The 12 Sacred Best Man Duties
A complete guide to the responsibilities – plus thoughtful tips to crush it as the best man.
It’s an honor when one of your best buds asks you to be their best man.
It’s a sign of great respect and sacred responsibility when you accept. If you do your job right, you will win the undying gratitude of one of your best friends.
And, if you do your job right, you will also do many, many good deeds that go completely unnoticed.
What does a best man do? Plan a bachelor party? Usually. Give a speech? Of course.
But as a guy who got married not too long ago I can tell you: the role of the best man is far more meaningful than that.
Here are 12 essential things for living up to your title.
By Stillman Brown
Best Man Responsibilities Before the Wedding:
The Planning Phase
Once you’ve been asked, it’s time to start planning.
1. Be Helpful During Planning
Planning the most joyous day of your life is stressful. The groom will need – and appreciate – your help during the planning phase. Check in every 4-6 weeks and ask if there’s anything you can do to help.
First, be an ear. As best man, you'll will likely be called upon to listen to your friend vent about his future family-in-law, why “wedding cake” costs 30-50% more than “cake,” and the unreasonability of his future wife. Listen, but don’t add fuel to the fire. Why not?
The first responsibility of being a best man: Don’t add to the drama. You may as well start practicing this skill during the very first stage of the process.
Second, if you’re tasked with helping in the planning stages, be realistic about what you can do. Then do it.
2. Set a Budget
Being a best man usually takes a little cash. There’s things you have to pay for, like a good suit, and travel – for the bachelor party and wedding.
Then there’s things you may want to pay for, like drinks for the groom, snacks for the groomsmen, bachelor party shenanigans, and the like.
Set a budget, do your best to stick to it, and don’t feel shy about asking the groom for a credit card when asked to purchase things you feel aren’t your responsibility.
The Bachelor Party
Whiskey around a campfire. Zip-lining and a gym sesh. Las Vegas and stretch Hummers. What fits your groom and his wedding party?
Whether your group goes hard or tame, the bachelor party is the one responsibility that will fall to you, guaranteed. This is both more interesting and more tricky than the days when alcohol poisoning was proof of a good time.
The good news is, people are getting married later in life and tastes have grown more sophisticated. You can use this to craft a more meaningful and memorable bro-down day.
3. Planning a Bachelor Party: Have Fun, Be Relevant
Communicate with the groom about what he wants and (probably more importantly), what he doesn’t. Study the budget, logistical issues, and when he’s available to party.
Think outside the box.
The important thing to remember is that this is the groom's bachelor party, not what you think a bachelor party should be.
Chances are, you already know if your friend is a bottle service sort of groom. If not, think about what will be good for bonding, having fun, and enjoying a few drinks. For some grooms, the bachelor party may be an appreciated respite from the mayhem of planning.
Thanks to the current boom in the sale of experiences like tours, classes, and guided day trips, there are a ton of options. If you want to keep it local, you can do a tasting at a local distillery, rent a cabin at a nearby state park, or go full kid-mode and do go-karts (this is what I did, and it was totally awesome).
As the best man, it’s your responsibility to get contacts for the groomsmen (and any other friends the groom wants to include). Reach out and make sure that most of them are on board for your plan, financially and timing-wise. If you have a group larger than 3, it’s near impossible to get everyone on the same page, but do your best to include everyone so there are no hurt feelings on wedding weekend.
Stay tuned for an upcoming complete guide on planning a bachelor party!
Best Man Responsibilities on the Day of the Wedding:
The Wedding Weekend
Most of your duties will be centered on the actual day of the wedding. Get some sleep, hydrate, and strap in.
4. Bring Snacks
Unless you know without a doubt that it’s already taken care of, bring food for the groomsmen for the morning of the wedding. No one will ever be upset about having more food, and nothing kills the vibe of true love and fellowship like a pack of hungry and hungover groomspeople.
While the groom has a million things on his mind, among them feeding a bunch of people an expensive, fancy dinner later, he likely won’t have accounted for the fact that there will be 3-5 guys hanging around all day beforehand. That’s where you come in, leader of the groomspeople.
It can be trash food like donuts and coffee or deli sandwiches, but bonus points for some power bars, nuts, and fruit.
This will also help you achieve #8.
5. Be Hyped About Everything
Enthusiasm and a positive attitude will go a long way. Everyone will be stressed, so any amount that you can be excited and chill will be appreciated.
There’s a time and a place for honesty and griping. This is not it. Now is a great time to stuff all of your non-enthusiastic feelings down into a black box and lock them away.
