Best Man Duties
Protocol Matters received this two part Question: My husband is best man at my brother’s wedding. What are his duties before, during, and after the big day? Do I have any responsibilities as the wife of the best man?
Answer: Your questions are good ones, especially since brothers or cousins are often asked to be a best man, and how they handle this important role can impact the wedding (as well as future relations) for better or for worse. Kudos to you and your husband that you care enough to do some advance footwork. I think you’ll find the general protocol helpful… the first part of your question is answered below and a post answering the second part follows in a few days.
Your question also shows that you realize the importance of this honor and that it involves definite responsibilities as the groom’s aide. His is a key role in overseeing various aspects before, during, and after the wedding. While weddings are joyful and special occasions, they can also be very stressful, especially for the fellows involved. Knowing what to do ahead of time is a huge stress reliever.
First thing, when asked to be best man, is talk to the groom (and the bride) about expected duties so everyone starts off on the same page. Even when a wedding coordinator is involved, the best man still had certain jobs assisting the groom and keeping the groomsmen/ushers organized. (The terms groomsmen and ushers are often interchangeable. I’ll refer to them as groomsmen).
Here’s a quick check list of a best man’s usual duties. A few responsibilities may vary slightly here and there, depending on the couple and their desired situation, but these items covers the usual basics.
Many days before the wedding, the best man:
Helps, when asked, to select wedding attire for groomsmen. His duties also include the organization of their fittings –with more than ample time for alterations, adjustments or tailoring.
The best man and groomsmen generally pay for their own wedding attire, whether rented or purchased. Because of this, the bridal couple should consider the best man’s opinion about what he and the other groomsmen wear.
Plans, arranges and organizes the bachelor party: Simple or elaborate, with or without entertainment, the best man considers the groom’s preferences and the participants’ budget…whether its golf, barbecue, ball game, charter cruise, or whatever, all participants contribute and split costs for the party expenses.
There are online sites that offer some ideas for bachelor parties. You’ll have to use discernment as to what is appropriate and worthwhile. This get together should be memorable without regrets and enjoyable. The best man sets the tone.
Selects and purchases a joint “groomsmen” gift for the groom that he gives to the groom on night of the bachelor party. All groomsmen chip in and contribute toward this gift. The groom also presents his gifts to the groomsmen at this time.
Informs the groomsmen about all wedding time schedules and any changes in plans. He makes sure they arrive ahead of time for everything that involves them. Reminds the groom to remember the marriage license.
A few days before the wedding, the best man:
Thinks strategically: He clears his schedule as much as possible so he’s available to help out or run errands in any way necessary. He keeps his cell phone charged and has contact numbers for the groomsmen.
Last minute details can be many. Unless his memory is elephantine under pressure, he makes a check list of his duties for the next couple days so nothing is forgotten or overlooked in the bustling excitement of the event.
Thinks travel agent: he inquires if the groom would like him to re-confirm any honeymoon travel reservations or if the couple needs transportation to an airport or another place after the reception. The best man never divulges honeymoon plans… disclosure rights belong to the bridal couple, if they so choose.
Thinks valet: he double checks the groom’s wedding attire to make sure all is in order, clean and ready to go. He also reconfirms all is in order with the groomsmen attire.
Thinks and double checks two important details: he makes sure the groom’s payment, if paying any ministerial fees, is placed in a sealed envelope (with written name on the front) so he, the best man, can give discreetly and privately hand it to the presiding minister just prior to or after the ceremony when signing the marriage license, which is the second item to double check with the groom, who could happen to forget to bring this crucial document with him.
Thinks toast master: He attends the rehearsal dinner. Beforehand, he oversees, encourages, and checks on who will be giving various toasts at the dinner. The best man may offer the first toast or may defer to fathers’ of the couple in leading the toasts at this dinner. Some fathers don’t toast. In that, case, the best man should be quick to offer the first toast.
He extends best wishes to the bridal couple, the bride to be, the groom, and he thanks to the dinner hosts. He makes a few short positive comments (but never about the bachelor party or negative “roast” sentiments).
Other groomsmen and friends may also offer toasts. Keep a toast short-only three or so minutes long. You’ll find more helpful discussion on toasting in the book, Protocol Matters. I also like John Bridge’s and Bryan Curtis’ book: A Gentleman Raises His Glass. You can find both books online or at your favorite bookstore.
