Let’s get back to basics here for a moment. If you have been chosen to serve as someone’s best man at an upcoming wedding, that’s because someone considers you to be the BEST person for the job.  With honour comes responsibility, folks.

Just be thankful we’ve come a ways since the good ol’ days. Back then, the original duty of a “best man” was apparently to serve as armed backup for the groom in case he had to resort to kidnapping his intended bride away from disapproving parents. The “best” part of that title refers to his skill with a sword, should the need arise. (You wouldn’t want the “just okay” member of your weapon-wielding posse accompanying you when you set out to steal yourself a wife, would you?)

The best man would stand guard next to the groom right up through the exchange of vows (and later, outside the newlyweds’ bedroom door), just in case anyone should decide to attack or a skittish bride should try to make a run for it.

Huns, Goths and Visigoths are said to have taken so many brides by force that they kept a cache of weapons stored beneath the floorboards of churches for convenience.

So, nowadays, no swordsmanship or weaponry skills required. But you do have the duty of having the groom’s back on his special day, That said, certain obligations you’re expected to fulfill are just common sense.  No need to tell you to show up on time, be of good cheer, be helpful, serve as as a go-fer if necessary, keep the rings safe, calm a jittery groom, etc.

However, sometimes less obvious are pitfalls to avoid–particularly when you are delivering your “best man speech’ and/or toasting the happy couple. Here’s a quick list of Danger! Beware! ‘s that I recommend:

  1. Don’t mention exes (especially if you’ve had a previous relationship with the bride…or the groom!)
  2. Don’t try to upstage the groom (or anyone else for that matter)
  3. Don’t insult/demean/bad-mouth the groom (though gentle teasing is ok.) This is NOT a roast!
  4. Don’t respond to hecklers argumentatively.
  5. Don’t try to be funny if you’re not. Sincerity trumps subjective humor every time.
  6. Don’t speak negatively about the future in-laws.
  7. Don’t reveal confidences: the groom may have told you things in private he does not wish to share with everyone he knows best in the world!
  8. Don’t take advantage of your close relationship with the bride and groom by peppering your speech with inside jokes. The remaining 99% of the audience will not appreciate this.
  9. Don’t give advice in areas in which you have no expertise: if you’re single, no sage words about “handling” a spouse; if you’re not a parent, no lessons on how to raise a child!
  10. Don’t, under any circumstances, “wing it.” You have been entrusted with an honour. And you need to acquit yourself honorably by preparing a speech or toast AND practising it beforehand so you can deliver it confidently and sincerely.

Oh, and one for the road.  You know this.  I KNOW you know this.  Don’t drink too much before you deliver that speech.  Save the shots for later, once your formal duties have been performed!

Do you have your own “bewares” for the best man?  Do you have your own cringe-worthy examples of inappropriate best man behavior—word or deed—that you’d like to share?  We’d love to hear them!