Folding programs? Fantastic! Getting somebody’s grandma from the airport? You betcha! Stringing 5,000 cranberries on floss for a festive photo op? Jesus, yes!
If you’ve ever thrown a party, you know the stress of making sure everybody is having a good time. As best man, you’ve been delegated the task of leading with positive, calm energy so the couple can focus on other things.
6. Know Your Place In The Hierarchy
Only about 7% of all Americans have ever served in the armed forces.
Which means that, if you’re one of the other 93%, the most hierarchical experience of your life will be the day of your best friend’s wedding. Know your place in the pecking order. For most wedding parties, it looks something like this:
Bride/Groom → Day-of Coordinator → Parents → Wedding Planner → Maid of Honor → You
In most cases, the Day-of Coordinator knows way more about how the day should run than anyone other than the bride and groom, including the family. You need to find this person, introduce yourself, let them know what you’re already taking care of, and ask how you can help.
If anyone above you in the hierarchy tells you to do something differently, you have two options: 1. Do what they say, 2. Tell them the bride or groom told you otherwise, but that you will double check. In either case, take responsibility for the task.
7. Be Ready For A Toast In The Prep Room
You might think putting on your suit and combing your hair is pretty straightforward. Most days, it is.
Your best friend’s wedding isn’t a normal day.
It can be surprisingly, unexpectedly emotional when you realize it’s the last time you will hang out before your friend gets married FOREVER.
Bring a bottle of whiskey or champagne to toast your best dude in those moments. The time may not present itself, but you won’t regret being ready if it does.
My best man brought the smoothest Japanese whisky I’ve ever tasted for our toast. It warmed the whole room and fortified me for the ceremony.
It’s easy for big, planned celebrations to lose their personal intimacy with the people who are there to celebrate. The prep room toast is a short, quick way to formally take a moment and acknowledge your love for the groom and the commitment he’s about to make. And if you have to raz him on something inappropriate, it's now – not during your wedding toast. But my suggestion to you is to take it seriously and help set the tone for your guy pre-ceremony.
Best Man Responsibilities After the Ceremony:
8. Make Sure The Groom Eats
Find the caterer and befriend them, for you will need favors.
You will want to be running snacks to the groom throughout the day, and especially be sure he gets a plate of food at the reception.
I spent so much time getting hyped about the amazing barbecue we were going to have at my wedding, I never thought I would be in danger of forgetting to eat.
But it turns out that things like making a lifetime commitment and putting on a one-time carnival for all of your friends and family have a way of eating up your time, leaving you hungry and drained.
9. Be A Good Shield
Get a sense of the family dynamics before the wedding weekend, if you can.
If you have pretty open communication, you can even ask directly if there are any family members that need to be headed off if they try to get a selfie on the way down the aisle.
At my wedding, my best man did an excellent job of being an occasional family buffer and it made the day much more pleasant for me.
10. Give A (Short) Best Man Speech
Perhaps one of the most visible (and anxiety-inducing) duties of the best man: The toast at dinner.
The good news is it's much easier than you might think. Recall any wedding you've ever been to: Do you remember the best man's speech? Probably only if it was really inappropriate and made the mood awkward.
So don't stress, and follow these super-simple guidelines to deliver the perfect, short best man speech:
Your best friend’s wedding is not the time to wing it.
You’re probably one of several speeches, possibly everyone is waiting to eat. Pick one great story and tell it well.
If you think you’re a natural comedian, get three opinions confirming this, then add a few jokes. But don’t overdo it, it’s not a roast. Forced jokes are always worse than a serious but loving speech.
11. Keep The Energy Going
After dinner, after the speeches, there is a crucial moment at every wedding. A question looming.
Will anyone dance?
As the best man, possibly your most important task of the weekend is to answer that question with a resounding, “Hell. Yes.”
Rally your friends, rally the people you just met, but get people on the dance floor. The fate of the wedding depends on you. If you can get a group going for a little while, it will break the invisible dance floor seal and keep the party energy moving.
12. Don’t Start Drama
Don’t get in a fight with anyone. Don’t bring your baggage. Don’t be a creep. If you need to not drink, don’t drink.
The day is not about you. And your friend needs you to have your s*** together at the end of the night in case he doesn’t.
The Bottom Line
Super fun or super lame, we do weddings because it’s how our society includes the tribe in such an important commitment.
As the best man, you are a key piece of whether this particular wedding tends toward the fun or the lame.
Take it from me: This list is based on my best man. He was humble, high energy, and on it from planning to execution. It made me feel like I had a wing man for the biggest project of my life up to that point, and on the day his preparation and generosity headed off more than one crisis.
Know this: your attitude and support can save the day in a big way. So use your influence for good.