Becoming the Best Man and Living Up to the Title

Becoming the Best Man and Living Up to the Title

Your best friend has just blackmailed you into being his best man and you’re freaking out.  Don’t worry, it’s normal, but you should relax, we’ve got your back.  Check out this Best Man survival guide and breeze through the wedding right into the reception.

By RK Gella

“Just stand there, this isn’t your execution.  Don’t lose the ring and catch him if he faints,” that was the tried and tested advice offered to me by the minister before the ceremony, “and if he runs, you man the car.”

Simple instructions, tasks with improbable chances of malfunction – keep in mind of a competently sewn pocket, two able arms and a valid driver’s license – and duties any guy would be honored to fulfill as the chosen best man.

The best man, a ceremonial figurehead present in cultures spanning the globe, carefully selected upon from a series of faculties, that incorporate, but are not limited to wisdom, experience, spirituality and finance. However, for the modern day, iPhone handling, Facebook surfing, population of the 1st world, less pertinence remains on the ability to supervise newlyweds on the secrets of eternal happiness or conjecture on achieving everlasting love.

Not that those qualities are without merit, but most grooms, of this century and culture, would rather have their best bud by their side, flaws and imperfections accepted, as they always have been.   The best man we have come to expect needs little more than a faint understanding of the due process and a vague opinion of relationships.

But as that minister set such high expectations for me the first time I assisted at the alter, it would be undutiful not to bestow some advice, and perhaps raise the bar just the slightest notch.

So you’re the chosen best man, what’s next?

The question would appear to have an obvious answer, but if that were the case there would be little reason for me to rattle on these keys and finish the next several thoughts. Break open any guide on wedding etiquette and you’ll wonder exactly what your bro got you into.  Formal literature highlights an integral role for the best man, beyond that of being the lovable male sidekick, dropping bawdy one-liners and making out with the bridesmaids – in fact forget everything you’ve ever seen in romantic comedies, it won’t apply here, not that you watch them anyway, but in case you do… forget them, they’ll offer you as much insight into a wedding as Van Wilder did on college.


By traditional decorum, the best man is expected to be a renaissance man if you will, a conductor of small children, a cordial host to strangers, a mom’s obedient assistant and a wrangler of a lobotomized man.  But we’ll get into that in a minute, we don’t want to scare you off the job, besides the oversized cake just arrived.

The Bachelor Party

With the title of “best man” also comes the privilege of arranging the bachelor party.  The most coveted of male get-togethers, it is as ubiquitous as it is archaic, yet it’s a party wrapped in lore of mythological proportions, only the deserving still regaled 50 years passed.

It’s an exclusive power, and there are those who will tell you that as the best man, it is your obligation to see that the groom is sent off to his nuptials satiated from any desire to be single again.  It’s an old school philosophy, quite possibly an arduous task, depending on the groom, and more than likely to get an ice sculpture thrown in your direction from someone in a wedding dress.  Take the obligation with a grain of salt.  There is no need to dwell in literal translations, especially in modern times.  This is not to promote a night of jigsaw puzzles and Mountain Dew, but the satiation is best left between the bride and groom.

As the jolly best man, you don’t want to be caught up with unnecessary dramatics, so avoid them.  Give your best mate the bachelor party he wants and dictates, not that of his rowdy groomsmen.  In most cases you’ve known these guys just as long, and are aware of whose advice to take and discard.  Outside suggestions from anyone else but the groom, should be taken as just that, suggestions.  Although keep the wallets of the groomsmen in mind, you and the groom might manage to kick it in Big Willie style, but the rest of the crew might be on a Jazzy Jeff budget. Come to an agreement on price and prepare accommodations in advance.

Let the groom set the debauchery levels. He might not have an amp that goes up to 11.  Remember, ground rules laid out by the groom are quite possibly, and often likely to be, the ground rules agreed on by him and his bride.

And unfortunately, what happens in Vegas doesn’t necessarily stay there, so look out for the groom just as you would at any other point in time, he’s at least got to make it to the alter.

The Wedding

Assuming everyone made it back from Vegas and nobody has contracted, ahem… cold feet, the ceremony is upon us.  As mentioned before, guides to formal weddings list the duties of the best man as everything short of reconfiguring a carburetor to pruning back the vines for the upcoming harvest.

Such responsibilities include playing errand boy for the mothers, briefing the children (ring bearer and/or flower girls), organizing the ushers, surveillance of proper applications of the boutonnières, paying of the minister, greeting guests, ordering bouquets and managing the distribution of flowers to the women attending the wedding.

This is not even to mention the groom, who is supposedly the main concern.  After reading through the best man’s responsibilities you’d think the groom was still suffering through his bachelor party’s drunken stupor.  Aside from helping the groom dress (evidence he’s still drunk), the best man is in charge of making sure the groom arrives on time, possesses the wedding license, has made all the accommodations and reservations for the honeymoon, has packed the appropriate attire and luggage for the aforementioned honeymoon, undresses following the ceremony (definitely still drunk) and return the groom’s tuxedo to the cleaners.

Still want the job?  Most best men aren’t subjected to half of these duties, and those that have can find something in common with migrant workers.  The only real fail safe tactic is to be able and willing when somebody asks.  Which is quite likely that they will.


The Reception

So your best friend got you into a rented tux, maxed out your credit on a lavish party in his honor, played flunky to his mother and mother-in-law and stood beside him while he and his bride gushed their vows onto each other… this reception was well deserved I’d say.  But before you can sink your teeth into that catered prime rib, you still have one more task.

Didn’t you realize you’ve got to perform for that meat?  It’s time to offer up the speeches and as the acting best man, your speech is the one to lead them all.  If you’re not a natural orator this can be a request inciting trepidation.  Even for those skilled in the rhetoric arts, the wedding speech can be a difficult mastery.

But don’t fret; realize the situation as a passing of words to a group of friends, opposed to an inaugural acceptance or testimony at a McCarthy hearing.  For the non-public speaker the best way to make it float is to keep it short, simple and sincere.  Yes everyone prefers the humorist, people want to be entertained, but if it’s not in your aresnal, dismiss it.  Sincerity will get you further.

If you are the jokester, remember this isn’t your stand up at Tiki Larry’s open mic night.  Even if his family bawls at your brand of xxx humor, hers might not.  And it should go without saying, if you do go the sincerity route, and decide to drop a few intimate anecdotes, make sure they’re not going to napalm the audience.  Reserve the lurid tales for after you have passed the mic, leave it to estranged Uncle Earl or not-quite-right Cousin Sue to embarrass themselves and the family.

And if you have survived it when it’s all over take a moment to relish in knowing that somebody thought enough of you to call you his “best man,” but do so on your way to the cleaners, the tuxedo is due back by 3pm.