When planning your wedding, you may be wondering what, exactly, the best man does.
The tradition of the best man goes back to the 16th century, where he had a very different role to play at the wedding. Originally, he was the best person the family or community could find to steal the bride before she should marry her love. A disapproving family member or community member would hire a best man to make sure the marriage wouldn’t happen by stealing the bride on her wedding day. I would imagine this was typically only a temporary solution as a disapproving family rarely stops couples from getting married eventually.
Times have changed, thankfully, and the best man has a whole new set of duties (mostly to support the marriage, not to break it up). Being the best man involves a lot more than just standing at the groom’s side for pictures.
As a wedding photographer, I’ve seen my share of best man speeches and heard countless stories about the bachelor party. Let’s just say, the best man sets the tone for the groomsmen on the wedding day and every event leading up to the wedding day. He’s pretty important to the groom and should take his job seriously.
Best Man Duties Before The Wedding
Plan The Bachelor Party
Planning the bachelor party is one of the most well-known jobs of the best man. Not every groom wants his best man to plan the party, but as the best man, you should be prepared to do everything you can to help. If you are the one planning it, be sure to ask the groom what he wants and honor his wishes. Some grooms would rather camp at the beach than head to Vegas for the bachelor party, so don’t assume you know what would be best without consulting the groom.
Not only will you need to plan the bachelor party with groom in mind, but you’ll need to coordinate with the groomsmen and anyone else the groom would like to invite. Consider yourself an official party planner for this one. Create a guest list, book the location for the party, order food and drinks and make sure there are sleeping accommodations or safe rides home for everyone. Be sure to tie up any loose ends after the party as well. Don’t leave a mess for someone else to clean up.
Check In With The Groom
In the months leading up to the wedding, be sure to check in with the groom regularly to see what he needs help with. If he’s having trouble communicating with the tuxedo rental place, give them a call. If he is having trouble contacting the groomsmen, follow up with them and make sure they respond to the groom’s requests. Most of the wedding planning will be done by the bride and groom, but you can help too!
The groom will likely have tasks to complete that the bride doesn’t have time to do and that’s where you can help. Go shopping with the groom when he needs to find shirts. If his job is to find a caterer, you should help make calls. If the groom’s job is to decide on a local DJ, help him come up with a list and join the groom in any meetings with vendors.
As the best man, you’ll need to arrange for the groom’s gift. This isn’t the gift the groom gives the bride. This is the gift that the best man and groomsmen give the groom before the ceremony. You’ll want to consult with the groomsmen to decide on a budget and a gift. It can be something as simple as a board game that the groom will love or as extravagant as Rolex. The choice is yours, but be sure whatever you choose won’t be too much of a financial burden to the groomsmen.
This gift makes for a great photo opportunity as well, so be sure have it wrapped by a professional. The wedding photographer will be able to get some great pictures of the groom opening the gift and his reaction when he sees it. In my experience, these photos are always great because the groom get an enormous smile on his face when he sees the gift.
Plan A Best Man Speech
The best man needs to have a speech prepared. If you’re anything like the majority of the population, the thought of giving a speech is enough to bring on a full panic attack. The best way to minimize this is to prepare early and practice. Look at some example speeches online and start making a rough draft. Fine tune it as you go and really make it your own.
Practicing with family and friends will help you in many ways. It will make you more confident and less nervous which will keep your voice steady. You’ll also be able to hear how it sounds when you say it out loud, which is extremely valuable. Many times, things sound different in our head than they do when we say it out loud, so this is a great chance to get feedback and work out any kinks.
Keep the speech short and relatable. By this, I mean don’t make it so personal to the bride and groom that none of the guests can understand what you are talking about. For personal sentiment or reminiscing, it’s best to give the bride and groom a card or personal note rather than include it in a speech. In my experience, people tend to get very loud when they are nervous. Practicing your speech will also help with this. Watch your volume so the guests sitting near the speakers don’t have to shield their ears.
Help Plan The Honeymoon
You don’t need to get too involved here, but help where you can. The bride and groom have probably been dreaming about their honeymoon since the moment they became engaged, so you won’t need to offer many suggestions. What you will need to do is make any arrangements they need. Offer to book the flight or plan the hotel stays they will need while on vacation. Arrange for any tours at the attractions they want to see.
The bride and groom have been so busy planning the wedding that the details of planning the honeymoon can slip through the cracks. It’s your job to make sure nothing slips through.
Wedding Day Responsibilities
Be The Go-To Person
The groom will be busy, but decisions will still need to be made. The bride and groom will likely still need to communicate with each other for a few things, but if they have chosen to not see each other before the ceremony, this can be difficult. The best man is the point person for the day. If any issue arises, you need to handle it. You are the contact person for anyone needing to communicate with the groom.
I’ll be blunt here. Your biggest job on the wedding day is to keep the groomsmen under control. This is no easy task. If you are up for the challenge, you’ll have your hands full. Believe me. After photographing countless weddings, I can assure you that your efforts here will not be wasted. The groomsmen are notoriously difficult to photograph and your photographer WILL need help wrangling them all and getting them to behave for long enough to complete the formal portraits.
Your first task will be to arrange for transportation. If the groom and groomsmen are not getting ready at the venue, you’ll need to arrange for transportation to the ceremony. There are some really fun options like renting a limo or a limo bus which can transport you all at the same time. If that’s not an option, make sure you are carpooling and everyone knows where to go and when. You’ll be in charge of getting them there on time.
You’ll be in charge of the groomsmen throughout the day as well. When it’s time the wedding party photos, you’ll be the one to calm the high energy levels and help the photographer get the photos she needs. Keep the guys close to the picture area when they aren’t getting their pictures taken so they don’t wander off and miss their turn later. The faster the wedding party pictures go, the happier everyone will be.
Don’t lose the rings. Just don’t.
Be A Witness
The best man and maid of honor usually serve a the witnesses for the wedding ceremony. You’ll need to sign the marriage license when instructed to do so. Be sure to follow the officiant’s instructions carefully. This isn’t the time to be distracted. One small mistake on the marriage license can cause serious delays in the county issuing the marriage certificate, so pay attention to the instructions the officiant gives you.
Stay Until The End
After the bride and groom leave for the evening, you need to make sure all loose ends are tied up. If anything needs to be finalized with the venue, be sure to do that before leaving. Many venues impose hefty fines for leaving a mess behind, so be sure to check that everything has been done before you leave.
It’s a good idea to talk with the bride and groom before the wedding day about what you’ll need to do after the reception is over. Have a checklist of everything you need to do so you don’t forget anything after a long day of entertaining. Believe me, it will be an amazing day, but at the end of it, you will be exhausted. If the bride and groom have a coordinator, you won’t need to do anything after the reception. If they don’t have one, you will likely have a few minor things to clean up before heading home.
Being chosen as best man is a great honor and a great responsibility. Do your best to be there to help the bride and groom every step of the way and they’ll know they chose the best person for the job. You’ll have a blast while getting to spend time with one of your best friends. It’s a win all around.