How to be the best Best Man possible

Readers, we know you love a post from a man here on AOW, so we have a treat for you today. Matt has ever so kindly written (really, really well) about his experience of being a best man, and I’m pretty sure that any of you yet to be married are going to be forwarding this on to all of your men’s best men as the perfect example of how to be a best man. It’s pretty simple really: be considerate, understand what your groom (and bride) need from you, and don’t shave off the groom’s eyebrows/force him to go to a strip club/tie him naked to a lampost…

Mark asked me to be his best man when we were 20. “It’s very nice of you,” I replied, “and I would love to, but aren’t you getting this the wrong way round?” “Why?” he asked. “Because,” I said, “you haven’t even got a girlfriend at the moment.”

Two years later I was in Australia, enduring a surreal Christmas amongst a group of Filipino mail order brides-

(I think this needs further explanation. I was staying with my uncle whose (possibly) mail order bride was friends with lots of (definite) mail order brides. Their husbands were (without exception) shits who made my skin crawl. So I spent my time helping the ladies in the kitchen (they found this extraordinary – a man! who made conversation with them! and cooked!), whilst listening to their (also without exception) very sad life stories. It was a pretty desperate Christmas.)

Anyway. That Christmas Eve I opened a letter from Mark which explained that he’d met a girl at university. My last journal entry that Christmas Day reads: “I think Mark’s met his wife. She’s called Louise and thank god he didn’t buy her from a brochure.”

Eight years later the date had been set and I was clear on one thing: I would be the best man he wanted me to be. He didn’t want to be humiliated, I didn’t want to humiliate him and no-one would be dressing like zany bank clerks on Children in Need Day.

(As a side point, you would be astonished, or at least I am, how many men admit to dreading, and hating, the stag experience. And yet they still go through with it like they have no option. I’m baffled why any friend would put another friend through that – and why anyone would allow themselves to suffer it.)

Traditionally the best man is afraid of the speech, but I found the stag weekend toughest. Entertaining 17 men was hard enough, but I also wanted to ensure no-one felt under any financial pressure (that happens a lot as well). I took £150 off everyone and rashly promised two nights accommodation, flights and transfers to a mystery destination. I was quite surprised they trusted me and even more surprised when I pulled it off.

We went to Galway and had a great time. No wackiness, no degradation, football on the beach, pitch and putt, two great nights out, a funny hotel and I even organised a bizarre road-trip on a charabanc (driven by a 73-year-old) to the village the groom’s great-grandfather hailed from. We sat in an old pub, drinking Guinness, watching the horse I had lobbed the last of the travel kitty on win the Derby at 9/1. Bonus.

On the big day itself the ceremony went without a hitch. I did a reading because I always do readings (I’m beginning to think my family and friends can’t read). With the exception of a christening (when I accidentally frightened my mother into thinking I was about to read Phillip Larkin’s poem about what your mum and your dad do to you – Google it to appreciate her horror) I’ve always got away with it.

I had done very little research on best man’s duties. Instead I thought about other weddings I had been to and I asked Mark and Louise what they wanted me to do. I knew Mark was uncomfortable about the attention and ceremony of the day. And watching brides at previous weddings (especially my sister’s) I was aware of that  … brittleness. I’m not sure that’s the right word. I’m just always conscious that so much is going through their heads; lots of joy but also a slight fear that their special day is about to go wrong. When I see that I always want to help and on this day I knew I had the perfect excuse. In fact I had no excuse not to help.

We decided that, as a single man not scared of making a fool of himself, I should be a trouble-shooter. So I bossed people about (when necessary), I helped the photographer, I bought drinks for the aunties and anything else unforeseen. I also did a sweepstake, an excuse to go round the tables making sure people were talking to each other, or having a good time, or if they needed anything. I figured if the guests had a great day, the bride and groom would pick up on it. I also know that English people are a bit silly – they’d tell me stuff they wouldn’t say to staff or relatives which I could then do something about it. I liked it when Louise got my attention, flicked her eyes at something, I followed her gaze, nodded and then sorted whatever it was she’d seen. Being a dogsbody was the most satisfying thing I did all day.

