The Worst “Best Man” Toast

I was Best Man at my brother’s wedding last week. I think that perhaps the only reason was because Mia asked Ken to make me Best Man—Ken knows better. While my family does love me, they know that I am highly erratic at best.

Let’s put it this way: When I was seven years old, my Mom took me to Kennywood. The parking lot is just the other side of the freeway and there is a short tunnel under the freeway to get to the entrance on the other side. That day, my mother gave me a ten dollar bill in the parking lot. When we got to the other side (about 20 yards later), I had lost it. We went back and looked for it and it was nowhere to be found.

Is that the sort of person you should be entrusting your wedding rings to?

Researching the Toast

Well because I’m just about the worst Best Man ever, I decided to at least get the toast right. This meant a lot of research on the internet. I read and archived many websites and then read them when I was in San Diego and what I found out was…

There are a lot of really bad Best Man Toasts.

Many are so full of inside jokes that nobody can relate to. “Ha Ha! This is me laughing out of politeness.” The other ones are canned. You just insert your own names into the blanks and run with it. In a day full to the hilt of clichés that during a cliché moment (the Best Man Toast) one should give a speech full of chichés is… *shudder*

Geez, he’s my brother. He saved my life once. Does he really deserve this?

Things I learned

I did learn a couple useful pieces of advice:

  • Don’t read your speech. (I already figured this out from seeing a previous toast.)
  • Stand up straight. (Not really relevant in my case as the wedding planner messed up the timing of the speech against my suggestion.)
  • Speak loudly and clearly. (No problem for me.)
  • Be simple.
  • Don’t ramble. (I failed miserably at this. I timed my speech at 3.5 minutes and it ended up being 7.5.)
  • Introduce yourself as not everyone knows who you are. (Also be sure to introduce the other pieces of your story as not everyone knows who they are.)
  • Thank the parents of the bride for hosting.
  • Be funny but not humiliating. No “ex-girlfriend” comments. (Duh! Though I broke this rule. Sort-of.)
  • Keep it balanced. (I found out later that this isn’t important since there is a Maid of Honor Toast and a Friend of Bride Toast.)
  • Mention how beautiful the bride is.
  • Finish with a toast.
  • Don’t forget to drink after toasting.
  • Ideas: How they met, How the groom has changed.
  • Practice. Practice. Practice. (I had no time for this.)

The plan

So I alighted on a simple plan:

  • I would start with a many of small stories and then prune out the ones that are redundant.
  • The stories would be true and unique. Not the “chance brought them together, and there couldn’t be a more perfect match.” Here that? That’s the sound of me gagging.
  • I would somehow relate the stories to one another.
  • I would remember somewhere in it to thank the bride’s family but not necessarily at the beginning because that is too trite.
  • I would remember to mention how beautiful the bride is, but in a non-traditional way.
  • I am definitely not going to read the toast from some card. This meant trying to memorize enough it during the brief spells I had when I wasn’t taking photos.

The actual toast

Here it how it actually came out (audio file (8.5MB/7:24)):
[audio:http://homepage.mac.com/tychay/blog/Bestman%20Toast.mp3]

You can compare to the actual written (and annotated) speech at the end. Now through the miracles of RSS attachments and WordPress, I guess this makes this my first “Podcast.” Hurray for me. (Thank you, Caitlin, for extracting the speech from the wedding video.)

The stuff in bold below are talking points I memorized so I could go from one part of the speech to the next without having to look at my cue card.

Best Man Toast for Ken & Mia’s Wedding

Does everyone have a full glass? (Wait to make sure everyone has their glass full, alert the waiter.1 Stand up straight,2 hold glass straight from the shoulder in my right hand.)

Excuse me. I am Terry Chay,3 the little brother of the groom, Ken Chay, and perhaps the worst “best man” ever. Why? When my brother and I were in college and graduate school, I would call home and my dad would say, “You know when your brother calls,4 he always asks about you and if you are doing okay,5 but you never ask about Ken.”

That’s because I always depended on my brother. When we were kids, I would never wear a hat to school. Every winter I would be crying at the bus stop because it was so cold and every winter, my brother would always give me his hat6 so I could stay warm—that’s the sort of person the groom is.

Our mom would often repeat this story. I’m sure she’s looking down from heaven right now, smiling. If she were alive, I can imagine how happy she’d be that Ken is marrying Mia. She’d probably be ribbing Dad right now saying how she’d always knew Ken would marry well.

