Better Life, The Latest

Building a Better Best Man

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Bachelordom is universally decreed to have come to its crashing end when it’s been successfully—in its best case, voluntarily—laid to rest at the literal and figurative altar of marriage. When that time comes, one thing is for certain: A Best Man will be chosen, and a Best Man shall rise.

Thus we bring you the big, broad, flexible outlook of a man ready to show the masses his Best Man-ing skills are on par with the Great Ones; a man poised to carry himself through the gauntlet of wedding season on the subtle clouds of authority, and a tailwind of joviality; a man truly deserving to be at the right hand of the groom. With the help of this handy guide, that man can be you.

“A man in love is incomplete until he has married. Then he’s finished.”

—Zsa Zsa Gabor, 20th Century Philosopher

THE SEND-OFF

Say the term “bachelor party” and all manner of dazzling, neo-clichéd Caligula-esque imagery comes to mind.

Sure, some are on that level. But exactly what form a groom’s send-off comes can vary wildly. For every Wolf of Wall Street style million-dollar Quaalude-fueled weekend in Vegas, there’s at least three cranking-up the camaraderie with good ole’ fashioned excessive drinking and backyard beach rental vibes.

  • Get plans in motion early. The assembled send-off team is likely over-worked, over-connected and have endless distractions to keep them from confirming attendance (or even responding). And the brunt of the burden lay on you, best man.
  • Don’t make it about your wants. First and foremost, get a sense of what the bachelor wants. Then work your way down from there. Hotels or rented house? Clubs and drugs, or BBQ and beach? Strippers? And so on.
  • Whatever the case, be sure your game plan includes some just-for-the-pals extravagance (see: strippers). Do this and your groom will undoubtedly nod in enthusiastic agreement when asked if the party was just what he was hoping for.

Stripper memories often cause a lot of agreeable nodding.

THE PREP-WORK

No need to spend an inordinate amount of time on this one, as men are generally lucky when it comes to wedding prep. No mad-rush to drop down to an ideal dress-size, no hours spent on whatever wild sorcery goes down in the bride’s camp. That said, don’t be afraid to go the extra mile here and there.

  • Be sure to give the go-to grooming habits an extra once over; no bride-to-be, nor groom-in-waiting, appreciates a faulty haircut or unkempt neckbeard.
  • Manscaping. Riding solo to the wedding begets an appropriate level of shorn-ness, but err on the side of trim-and-proper versus Olympic swimmer. Unless you want to impress that one bridesmaid with your likeness to a newborn baby porpoise after the reception.
  • Check your scent. Keep it subtle and fresh.

Nothing stirs the hangover ghosts to the altar like an overdose of Obsession for Men.

THE UNIFORM

By and large, Best Man gigs come with required duds. And there’s no need to go into the process of renting a tux, because let’s face it, Men’s Warehouse is a bit like Law and Order reruns: If you can’t find one, you’re probably not looking that hard.

  • Know your knots. YouTube is rife with bowtie tutorials, unorthodox inversions of Windsor knots, etc. People don’t always notice a good knot from afar, but they’ll always notice a bad one.
  • Put your best feet forward. Bring your shoes to a proper cobbler/shine master, give them the full how’s-your-father. Ornery bridesmaids tend to look askance at a scuffed wingtip.
  • Mind the periphery. You might slap a crisp new band on your favorite timepiece, or get down with some shimmering cufflinks. If you’re a jewelry guy, keep it restrained. Your arrival shouldn’t be noted by the sound of wind chimes emanating from your extremities.

The groom, and moreover the bride, will be in no mood for your well-intentioned homage-paying to Criss Angel. Not on wedding day, Mr. Bojangles…

THE TOAST

There are many possible paths to take for the illustrious Best Man speech, choosing the right course depends on your backstory. Have a solid, no drama kind of groom? Go the funny-classy route. Some drama? Tack on a few zingers. A worthy target ripe for lambasting? Unleash hell.

  • Have fun with it. For hijinks, maybe relay your groom a series of misinformation in the months leading up to the big day. Claim you’re planning to rain toads down on the room with some help from the staff, or threaten to let every cat out of the bag during magic hour. The state of suspended terror will make for a highly captive audience.
  • Read the room. If people are starting to wander around, or there’s a lot of phone-checking happening, you’re either going too long or lacking pizazz. The glazed-over eyes and agitated seat readjusting will tell you which you’re up against, so take note and adjust course.
  • Regardless of the punchy one-liners you’ve laid out, you want people walking away feeling your speech was uplifting, slightly biting, but warm and welcoming overall. Think of it as a spiffy late-night monologue, the best hosts are masters at balancing comedy with empathy.

The soft dichotomy will be the kind of thing that resonates deeply and without mention, casting your performance on the Best Man stage as Emmy-worthy

THE ACE UP YOUR SLEEVE

As chief wedding council for the night, you’re going to need to work the room, and that’s when an indelible impression of the new in-laws may become paramount.

  • To start, learn (and remember) their names. Then go the extra mile with at least one fact about each of the key players. “Oh hi [father-in-law], how goes life in [advanced science field, FBI, gov’t work, janitorial services]?”
  • For the duration of the festivities, bury your politics and other potential rift-creating topics. The way you’d walk softly and carry a big stick when starting a new job—save the full throw-downs for after they’ve warmed to you.
  • Prove chivalry isn’t dead. A gentlemanly draping of one’s tux coat over the chilly shoulders of Aunt Ethel or a flinty bridesmaid become tales of heroism in wedding night retelling for years to come.

And please remember: Stupid parlor tricks and weddings are a natural pairing. Unless they’re not. So tread carefully, and don’t copy anything you saw in Wedding Crashers. You don’t want to be that guy.

THE DIRTY WORK

It’s not all smiles and charm when the big day comes. As Best Man your role transitions from Secretary of the State of Debauchery, to full-blown wedding consigliere. And things can get crazy fast. It’s up to you to keep a steely eye out for as long as the whiskey consumption requires.

  • Ready yourself to play peacekeeper. You may find yourself defusing a dust-up between cousins, or saving the champagne pyramid from crumbling under a rowdy conga line, or dealing with the obligatory racist drunk uncle. It’s a cliché, but one born from reality—so keep your head on a swivel.
  • Keep an eye on your groom. If he’s telegraphing his trademark “point-of-no-return” state of inebriation, be the hero of hydration. Water and espresso are invaluable tools in your arsenal.
  • Cake. Cake always calms the flames of wedding wars when in a pinch. Remember that.

In short: deflect, keep the crowd happy, and be ready to do a little damage control.

Provided you put yourself in the groom’s shoes, remember your duties, and look sharp as all fucking hell—you’ll be well on your way to carving out your own masterful turn in the time-honored art of ushering a fellow man into the next phase of his life with style, grace, and indomitable charm.

[Ed Note. All of this applies to second weddings as well. But let’s not go there. Yet.]