A Toast to Absent Friends

(December 2017)

Your wedding will be one of the few times in your life when you're able to assemble all of your nearest and dearest - family and friends - in one place at the same time. That's one of the things that makes it such a special day. But while people will go to extraordinary lengths to make it to an important marriage, there will always be a few invited guests whose attendance will be scuppered by uncontrollable events, immovable obligations or other personal circumstances.

In those instances, it's traditional for the Best Man to devote a section of his speech to apologies or messages from absent friends. And, while it's perfectly acceptable to tack these messages on to the end of your speech as a formality, they can also provide a fantastic hook to hang a joke or two on. And, as you will know by now, at thebestmansspeech.com, we never miss an opportunity to squeeze a laugh out of the room. Besides, those missing invitees are not going to be around to object.

For the sake of good manners, as well as wedding etiquette, remember to include any actual messages from well-wishers who couldn't make it, but feel free to embellish their excuses, while drawing a clear line between the truth and your added whimsy. And save the more outlandish jokes for the most well-known absent guests. Your audience will more readily understand that you are just pulling their legs if they have a firm idea of the real life character of the person you're ribbing from the top table. So, when Uncle Stan's man flu means he can't make to the big day, why not have a little fun at his expense:

  1. "I'm sure we all want to send our love to Uncle Stan, who couldn't make it today. He's been battling the flu, but that's not what kept him at home. In fact, he was getting ready to leave and decided to go for a 'wet look' hair do to match the groom's. Unfortunately, the loo seat fell on his head left him with a concussion."

Or how about this cheeky dig at an absent auntie:

  1. "I know we're all sorry that Auntie Judith can't be here. She's the life and soul of the party, but - of course - she can also be sensitive to rumours. Unfortunately she got wind of just such a rumour circulating in the family this morning … that it was a paid bar."

If the lawyer or policeman in your family is caught up in a vital case, why not try this legal laugh:

  1. "Sad that Uncle Harry couldn't make it here. He recently found out that he was switched at birth and decided on moral grounds not to attend, knowing that the name tag at his place setting would contain false information."

Tread carefully with this next gag. Don't use it if there's a heart condition, or a history of car wrecks attached to the target. The idea is to raise a laugh, not sow panic in the room:

  1. "Some sad news for anyone who was expecting to see Tony today. He was found in his hotel room this morning, flat on his back, covered in chocolate fudge frosting, and coated with sprinkles… the police think he topped himself."

And finally, a classic 'end-of-the-pier' gag fit for any guest who's kept away by ill health. Again, if the subject is on their deathbed, steer well clear. This is chicken pox or nasty bruise territory, not coma humour. You can leave the postscript off the punchline if you're confident that your crowd is sharp enough to get the gag:

  1. "I must apologise on behalf of Great Uncle Hector, who was so looking forward to coming today. Unfortunately, he took a tumble on the stairs yesterday and landed right on the pipe of his vacuum cleaner. Anyway, you'll be glad to know that I phoned the hospital this morning and the nurses said he's out of bed, and he's picking up nicely…"