Being a best man?

Published date: 12th January 2019

We’ve covered the duties of the Best Man in a previous post here, and given some pointers about making that speech, but thought it worth a brief look at what the experience actually is, or can be, like.

First and foremost you really should take being asked as a big honour. You’re being trusted to support the couple on their big day, and it marks you out as a special friend. So if you don’t in truth regard them as close friends, it is best to back out diplomatically, otherwise you’ll find yourself wondering why you are doing all this stuff when you are lukewarm about them.

The whole wedding thing has changed over the last three decades. Time was ‘stag do’ meant a night in the pub with a few mates, get hammered, tell stories, be sick, go to bed. Now the BM is often expected to arrange some massive blokey bonding experience, possibly abroad: an unpaid travel agent. The hard graft is the downside, the fun is the up.

If you don’t cope well with stress… On the day it’s you who has to cover for the unexpected – the groom has forgotten something – he cannot go back for it (bad luck and he may be missed at the ceremony if it takes too long) so you do. Photographer late? – you call them. Cars don’t arrive – you drive. You are a valet, chauffeur, PA, runner all rolled into one. And fall guy – if there are hitches, expect to be mobbed by irate aunts and grumbling grannies: ‘Young man, where are the cars?’ The real nightmare btw is if either bride or groom doesn’t arrive: not only is it your job to break the news and comfort which ever has shown up, but it is clearly your fault, and moreover you should be simultaneously elsewhere trying to find the escapee.

That stress is most visible in the Best Man Flinch: the ring pocket patted with increasing frequency until the damn things have finally been handed over. A tip here: if someone says keep them on your little finger so you can hand them over fast, smile nicely and walk away. Little finger, big rings, they slip off, roll, fall down a drain cover and the day turns into a 1980s comedy movie. In a little box in a pattable pocket. And relax, you are taking them to a wedding ceremony, not bloody Mordor.

What most of us think first when asked to do the BM duties is: AAAAGGHHHH!!! SPEECH!! About 96.89% of men would rather juggle chainsaws than do public speaking. But you have to. So make it easy on yourself: waiting to the last minute to write it is mad – stretching out the stress to the max. Get a draft written long long before the day, and have a good friend check it out for you – someone close enough to tell you to cut the jokes because you can’t carry them off. A few rules: KISS – keep it simple stupid. Brevity is the soul of wit. It’s about them not you. Don’t mention anyone’s exes. Make the appropriate thanks. And for god’s sake compliment the bride.

One thing to watch out for: you have to read a few cards (keep it to those from people not present btw): some mates try to sneak in reminders of the groom’s exes. My how they didn’t laugh.

As if nerves about the speech were not enough, nowadays many wedding plans require the BM and Chief Bridesmaid/Maid of Honour to do a post couple-first-dance first-dance of their own. Can you dance? Do you know the CB/MOH? Two options: shuffle through it with a forced smile; or – and this is the age of Strictly – take a couple of lessons and wow the whole party.

To the list of roles outlined above there’s occasionally another added at the reception: bouncer. We hope you don’t have family feuds, drunken brawls or gatecrashers to deal with, but if you do – where’s the Best Man?

But all in all you can take it from someone who’s done the job twice: it’s nervy, stressful, pretty thankless, and exhausting, but if you care about your friends it’s also totally worth doing.

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