(Interesting (possibly): the process of writing the above made me self-conscious that I had been too active. I even called Mark and Louise to check. “What are you talking about?!” they asked. Phew.)

What about the speech? The first issue was easy – I can’t tell jokes so I didn’t try. Why attempt something you’re not comfortable with and bound to fail at? I’m not bad at stories though. So that’s what I did (I also pretended to read the letter I had received eight years before). Towards the end I scrapped my vague plan and ad-libbed. “Sometimes at weddings,” I said, “you feel like you’re there to celebrate a friend getting married. Today has been special, though, because we’re all here to celebrate two friends getting married.” It got a massive response and was the single most memorable thing I did as best man. That doesn’t sound very humble, but the point I’m trying to make is this – you have to trust yourself react to the day and not be afraid to change something at the last minute.

Once the meal was over I had a great time. I had so many drinks bought for me I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn’t my big day. (That’s a joke. Kind of.)

The night ended with a special moment. Two single people at the wedding had been getting on well. He told her he was an engineer and she said she really liked engineer’s uniforms (who knew there was such a thing? not me). Which is why, at 2 am, this lovely (but slightly gauche) guy entered the bar, to stunned silence, with a spirit level in his hands, wearing a hard hat, steel-capped boots, a high-visibility jacket and a pair of pants. Wow.

Next morning we saw him sat alone at breakfast looking sheepish. I wasn’t having any of that. In my world the greatest thing you can do is make a complete idiot of yourself and then laugh about it. What are weddings about if not great memories and stories? He’d contributed a brilliant one and we all loved it. I wanted him to as well. I don’t know if you call that my last duty but it kind of felt like it.

Categories: Any Other Wedding, Family, Friends and Relationships, Wedding Planning
25 interesting thoughts on this

24 Comments

  1. Carly
    Posted June 12, 2012 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    Brilliant. Just brilliant! I’ll be forwarding this to our very scared best man ASAP!

    I hope someone strips to their pants at our wedding.

  2. Posted June 12, 2012 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    This is so well written and you sound like you were a properly AMAZING best man.

  3. Posted June 12, 2012 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    How lovely! James is having a best man team as he’s got a group of close friends but no bestie and can easily assign speech, rings and other jobs but is struggling with who to give stag duties to as none of them would organise what he’d like to do. Any tips Matt?

    • Matt
      Posted June 12, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps he should just bring the subject up? Tell one of them that his ideal weekend would include X, Y & Z, that enjoying the weekend is important to him & that something else would be a disappointment. Or blackmail. (Joke.) Hope it goes well for him!

  4. Posted June 12, 2012 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    Brilliant post, Matt it sounds like you were a fabulous best man!

    Amy, Gareth had two best men and he was worried neither would organise the stag he wanted, so he told them what he wanted them to organise and they did it. He had a great weekend watching rugby, drinking and doing nothing he didn’t want to do :-)

    His best men also gave a cracking speech, it involved Gareth and I going up and playing a game of Mr & Mrs, which was fun-if-somewhat-terrifying :-p

    K x

    • Posted June 12, 2012 at 11:15 am | Permalink

      Katie that sounds hilarious! Can’t wait to hear more!

  5. Mahj
    Posted June 12, 2012 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    This is awesome awesomery. Matt, you are quite clearly the man!

    xoxo

  6. Posted June 12, 2012 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    Oh you sound like you were the best Best Man of all time! This had me spilling coffee from my nose. Brilliantly written. We need more men on AOW!

  7. Posted June 12, 2012 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    What a best man!! Matt, you sound like you did the groom (and everyone else present) very proud!

