Belfast Telegraph

The stag do! The rings! The speech! The pitfalls of being a best man

Prince William has vowed that revenge will be sweet when he is best man for his brother Prince Harry at his wedding later this month. Some of Northern Ireland's best-known faces tell Karen Ireland how they coped in this very important but often rather tricky role.

Presenter with UTV and U105, Frank Mitchell (54), is married to Helena and they have one grown-up daughter, Laura. He says:

I was best man for my good friend Walter and his wife Rosemary back in the mists of time, about 1983. It is so long ago I no longer have any photographs of the event, but I remember it as a great day and I was delighted to be asked to play my part.

However, because I was working in television at the time, and doing a lot of discos and events, I made the cardinal sin of thinking I could wing the speech.

I thought I would just stand up and thank everyone for joining us from all arts and parts of the globe and I trotted off all the names including the Republic of Ireland, France, the Isle of Man and the US.

It wasn't until I had finished and sat down feeling very pleased with myself at how well it had gone that I looked over and saw my aunty KK who had flown in from Malaysia.

I was mortified. I am still making apologies for that mistake today every time I see her.

Lesson learnt, I should have been more prepared and had some notes written down.

I thought the speech would just come easily to me because of what I do but I was over-confident.

Walter's wedding was in the days before stag do's were invented. Back then, the idea of a stag do was taking someone out of the disco late at night and throwing them into the Warrenpoint tide. That's what we did to Walter and what was later done to me before my wedding.

My other lasting memory of that day is looking after the rings. Walter had given them to me in a special box to look after. What he didn't know was I got an identical box and had it in my pocket at the same time.

When it came the time to present the rings I opened the empty box and Walter's face fell. Then I produced the real box to the applause of the congregation...

As best man you are performing all day and making sure everyone is having a good time.

It is a serious job to be given and you need to make sure things run smoothly in the run-up to the wedding and on the big day itself.

My advice to anyone lucky enough to be a best man would be to plan your speech and keep it clean. Everyone does not need to know about every girlfriend the groom has ever had. At the same time you do not want to be boring or predictable, so it is good to have a few stories and a few jokes thrown in.

I think it is a good idea for couples to have a compere at their wedding to introduce the speakers and keep the event flowing.

Cool FM breakfast presenter Peter Snodden (37) is married to Julia and they have two girls, Ivana (7) and Elayna (3). He says:

I was best man just before Christmas for one of my closest pals, Gareth Stubbing. We have known each other since we were about 17 and played together at Bangor Hockey Club.

We have been best mates ever since and been through a lot together. He was there for at all the milestones in my life — when I got engaged, when I got married, when we had the kids and losing my dad. He is a true friend and I was deeply honoured when he asked me to be his best man, as I’ve never been best man before. Being an only child, I never had a brother to do the honour for, so this was the next best thing.

When we were growing up we would socialise a lot together and he came to many of my early day gigs with me. We also shared a love of football, even though we support rival teams. However, we both support Northern Ireland and go to all the matches together. We’d also watch Bangor FC.

Although I was delighted when he and his now wife Shelley asked me to be his best man, I was very nervous and apprehensive too.

The first big challenge was the responsibility of organising the stag do. I felt it was my job to ensure everyone had a good time and all got there and, more importantly, got home safely.

In the end we took about 20 lads to Magaluf for a few days and we had an absolute ball.

Then there was the speech, and I suppose I felt under extra pressure because of what I do for a living...

When it came to the night before the big day it was my job to keep Gareth out of mischief and look after him. We stayed in the Clandeboye Lodge the night before and went out to the pub for a few drinks with some friends. Gareth and I then headed back to the hotel, where we thought it would be funny to join in a Christmas party.

We ended up at that until about 3am and had the best craic. The next day he was so nervous he barely spoke and I was glad we had gone out and had such a good time the night before.

On the morning of the wedding he was so organised and had all our stuff laid out in organised piles with a bottle of our favourite tipple for each of the men, along with a hipflask, which I thought was a lovely touch.

