The Official (and Unofficial) Duties of the Best Man

Photo by Gitte & Ropate Kama

Not surprisingly, the wedding-porn suggests that the best man has a critical duty that will require every last drop of his intelligence, time, organizational prowess, and strength of character. Amongst the other responsibilities, for example, The Knot helpfully suggests that the best man should “Throw together a scrapbook.”

Um…yeah. That’s like saying that your barber needs to have a heart of gold, a generous spirit, and a conversational repertoire that lets him discuss everything from Kobe Bryant to Alan Greenspan to Voltaire. It ain’t that complicated; your barber cuts your hair, your best man holds the rings and stumbles through a speech.

Yes, of course he has some additional duties, both official and unofficial. But don’t fret about whether your best friend is “up to the challenge.” He’ll be fine. Even if Pothead Chucky can’t be trusted with some of the more detail-oriented tasks (coordinating the tuxes, say), it’s not a deal-breaker; just delegate to someone else.

The official and unofficial duties of the Best Man:

Escort the maid of honor down the aisle

During the ceremony, escort the maid of honor down the aisle. Pretty self-explanatory.

Escort the maid of honor into the bedroom

After the ceremony, escort the maid of honor into the bedroom. Pretty self-explanatory. There’s actually a grain of truth to this. No, sex isn’t (necessarily) on the menu, but a good best man will mingle with the bridesmaids, flirt, dance (with both moms), and help ensure that the reception feels like a party, not a funeral.

Be your ring-bearer

You have a genetic duty to roll your eyes at celebrity gossip, but this Us Weekly-ish story says it all. Reese Witherspoon wanted a dog to be the ring-bearer for a potential wedding with Jake Gyllenhaal. If a dog can be trusted with this job, then even Pothead Chucky can handle stuffing two rings in his pocket.

Serve your body-man

Every United States President has a “body man”—remember Charlie from the West Wing? The body man is always by the president’s side to help with cuff-links, fetch important documents—basically, to do everything but floss his teeth and wipe his ass. This service is yours for one day. Don’t let it go to your head.

Plan the bachelor party

He should obviously seek input from both the groom and the other groomsmen, but it’s his job to coordinate, execute, and fire up group morale.

Watch your back (and crotch) at the bachelor party

A good best man will ensure that even when the groom is drunker than a pre-rehab Lindsay Lohan, he always keeps his junk in the trunk.

Give a toast, not a roast at the reception

Bonus points if he avoids discussing ex-girlfriends, those good ‘ol days of doing blow in the bathroom, and genital warts. 

See also: Best Man Wedding Toast – Ideas and Guidance

Herd cats

The best man needs to wrangle the groomsmen and make sure they’re in the right place at the right time, figure out that damn bow tie (see the video here), switch off their cell phones, and keep the flasks hidden inside their jacket pocket.

Sign the marriage license

Make damn sure the groom has the marriage license

Ensure that the ushers know what the hell they’re doing

Warm your feet

When the groom gets cold feet, it’s the best man’s job to talk him down from the ledge, reassure him, whack him on the shoulder and get him back in the game. It’s the most important role. The best man is the confidant. The one person who will patiently listen—without judgment—to complaints, confessions, bitching, and questions about what in holy hell the groom got himself into. And he takes it all in stride. He’s the rock.

Help pick out the formalwear

Maybe. Technically this is the groom’s responsibility, but in reality the bride will have a better idea of what outfits will match the bridesmaids’. When it comes to the monkey suits, the best man’s more pressing task is to coordinate with the groomsmen. He should send a series of check-in e-mails to ensure they know their measurements, have picked up their tuxes, and have remembered to pack them for the plane. (I’ve been there. You can’t take this stuff for granted.)

Pinch-hit as the MC

If the band cancels or if the DJ gets run over by a bus, then it’s the best man’s responsibility to fill in as MC. A good one will crack a few jokes, shepherd the crowd to the dance floor, and introduce the key players to the crowd.

Hit the pre-parties

The best man needs to go to the engagement party, the rehearsal dinner, the actual rehearsal, basically everything but the honeymoon.

Guard the loot

At far too many weddings, at the end of the night, everyone gets plastered and forgets about the mountain of wedding presents, leaving it ripe for theft (less likely) or abandonment (more likely). The best man and the groomsmen should pick up the slack by monitoring the goods (including any checks the groom might have received), guarding the stash, then transporting it somewhere safe. And while we’re on the subject…you can cut down on this risk by encouraging the use of a gift registry, which encourages guests to mail their gifts, not awkwardly bring them in person.

Spring the getaway

The best man needs to help with the couple’s “exit strategy” from the reception. He should assist with the luggage, transportation, hotel check-out, and tying up any loose ends with the vendors or reception hall. In other words, his final responsibility is to:

Get shafted

He needs to eat dirt and pretend he just friggin loves it!, doing anything and everything else that’s asked of him.

Next up: an in-depth look at the best man’s duties in planning the bachelor party.

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