Thinks chauffeur: During this busy before wedding day time, the best man offers to help arrange transportation for out of town and wedding party members who may need a ride. He double checks with the groom, bride and parents to cover all the bases so no one’s left behind. This is very helpful if some do not have access to a car or limousine.
Thinks calm: He’s the groom’s right hand man and when that best hand remains steady and relaxed plus efficient, it contributes to the groom’s composure.
Performs valet duties: He helps the groom get dressed and to wedding on time-in fact, ahead of time. This means double checking his watch and the groom’s clothes so is nothing forgotten. Missing items at the last minute, such as cufflinks or shoes, cause nervous jitters. He may also help with the groom’s luggage so it is in his steady hand and ready to go. Usually the best man drives the groom to the ceremony location.
Keeps the Ring(s): The best man has the responsibility for the wedding ring(s) at the ceremony, which he safely keeps in a deep pocket. Some suggest the inside vest pocket. When there’s a ring bearer, the best man makes sure the youngster understands his “job” without the child feeling overwhelmed. He securely fastens the ring to the ring pillow. Experienced consultants suggest pinning a substitute ring on the pillow to avoid complications. One young ring bearer took his little job so seriously; he refused to part with the real ring and cried -quite loudly-when it was given to the groom.
Marriage license reminder & witness: Once again, he makes sure the groom has the marriage license with him, ready for signing after the ceremony. As an official witness, the best man signs the marriage license after the ceremony at the designated time.
He makes sure that all groomsmen are properly dressed properly ahead of the actual required time for any photos and long before guests arrive. This includes all boutonnieres rightly placed on lapels. He also makes sure that the groomsmen understand seating arrangements that were explained at the rehearsal.
During the Wedding Ceremony:
The best man enters with and stands next to the groom as the ceremony begins.
The best man escorts the maid or matron of honor down the aisle after the ceremony and then returns to escort the mother of the bride from the room or sanctuary.
The best man escorts or drives the bridal couple to the reception when it occurs in another location from the ceremony unless other arrangements have been made.
The best man mingles with guests. He acts as a co-host by welcoming people after they have passed through the reception line. He provides any necessary directions as to drinks or table locations. He gladly makes introductions as necessary, and enjoys meeting the guests, which makes them feel comfortably welcome. If he sees someone needing assistance, he offers it, or asks one of the groomsmen to help. Serving others always creates a warm and friendly atmosphere.
He oversees and leads the toasts. This, like the rehearsal dinner, requires that he beforehand organize and provide cues on when to toast. He should also stipulate beforehand that the toast need not be long. The three minute rule is very necessary when multiple toasts are offered. Many receptions follow this traditional order:
The best man offers the first toast to the bride. The groom then toasts the bride. The bride may toast her groom. The father of the bride toasts the couple. The bride may or may not toast the groom’s parents. The groom toasts his bride’s parents. The father of the groom toasts the bride. The mother may toast the couple, followed by other relatives and close friends of the bridal couple. Increasingly, the bride’s honor attendant likes to toast the couple as well. If so, she follows the groom’s toast to the bride’s parents.
When this is not the full order, the best man still leads with the first toast, and both fathers should offer toasts as well as the groom. Toasting is a wonderful tradition. I encourage its expressions of honor and gratitude, but don’t wait until the last minute to plan what will be said, or who will toast.
The best man dances once with the bride, maid or matron of honor, and mothers of the bridal couple during reception time after the bridal couple have finished their “duty dances” . Thoughtful extras include dances with bridesmaids, sisters, and other ladies.
The best man assists the groom with his tuxedo change after the reception. The best man is responsible for the cleaning or returning of the groom’s wedding clothes. He also makes sure that any rented tuxedos will be returned in a timely manner.
He makes sure the couple’s luggage gets to the car (often having just been decorated by the bridal party and friends , of which he may be a part and help orchestrate). If a limousine is used, the best man coordinates any decorating with permission as well as the luggage loading with the limo driver. This attention to detail helps the bridal couple make an easy “get-away”.
Finally, has the responsibility to see that any gifts, cards and envelopes brought to the reception are collected and secured until they can be later given to the couple. The bride’s parents may have a plan for this, and if so, he and all the groomsmen should lend assistance before they depart.
Now, we see why the best man is so named…such a friend and helper to the groom during this memorable and special occasion.