My dad worried about Ken.7 He once told my brother, “Ken, when you were a child and we’d go see a baseball game, we’d have general admission tickets and you would sit in the first seat available. I don’t want you settling for the first girl you find, you’ve got to wait for the best one.” Well, Dad, Ken took your advice, and waited, and waited. I bet you were starting to worry. Good thing the perfect girl, Mia, came along!

Perhaps I should explain how the bride, Mia Chung, and my brother met. A few years ago, we were eating our traditional Christmas Eve dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant8 (we are, after all, a family of men). By a happy coincidence the Chungs came in while we were having dinner and we exchanged greetings. After dinner, Ken suggested to Dad that we wait for the Chungs to finish9 and have tea with them next door. We did and Ken and Mia hit it off immediately like it was destiny…

I want to go further back. Dad and Dr. Chung are golfing buddies. Dr. Chung would say, “You know, Seung, Mrs. Chung is always complaining that our daughter has never met your son. You should introduce them.” My father said, “That won’t work. Ken would smell a matchmaking attempt and get turned off. But you know, we like to go eat Vietnamese…10 I can call you before we go out and you can happen to meet us there.”

So, we should thank Dr and Mrs. Chung and my father for bringing the happy couple together, without their knowledge. Because sometimes, destiny needs a little nudge.11

One more story. When I was four and my brother six, Uncle Francis grilled him on his mathematics. “What’s 5 + 3?” “8!” “What’s 10 + 4?” “14” “What’s 13 – 11?” “2.” “What’s 6 + -3?”12 a long pause because me brother hadn’t learned negative numbers. “3?” he guessed. My uncle became very frustrated. He then got very clever and said, “What’s the Six-Million Dollar Man plus the Bionic Woman?” “Love?” my brother responded.

It is because of responses like that and taking care of me that I’d say, “Mommy, Kenny is “next to God,” but looking at my brother and his beautiful wife Mia, I see I had it a bit wrong, he’s next to a Goddess.13 And I thought I’d never be prouder of my brother than on that day when he confounded Uncle Francis, but again I am wrong. Seeing him here with Mia and her wonderful family, I say with conviction that every day from now will only make me prouder to have such a wonderful brother and be welcome in such a wonderful family.14

Every one of us, let’s raise our glasses and toast. Here is to the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman,15 Ken Chay and Mia Chung! (Remember to drink to my own toast.)

1 This didn’t work out at all. I asked them to move up the toast to during dinner because it was scheduled so late that everyone would be drunk or dawdling around. I actually gave it after the cutting of the cake and somehow the champagne glasses never arrived. This made for a lot of background noise and me drinking from a glass I swiped from someone’s table.
2 Because of the late start, I had to give the toast in the middle of the dance floor where the volume drop off was bad. Therefore I needed a microphone. It ended up closer to a stand-up comic routine.
3 I made a mental note not to say “Hello?” nor “my name is…” here, which meant, of course, that I did both.
4 I said this backwards! Argh! So I had to stick a backup joke in here to make up for it.
5 The suicide reference in the audio track is true. What actually happened is my brother called home when he was a freshman at MIT and said, “Does Terry have any friends?” “Yes, we think so,” my parents replied. “Good. Because all these kids are committing suicide at MIT and they have no friends. I don’t want Terry to be one of them.”
6 Another true back-up joke is buried here. I was actually hoping to get people to say “aww” for my brother with the line as it is written, but I used the back-up joke because I was nervous. My brother did always give me the hat from his head, I almost never wore a hat to school back then, and my mom loved to say that story.
7 While the story here is true, my father isn’t a worrier. In fact, my brother once joked to my parents that they’re so lucky that they have such smart and handsome sons (primarily himself) that they don’t have to worry about us ever getting married. I resorted to that small fib in order to string these two stories together.
8 During the ceremony, The minister actually mentioned that they met at a Vietnamese restaurant, but I calculated that this would work to my advantage here so left it as-is. Note: it was in between Christmas and New Years, but I left it Christmas Eve in the interest of narrative economy.
9 This is a small fib my brother caught me on. What actually happened was that Mrs. Chung came up to our table during dinner and invited us to tea next door. My father left it for us to decide and I was very tired (from golfing or something), and Ken said that it would be the polite thing to do. So while I am fibbing on the letter of what happened I did keep the intent.
10 I had no idea if any of this stuff was any funny because the only person I who heard this before I delivered it was Caitlin and she was helping me order the stories. So I didn’t know if I had to stop here or go on further. Since I was never on the golf course, this isn’t how it “went down” but I’m again claiming artistic license because it is close enough to what actually did happen.
11 Isn’t the thanking of the bride’s family so much better placed here than at the beginning?
12 Caitlin was shocked I got the math right here because I was messing up my arithmetic so many times in practice. In any case, if I messed up, I was planning on just cracking another joke here on how my brother then is better at math than me today.
13 Caitlin didn’t realize I inserted this when I tested it on her so this was the only think I was sure would get a laugh. This is also the obligatory tell the bride how beautiful she is. I like it better this way because any other way sounds like a pick-up line.
14 This is the only full sentence I wrote down. I practiced it because it is such a delicate sentence and easy to end up sounding trite if the words are not well chosen. Of course, despite this admonition to myself and all the effort I took, I still messed it up!
15 I tried to make it sound like I made this last part up on the spot. You can see that I didn’t. What’s the fun in a wedding if you can’t be a little bit mischievous?

