The best thing about a wedding is the speeches. Like the wedding itself, the speeches represent an almost disproportionally extravagant and often over-embellished aspect largely uncharacteristic of 'private' events. Putting it simply a wedding is the one big-spend private event that rivals, if not surpasses even the most spectacular of corporate events. And that's because of the ingredients. A guest list which, for the most part, know each other. A happy, joyful atmosphere. Lots of champagne. A lavish environment and, above all else, at least three speeches of varying sentiment - from heartfelt adoration (the father of the bride) to partial adoration (the Groom) to full-blown character assassination - the headline act - The Best Man. In my humble opinion, the best man speech should be merciless. Brutally truthful (and exaggerated in all the right places) with a dash of respectful sentimentality (a natural and inevitable by-product of being best mates).
“I require only three things of a man. He must be handsome, ruthless and stupid”
At weddings, I always look forward to the best man’s speech and, perhaps surprisingly, they're nearly always really good. I put this down to intimate knowledge about one's subject. Unlike in the corporate world, Best Men can't help but benefit from a free-flowing depth of knowledge that no corporate orator could ever have without being a frightful bore!
I do suffer from speech envy though. At corporate events and at weddings. I always have the urge to be up on stage and, in fact, even more so at weddings. Especially if the groom is in my close circle of friends (more than once I've been mildly offended (but more disappointed)) not to be the Best Man and therefore integral to proceedings. I've been lucky enough to speak at literally hundreds of corporate events (from venue launches to conferences) and its taken me to far-reaching places from San Francisco to...erm....Manchester (via most of the major US cities, I might add!) Unlike many whom I've spoken about it to, I don't experience even a hint of nervousness. Ever. I absolutely relish the opportunity to have my opinion (and bad jokes) heard, regardless of whether I'm received well or otherwise. My bulletproof confidence comes from something someone once told me was 'enhanced naturalism'. This is loosely translated as 'he who doesn't giveth a shit what anyone else thinks'. Until afterwards when collective adulation is inwardly well received, of course!
My desire to deliver a wedding speech is immeasurably heightened on the rare occasion that the Best Man’s speech is an unexpected non-event. I remember one wedding where the Best Man came across as a real 'lad' (so often a good sign) yet when it came to the speeches he completely bottled it! After one mildly amusing anecdote with no particular punch line, we were all ready for the beer swilled debauchery to ensue - but it never came. When heckled, he receded even further into his shell, until the whole speech came to an abrupt end when he declared that he would 'tell some stories' at the bar later! It was all the more disappointing that he was a huge Rugby player (and rugby players are responsible for some of the greatest after-dinner speeches of all time...)
“It's not the men in my life that count, it’s the life in my men”
I've been lucky enough to be the Best Man on two separate occasions. The first was at a big society wedding in rural England (where I was initially accused of being the ‘Worst Man’ by the Groom because I’d turned up a day late to the Stag do – and then accidentally booked a transvestite show as opposed to a more ‘traditional’ experience – the clue was in the ‘Funny Women’ title!) – I certainly had to claw that one back in my speech. Talk about starting on the wrong foot! The second was at an even bigger society wedding in New Orleans. Both gave me a huge platform for 'rabble-rousing' or an almighty fall. Just the way it should be. If the stakes are high, the rewards are higher.
My first time was a forty-five-minute extravaganza. I knew the Groom better than anyone and he was a gloriously arrogant sod (who went to Eton) which gave me ammunition on so many levels...It went so well that I was accosted in the loo and three separate guests asked me for the transcript. I was young (and unafraid) so I sailed a little close to the wind with my 'borrowing' of one-liners to strategically lace throughout my anecdotal onslaught. Because this was so long ago (1999, I think) I can't seem to find the transcript anywhere, which is perhaps a blessing because, in my mind, it's the greatest speech of all time! It probably wasn't.
“Men make love more intensely at 20, but make love better, however, at 30”
Catherine II of Russia
A couple of years later, I delivered what I considered to be my second Best Man speech and it was a raucous affair, following the formula of all great Best Man speeches to a tee. A classic delivery belied the fatal flaw. It wasn't meant to be a Best Man speech at all because I was the Groom. The bride inadvertently (and somewhat reluctantly) took on the role of the groom and was the brunt of many a misguided joke (something I’m reminded of to this day. Mostly during arguments). I got away with it. Just. The best thing about the wedding though was that my Best Man delivered the only speech I would have to concede was in a different league to my own efforts. He's an actor turned movie producer and he's a genius, natural orator. And he embarrassed the crap out of me - something that's not easily done to a former long-haired, make-up clad, fur coat wearing glam rocker! Unless that last fact is illustrated in public, which is what happened that fine summer’s day.
