What Do we Really Know About the Best Man?
We’ve all seen the Best Man at weddings. He’s often the goofy, confident guy who wins everyone over with an endearing speech about the couple of the night followed by a hilarious roast of the groom. He’s almost like a wedding celebrity. But to be honest, my knowledge of the Best Man is limited to stereotypes I’ve seen for years in Hollywood rom-coms and of course Ross at Chandler and Monica’s wedding (if you don’t get that reference, congratulations! You have good taste in television shows).
I was curious to find out what exactly the role of a Best Man was, when the term was originated and how true we are to its definition in weddings that take place today. So, let’s dive in and find out more about the Best Man so that I can talk about it in future conversations without referring to examples from pop culture.
What is the Best Man Supposed to Do?
From what I have gathered, the Best Man or the “Bride’s Knight” as they were called centuries ago is essentially the groom’s sidekick. One might say the Groom and the Best Man are like Mario and Luigi. However, instead of being involved in cool missions such as Luigi helping Mario get to the princess, in this case Mario is the creep who hunts around his village looking for the girls he finds most desirable. He then kidnaps her with the help of Luigi to forcefully make her his princess. Score: Misogyny- 100000 women-0.
Yup, you read that right, the Best Man’s primary job was to help the groom find his mate by force because in the 16th century the population of women compared to men was significantly decreasing. So, like bargain hunters at a clearance sale, the German Goths were on the hunt to find a mate with the help of their Best Man and/or accomplice to kidnapping.
The Best Man did not come without accessories, after all this was like a patriarchal video game. He was given the title “Best” for his superior ability at handling a sword which he carried at all times in case he had to go into war with the brides unwilling family. The sword also came in handy when he had to cancel out the competition for the limited number of women in the area. Because after all, whether the woman agreed to the marriage was irrelevant, it was more of a finders’ keepers kind of deal. If all this wasn’t strange enough, the Best Man also stood outside the couple’s bedroom after the wedding was over in case of a possible attack or if the bride decided to flee the scene.
Kidnapper Demoted to Non-Violent Best Friend
Luckily, as everything evolves with the times, so did the role of the Best Man. Instead of forcefully abducting young women, all the Best Man has to do now is support the groom and be a part of his big day, and of course plan an unforgettable Bachelor party. That actually might be the only purpose of the Best Man.
In other parts of the world, the duties a Best Man has to perform are quite different. In Uganda for example, the Best Man is sort of like the guiding light for the newlyweds. He must be married himself in order to qualify for the role and his job is to offer marriage advice to the couple whenever they require some guidance.
In India, although we do not have the Best Man, the grooms closest friends have to protect the groom’s shoes from being stolen at the wedding by the bride’s side of the family. If they fail to find the shoes in time, the groom will have to pay a certain amount of money demanded by the bride’s friends or her sisters. This is an old tradition at Indian weddings and continues to this day.
The Life of The Party
The Best Man is the life of the party, the confidant of the groom and if he gets lucky, a dance partner to a lovely single lady at the wedding. These current roles may not hold up to their original intention (thank goodness) and they might not even mean much to some people. But for some having these roles at weddings is exciting. It’s like performing in a play where everyone has a distinct but important role in making sure the wedding is spectacular. And there’s always that element of suspense when the groom has to decide amongst his friends who his Best Man will be followed by some drama and competition to win the title. Okay, that might be just be what happened in Friends, never mind.
I know you were probably expecting a lighthearted story about why we have the role of the Best Man at weddings and quite frankly, so was I. But sadly, this was and is still a common practice in many parts of the world.
However, it is not just the role of Best Man that has a weird history behind it. Traditionally, bridesmaids were meant to wear wedding dresses as well. This was their way of avoiding becoming targets of evil spirits because if they all wore white; the spirits would not be able to identify the actual bride. Sixpences were and are still used as a way to protect the bride and it is the bride’s father who places one in her shoe before the wedding commences. It is very interesting to dig up the forgotten origins of many of our common wedding practices today, some would be wonderful to revisit but others, such as sword fighting at the altar, are better off left behind with history.