30 thoughts on “The Worst “Best Man” Toast

  1. hehe, I got linked here from mark’s blog. that is actually a very good speech (the one you gave). you tricksied me into listening to it!! 😛

  2. nice one..

    From my own experience when I was asked to be a best man, I thought yes what an honour but then, oh no, the speech. Luckily I could write poetry, so I wrote a poem and also luckily I hit the jackpot, it went down a storm, it was perfect and I had accolades all night from lots of guests and photographers. So I created my own website to help other guys and it has been very successful and I am so lucky to have had so much superb feedback from guys who were clearly quite nervous.

    The beauty of a personalised poem is the fact it is personal, you can read it, and given time to practice, it can be delivered in a meaningful way and last but not least, you don’t have to let on it wasn’t you who wrote it!! But the real beauty is it is a comfort to the best man in case of emergencies; panic attack, too much to drink, etc. So if anybody wants help, I would be delighted to help out, just check out my website TheBestManSpeech.co.uk (http://www.thebestmanspeech.co.uk)

  3. Hi Terry, I don’t think your speech sounds awful, they quite good, can I put some of your speech in my website ? of course I will also give your link as the source, I’m collecting several wedding speeches/toasts in my website http://www.bringwedding.com that hopefully can help some people to get some ideas on what to say.

  4. even though i was only 16 at the time, a couple of years age i was the best man at my uncles wedding and had to give the toast. although i insisted on “freestyling” (improv, not rapping) the speech, i still heard tons of advice not just on the speech, but on what my duties in general were. this site http://www.gettingmarriedadvice.com/Best_Man.html was pretty helpful. the wedding turned out flawless and the speech became a running joke in the family, so i guess it all worked out for the best.

    sorry for this guy, lol

  5. Pretty good, but my advice from personal experience would be to write the whole speech out, not necessarily read straight off the paper but have it to refer to if you get hung up, it probably would’ve been a little smoother.

  6. Preparation for a wedding can be a very stressful experience. I think one of the most nerve wrecking part is making the speech!! There are a number of good resources for wedding speech preparation on the net. I’ve come across this one, which is quite good in my opinion. Go and check it out if you require help on this topic 🙂

    http://marcusk.speech4u.hop.clickbank.net/

  7. I was nervous for first few minutes to do best man speech when on my brother wedding. After that I gain confidence to continue my speech. When I was in high school, we always practice ho to speech and to attract the audiens attention. Practice and only practice…

    sherly ndari

  8. Haha i liked you speech a lot. My older brother is getting married and he asked me, his 17 year old brother, to be his best man. his wedding isnt until next September but i am freakin out, i feel the exact way you felt. but hearing your speech helped me out a lot thanks.

  9. I know that the Father of the Bride gives a speecha/toast, but do you think it to be typical for the maid of honor to give a speech at the wedding? If so – what should be said, or at least what points ought to be covered?

    Is this something that is done frequently?

    This is an American Wedding I am speaking of.

    1. Traditionally, the maid of honor does not speak. However, in most modern weddings I've attended over the last five years, the maid of honor has spoken. This article talks about the wedding speech order and explains the three main duties.
      "The first duty is to thank the bride for choosing you as her maid of honor.
      You will then want to pay compliments to the groomsmen.
      Finally, you will prepare a toast which will usually be the bride."

      Just look over a
      sample maid of honor speechr if you are stumped about what to say.

      Hope that helps.

  10. I’m a best man in 2 days, I got nothing! It’s going to be like sky diving without a parachute.

    I hate my stupid brother, maybe I should mention that iin the speech, make it sincere.

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