Of course, I was getting increasingly nervous about the speech. The bride’s father gave a very short speech and said “well everyone is here to hear from Pete”, which was just extra pressure. In the end I just shared stories about how we met and our friendship over the years and stories of us growing up.

Thankfully, everything went according to plan and it was the smoothest wedding I have ever been to. It was an unbelievable day — one of the best ever.

My advice to Prince William is make sure the groom gets to and from the stag safely.

In my opinion, keep the speech good craic but don’t say anything out of place which would embarrass the bride or groom.

Andy Waterworth (32) plays football for Linfield. He is married to Lisa. He says:

I was very flattered to be asked to be best man for my brother Jonathan back in 2010. While I was delighted to be asked to do the honours, I was also nervous as I didn’t want to let anyone down and I wanted to do a good job.

I’m a very organised person when it comes to my career but not necessarily in my social life so I found all the appointments we had to go to hard work. You basically become a social secretary for a year or so before the wedding.

I had to plan the stag — we went to Galway for a few days and I felt it my responsibility to make sure everyone got on and socialised together as there were a lot of people who didn’t know each other. In the end we played football together and watched the FA Cup.

My brother is very sensible, so he had warned everyone there was to be no nonsense.

On the day I was worried about losing the rings as I am a bit of a nightmare when it comes to stuff like that.

I wasn’t nervous at the start about my speech as I am used to public speaking, but it is different when it is in front of people you know, and as the date came closer I became more apprehensive. I didn’t want to bore people.

In the end I wrote it the night before and then ran it past my mum who said it was fine. I had a list of six bullet points which I stuck to.

I talked about my brother and I growing up and told stories about his nickname and about things that we had done.

I kept it very casual and it wasn’t soppy as we are not a soppy family.

Having said that, it’s a huge compliment to be asked to be a best man as it shows how close you are to someone, which is very special.

It is a special day for the bride and groom and their families, so it is a great honour to be involved.

My advice to Prince William is to relax and enjoy it, be there to lend a hand when needed and make sure everyone has a good time.

Q Radio presenter Stephen Clements is married to Natasha and they have two children, Poppy (7) and Robbie (3). He says:

I am very privileged as I have been asked to be best man twice. I was best man for my brother Gavin in 2003, and then I was best man for our friend, Laurence Goody.

When it came to Gavin’s wedding I was living in South Korea teaching English, so I shared all the responsibilities with Laurence and that set a precedent for my wedding when it was the three of us again.

Because I was away I wasn’t involved in the plans and preparations for the wedding, and I didn’t even make the stag do as I just flew home for the wedding.

I found giving the speech nerve-wracking. The wedding was long before I do what I do now but still I would rather speak to thousands of people I don’t know than to 30 people I do know.

In the end I just shared family stories of Gavin and I growing up and threw in a few jokes for good measure.

His wedding was in Carrickfergus Castle and it was one of the hottest days I can ever remember. His wife-to-be had Scottish roots so we all wore kilts. I’ve never been as hot in my life wearing that kilt in a warm room in the castle.

Needless to say, a lot of fun was had with the kilts later on that evening —  the drink was in and the sense was out, and people saw things they hadn’t seen before, nor have they seen since!

It was a great day and I felt very honoured to be his best man. It is a lovely compliment to be asked.

Laurence got married in Greece and we had the stag do out there as part of the celebrations. Like a lot of my friends, Laurence got married when he was a bit older so the stag do wasn’t a mad one but actually a rather civilised night out for us.

Like the wedding, it was great fun and again I was delighted to be in the role of best man.

Of course, I was very nervous when it came to giving the speech on the day but I just kept it straight and to the point.

My advice to Prince William would be to try not to stress too much over it but relax and enjoy the build-up and the day itself.

Hopefully it is something which only happens once in a lifetime so make the most of it.

It’s a special day and you should be honoured to play your role.

Oh, and do not do or organise anything which will land the groom in trouble with his family, his future wife or the police.

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