  8. Steff
    Posted June 12, 2012 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    This is all kinds of fabulousness!! Love it. It’s such a shame that the Stag experience is dreaded by so many guys – well done you bucking the trend (no pun intended…). xx

  9. Esme
    Posted June 12, 2012 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    Brilliant! I find it really interesting that you mention that most guys are terrified of the idea of the stag do – why have all the bravado, then?

    When a best man does a great job, it’s so lovely. For me, I really enjoyed seeing Tom’s friendship go to the next level.

    Can we hire you out, Matt, to brides who don’t like their groom’s best man?

    • Matt
      Posted June 12, 2012 at 11:44 am | Permalink

      Esme and Steff – I use a (mostly) male online community that operates a bit like this one (sport was the original topic but we’ve all become weirdly close friends – I’m sure many of you would understand – and discuss everything). Most of the time my friends on there amaze me with their ability to be intelligent and stand out from the crowd with their behaviour and thinking. But, here are a few quotes about stag weekends …
      “I’m dreading mine.” “I’m not relishing it one iota.” “I’m bricking it. My best man tells me that it’s going to be the longest, most painful weekend of my life. Can’t wait for Sunday evening when I’m home again.” And – “I’m so annoyed at the ‘need’ to ‘ruin’ the stag. In the worst cases it takes over the whole thing and totally derails any enjoyment anyone, let alone the stag, might have had. But I join in because you do.”
      It’s curious. If some men want that experience they should have it, but I find it quite depressing that men who don’t are too weak to do something about it.

  10. Peridot
    Posted June 12, 2012 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    You sound as if you were a truly IMMENSE best man. You should definitely do it professionally! Actually I’m thinking of setting up a company hiring out families for weddings (you know, the sort you WISH you had) – maybe I could expand to a best man too…

    • Matt
      Posted June 12, 2012 at 11:12 am | Permalink

      I like this idea more than is probably sensible. Count me in.

  11. Matt
    Posted June 12, 2012 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    There is a new number one in the Scariest Best Man’s Duties hit parade – clicking on “11 interesting thoughts on this”.
    I’ve spent the last 20 minutes feeling a bit like Robert Carlyle’s character in the final scene of The Full Monty (I even put You Can Leave Your Hat On on YouTube for motivation).
    But the comments are lovely so thank you very much. I really enjoyed writing it. If I ever get married I shall return as AOM.

    • Posted June 12, 2012 at 11:16 am | Permalink

      Ha ha ha! Yes – you MUST write more for AOW.

  12. Beth
    Posted June 12, 2012 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    Great post, Matt. I think you’ve summed up beautifully how important friendship (and showing it) is to making an awesome wedding for the bride and groom and for all their guests. I just love weddings where simply everyone is beaming from ear to ear and it sounds like you played a big part in making this wedding one of those! Oh, and I have to ask, where did the guy find the spirit level? Or did he just happen to have his engineering uniform with him?!

    • Matt
      Posted June 12, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

      He kept his spirit level in the boot of his car, Beth. It was an amazingly brilliant moment when he walked through the door. It was almost as if he didn’t see anyone but her. Like he was in his own little bubble.

      • Beth
        Posted June 12, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

        Wow, sheer brilliance! Love it. It sounds like a moment in a romcom, but so much better for being real life.

  13. Posted June 12, 2012 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    I think this might be my favourite blog post ever.

  14. Posted June 13, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    How are you not married already?

    Ps. The romantic in me wondered if you were going to be the man at the end who stripped to his pants for the single lady, and that now you’re getting married. I know, I am a loser.

  15. Posted June 15, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    So happy reading all the comments on this post. I bullied Matt in to sending this in and so glad he did and that I get to be his friend.

    There really must be a lovely AOW reader out there that should marry him!..

One Trackback

  • By Life’s little irritations… on June 14, 2012 at 9:05 am

    [...] not diverse. This week we’ve covered topics as wide ranging as alcoholism in your family to how to be the best possible best-man, we’ve had way too many pictures of a smushy baby with food all over her [...]

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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