag do! As the organiser, I had the responsibility of ensuring we got to places on time and everyone was there. As I mentioned before, the group was quite big so it was really quite challenging at times. I have a new found respect for tour leaders now as a result!
I think I’d have been tempted to give everyone more detail regarding the itinerary as well, including the addresses, phones numbers etc. This would have saved me taking a whole bunch of calls that I didn’t need to in Amsterdam.
The other thing I’d do differently, as I said earlier, would be to get the best man speech in order sooner than I did. I think it would have taken away some of the pressure I felt and allowed me more time to practice. I think a good 4-6 weeks before is about right to get this nailed on.
Did you buy the groom a gift?
In truth, I was so pre-occupied with the best man speech that I didn’t have the foresight to order something in time for the wedding which I’m a little annoyed about after the event. I would have liked to have bought a hip flask and shared a drink before the ceremony.
I remember there was this short pocket of time, maybe half an hour or so, before everyone started arriving at the venue where it was just me and Clive. It was one of those moments when for just for a short time you get to take it all in and realise that this is one of life’s big milestones. It would have been a great opportunity to share a drink and reflect on the transition that was about to made – from uni mate to husband.
What advice would you give to someone new to the role?
Make sure you understand the grooms expectations. The role will always be slightly different but understanding from the outset what he wants will help you a lot in the long run. Make sure the stag do is well structured so you don’t get splinter groups. Write the best man speech early and take several soundings for quality/ appropriateness length. When the opportunity presents itself take a moment to enjoy the moment with your best friend even if it’s just a few minutes. Accept that it will take time and effort. Research, plan and prepare.