“By all means marry. If you get a good wife you will become happy - If you get a bad one you will become a philosopher” Socrates
Best Man speeches so often follow a tried and tested (almost clichéd) formula but that's because it works and it's what we all want. And expect. Off-piste doesn't always work as well as desired but once in a blue moon, something spectacular comes along. And, in this day and age, it's not going to go undetected. YouTube has ensured that won't happen. And it didn't on this particularly magnificent occasion. If you didn't see this the first time we posted it, then here's a treat for you! Everybody loves McFly. And if you don't, you're wrong. Or at least everybody loves the eternally affable theatre schoolboy (and original star of Oliver in the West End), Tom Fletcher, who captures the hearts and minds of millions with possibly the finest combination of sentiment, comedy and number one hits in his Groom's speech - a hilarious (note the bit about Usher) wedding speech, set to music. A sentimental (yet somehow un-cheesy) symphony that must have really pissed off the Best Man, who was up next – follow that - yikes!
My second proper Best Man experience was in New Orleans and it went down a treat. With precisely half of the audience! Although mildly misjudged (because the form in America isn't to lay into the Groom for 30 minutes without drawing breath), I was very pleased with the final product. Mainly because I borrowed far less and formulated some quite sophisticated jokes around my primary target, sorry, best mate. He's a genius computer coder, so akin to a giant deer with a red target painted on his flank, in quicksand. I've got the full transcript of this one and, although it’s so much about the delivery, I think it reads pretty well. Check out the (clever-ish) interplay between human and computer terminology. The 'Adele' joke is the best I've ever made up too!
“I'd hate to be next door to Monica Seles on her wedding night” Peter Ustinov
I took great delight in the fact that 50% loved it and 50% were utterly horrified (in a good way).
Anyway, here's the transcript, make your own mind up!
Wedding speech 16th November 2006 – Mark and Casey
Ladies and Gentlemen! We are here to celebrate the marriage of Mark ‘Westie’ Westguard and Casey ‘Oh my God! What the hell am I about to do’ Pellerin!
Firstly, I’d like to express my delight at being here at what really is the wedding of the year and to comment on just how ravishingly beautiful the bridesmaids look this evening! It’s fantastic to be back in the beautiful city of New Orleans – home of the saints – and now, it seems, the sinner as well!. On a serious note, I’ve spent a lot of time in the USA and the special relationship between the UK and the USA is really tangible for us here so a sincere thank-you for your kind hospitality.
I also have to tell you that being asked to be Best Man for such an occasion is a great honour – bloody inconvenient – but a great honour nevertheless!
I know a lot of people have come a long way for this momentous occasion, which only goes to underline the friendships that these two great people have formed across the world. This is especially poignant as it’s a mixed marriage – he’s a computer programmer, she’s a human being!
I must say, all of us in the UK were a little surprised when the announcement was made as we were all convinced that Mark would marry Adele….And not just any old Dell! A Dell ‘Optiplex’ 170L with Pentium processor which he’s spent many a night with over the past few years!
So, let’s just re-visit who this mysterious Mark character actually is:
It all began with Mark at a young age moving to Bonnie Scotland where he met his chief childhood partners in crime! In fact, this was the only recorded moment in history where a ‘Westie’ became a Scottie!
Misjudgement – is what Mark suffered from in the early days. Like the time when he constructed a ‘Death-slide’ in his Grandmother’s barn and leapt off the second floor clutching his rope with lanky arms and legs flailing desperately. Before crashing to the barn floor with a wail of fear and confusion……because the rope was too long! Or, like the time he painstakingly constructed a beautifully crafted dog kennel and after hours of meticulous draughtsmanship realised that the dog wouldn’t fit through the cat-flap sized front door! Yes, Mark is an adventurer! Not afraid to take a great leap into the unknown whether it’s desperately clinging onto a dinghy with his feet whilst spread-eagled in a futile attempt to cling on to a bridge over the icy waters of the Esk or jacking-in everything to join me on a conquest for global domination in the dot.com world. In fact, like me, Mark is working on his second million. We gave up on our first!
Indeed, Mark hasn’t changed a bit now he’s “Grown Up”. In a frighteningly similar episode to the death slide, in a metaphorical sense – sort of, Mark managed to reverse engineer a well-known search engine’s algorithms, ensuring that all his clients appeared as the number one search result for everything – and I mean, everything! If you typed in Pellerin-Milnor washing machines in New Orleans – yes, you’ve guessed it! -londonlaunch.com would come up top!, closely followed by the London Tourist Board (another of his clients). This was amazing, flawless, priceless…Until he was rumbled and blacklisted for three long years! The London Tourist Board disappeared off the internet too and the ‘Westie Effect’ caused a notable slump in the London tourist trade!!! In fact for a while there, Westie stood for “Why Every Single Tourist Internet site is Extinct”! It’s a good job he’s left the UK as the Queen must be bloody furious!
