Your friend got the girl, bought a ring, and dropped a knee. Now he’s bestowing the honor of best man upon you.
Now that you’re the official best man, you’re scheming the ultimate boozy, lose-all-your-inhibitions-and-maybe-your-dignity bachelor party (and here’s how to line up a stag night in some of the country’s greatest cities), channeling The Hangover’s Bradley Cooper for style points (obviously), and Zach Galifianakis for speech pointers (the dont’s, not the do’s).
But here’s the thing: Even if your buddy’s not as high-maintenance as his bride-to-be, you still have plenty of work to do besides a night in Vegas. “As the best man, you and the maid/matron of honor are basically co-hosting the wedding,” says Kristen Maxwell Cooper, executive editor of wedding-planning site The Knot. “You’re not just there to calm the groom’s nerves. You’re there to make sure everything is running smoothly and everyone is having a good time.”
Follow our expert tips and you’ll breeze through your time as a best man, from planning the bachelor party to delivering the best speech ever.
Everything a best man has to know and do
While every wedding and groom is different (duh), here are some of the most common best man responsibilities, according to Maxwell Cooper.
Before the wedding
You have two main duties here, and they both involve planning:
- Help the groom with wedding planning duties. Depending on how involved he is in planning, this might mean anything from picking out tuxes to shopping for venues to researching honeymoon destinations.
- Organize and host the bachelor party. By “host” we mean make sure everybody’s enjoying themselves and nobody’s taking out a second mortgage. You don’t have to pay for everything, but you should help coordinate travel and be on top of things early. No last-minute planning or half-baked ideas.
The day of the wedding
You and the groom don’t have to spend four hours getting your hair and makeup done, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get together for some pre-ceremony guy time, Maxwell Cooper says.
- At the very least, plan on getting ready with the groom (again, only if he wants it) and traveling to the venue together. In some weddings, guys will make a big deal out of this—rental limos with the groomsmen, grand appearances, the whole bit—but even if not, it’s your job to help him stay on schedule and look his best. Pro tip: If there’s a big group of groomsmen, let them know when and where to be beforehand. Bring a bunch of sandwiches and a few beers for everyone to enjoy before donning those tuxes.
- Get to know all the people being paid to help out at the wedding: Officiant, caterer, photographer, musicians, DJ, venue owner. Remember their names and have their contact info on hand. The groom will be way too focused on, y’know, getting married to deal with minor logistical issues ahead of a 200-person party. It’s your job, as his consigliere, to tackle those issues for him.
Bottom line: Your job is to get him to the ceremony—without losing his shit and questioning every major decision he’s ever made—on time and in one piece. Do whatever you need to do to make this happen.
During the ceremony
- During the ceremony, you may be expected to hold the rings—or at least the bride’s ring—until the vows are exchanged.
- You may also be expected to pay the officiant immediately following the ceremony (the groom should give you a sealed envelope).
- You’ll be expected to sign the marriage license as a witness alongside the maid/matron of honor.
During the party
The reception is where your co-hosting duties really come into play, according to Maxwell Cooper.
- There are a few end-of-the-night obligations you may have to attend to (for example, decorating the getaway car with the rest of the wedding party, or staying sober enough to drive the bride and groom to their wedding night hotel).
- Your main job as a “co-host” is to keep the party going. “You and the maid/matron of honor should be the first people on the dance floor, and you should stay on the dance floor,” Maxwell Cooper says. “If people are hesitant to start dancing, they should be able to look at you for confidence.”
- Aside from dancing up a storm, there’s one other responsibility you have during the reception: The best man speech. It’s the first speech of the night, which means you’re basically setting the tone for the rest of the toasts.
How to make the greatest best man speech
- Needless to say, you should start crafting your speech as early as possible. It should definitely be a planned-out speech, Maxwell Cooper says. Trust us—unless your job is literally public speaking, you do not want to get up in front of hundreds of people and ramble on about what a hilarious idiot your best friend is. In short, practice in front of friends and family.
- Kick things off with a knockout opening line. It’s totally fine to be playful and make some jokes. In fact, “It’s okay to tease the groom a little,” Maxwell Cooper says—but stay clear of the bride. It’s also not a bad idea to run joke ideas by a third party, like one of the groom’s siblings or the maid/matron of honor, to make sure you’re not accidentally treading into uncomfortable territory.
- “Remember, there are grandparents in the audience. Your speech should be tasteful and appropriate. Save the roast for the bachelor party,” she says. And when in doubt over a joke, leave it out.
Tips for planning an epic bachelor party
The bachelor party is pretty much the reason every guy dreams of being a best man. After all, who doesn’t want to plan a night (or a weekend) of harmless debauchery for their best friend? But the perfect bachelor party takes some planning. You don’t want it to totally flop, nor do you want to anyone to wake up buck naked with half an eyebrow shaved off, a bout of mild alcohol poisoning, and jerky crammed in their wallet in place of all their cards and cash. Here’s how to pull it off:
- The first step of bachelor party planning: Talk to the groom. It’s his party, even if you’re the one planning it. Figure out what he wants to do, who he wants to be there, and what he wants the theme of the night to be. Is he looking for a non-stop party or a quiet night in with his closest buddies? If you’re a bunch of fitness freaks and adventure addicts, book a weekend in a kickass locale that offers loads of outdoor activities.
- Once you’ve figured out what the groom wants, it’s time to talk to the guys: The groomsmen and any other guys the groom might want to invite along (such as brothers, cousins, or non-groomsmen friends) and figure out what’s feasible in terms of schedules and budgets. “You definitely want to honor the groom’s wishes,” Maxwell Cooper says. “But you also want to make sure it feels reasonable for everyone else.” Don’t forget to ask about inviting key guys from the the bride’s side of the family, whether friends or siblings—it’ll go a long way in making everyone feel welcome and included long after the wedding weekend.
- Practice your negotiating skills. If the groom wants a lavish weekend in Vegas, you may need to book cheaper accommodations and research budget-friendly food options to keep everyone happy and able to get in on the action.
Vegas is especially worth talking about. While it’s the ultimate bachelor party destination, it’s paradoxically unfriendly to large groups of guys.
“Nearly all Las Vegas nightclubs and pool parties require at least an even ratio of girls and guys to be allowed on the guest list,” says Jack Colton, founder of the eponymous Vegas nightlife guide JackColton.com. “Roughly speaking—and this could vary wildly depending on what the group wants to do, and when—a group of 10 guys can expect to spend between $200 and $400 each per nightclub or pool party they attend.”
Need more pointers on what to wear, how to act, and what to gift the bride and groom? Our wedding survival guide has everything you need to pull it off with class.
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