He’s a man of hidden talents though – as soon as we find one we’ll let you know! Luckily he’s completely bi-lingual, he speaks both English and American almost fluently! But in all seriousness, Mark is a genius – to call Mark a computer engineer is like calling Michaelangelo a decorator! He really is the best.
Looking at the fine man Mark has clearly become, sitting beside his wonderful bride, I realise what a fantastic choice he’s made – I really admire his taste – which is more than I can say for hers!
Some of you will know that Mark first met Casey through a mutual “friend” whilst she was helping with our usalaunch.com venture. As we sat huddled around our office webcam trying to get a glimpse of what this sexy-voiced Southern belle looked like, little did we know that good old Mark knew rather more than he was letting on! Because it seemed that these two had already become markandcasey.com and, frighteningly a wedding.com was already in the making. Whether Mark was going to require a con.dom for his trip was still debatable but we won’t go there this evening!
So, Markandcasey.com is a technical romance, and when ‘cyber boy’ ‘up-loaded’ Casey onto his system’ this is the technical synopsis of the story – it all stems back to a specialist software package he purchased:
18 months ago, Mark upgraded to Girlfriend 1.0 from DrinkingMates 4.2 which he had used for years without any trouble. However, there are apparently conflicts between these two products and the only solution was to try and run Girlfriend 1.0 with the sound turned off. To make matters worse, Girlfriend 1.0. is incompatible with several other applications, such as LadsNight Out 3.1, Football 4.5 and Playboy 6.9.
Successive versions of Girlfriend proved no better. Eventually, he tried to run Girlfriend 1.2 and Girlfriend 1.0 at the same time only to discover that when these two systems detected each other they caused severe damage to his hardware. Mark eventually upgraded to Fiancee 1.0, only to discover that this product soon had to be upgraded further to Wife 1.0, at great expense.
While Wife 1.0 tends to use up all his available resources, it does come bundled with Cleanhouse2003, which is a huge bonus.
Shortly after this upgrade, however, he found that Wife 1.0 could be very unstable. Any mistakes he made were automatically stored in Wife 1.0’s memory and could not be deleted. They then resurfaced months later when he had forgotten about them.
Wife 1.0 also has an automatic Diary, Explorer and e-mail filter and can, without warning, launch TurboStrop and Whinge. These latter products have no Help files and he has to try to guess what the problem is. Additional problems are that Wife 1.0 needs updating regularly requiring ShoeShopBrowser for new attachments and HairstyleExpress, which needs to be reinstalled every other week.
And worst of all - Wife 1.0 also comes with an irritating pop-up called FatherInLaw, which can’t be turned off!
Despite all this, Mark must resist installing Mistress2004 as there could be problems. A friend of mine has alerted me to the fact that if Wife 1.0 detects Mistress2004, it tends to delete all of your money before uninstalling itself!!!
In fact, Mark would go on to boast that his webcam romance was a bit like a scene from American Pie although Casey begs to differ. So, when we needed a volunteer to go out to the USA to see what on earth was going on, it’s no surprise that Mark was already in a taxi halfway to the airport before we could change our minds! The rest, as they say, is history!
So they’re off to sunny Hawaii in a few days for their honeymoon – God knows how Mark’s going to hold his stomach in for 10 days!
On a final note, based on the fact that Casey has had a sign made which hangs over their apartment door which reads ‘Views expressed by the husband are not necessarily those of the management’ I would strongly advise Mark to follow the age old moniker “If you want to keep love flowing, from the loving cup – when you’re wrong, admit it, when you’re right, SHUT UP!.
A toast to the Bride and Groom!
"The most dangerous food a man can eat is wedding cake" Anon
And, as I don’t have any specific images of myself delivering this speech (they were possibly ceremoniously burnt!) I do have a rather funny video of me and the Ushers getting ready in a Penthouse Hotel Suite beforehand – Warning – not for the faint-hearted! (or if you don’t want to see me naked)
And you’re back in the room! My advice for getting started with a wedding speech is to at least take some inspiration from an amazing book by Mitch Murray called ‘One-liners for Weddings’. The foreword by Bob Monkhouse says it all. Even if you're not doing a best man speech, I'd recommend picking up a copy - you'll never know when you might need it!