11 Apr 2024

Best Man Briefing

To be offered the role of best man (or woman, which is a non-traditional and increasingly popular choice) is a great compliment and if you are ask you should feel deeply flattered. But bear in mind that it is an important undertaking, which requires organisational skills, reliability, charm and deep reserves of tact and diplomacy. If you feel you are deficient in these qualities, think carefully about making the commitment to take on the role.

It is the job of the groom to warn potential best men of any sensitivities or difficult family situations when he first asks him to take on the role. If the best man understands that he may be walking on eggshells he will be better able to make an informed decision about accepting the role.

The fundamental requirement of the role is for the best man to ensure discreetly and efficiently that everything is running to plan. If there is a crisis or a mishap, or if things don’t run smoothly to plan, he will be the first point of contact.

It may be helpful for potential best men to understand all the possible ramifications and requirements of the role. The best man is referred to throughout, but all these points would be equally applicable to a best woman:

Before the Wedding Day

•Organise a stag night or weekend, preferably several weeks before the wedding day to ensure that the groom is not incapacitated on the big day. This can be quite a major organisational undertaking. In the first instance, the best man must make an informed choice about what activities/destinations would best suit the groom. He will then need to assemble a guest list and enter on the complex, and possibly drawn-out task of ensuring that the guests’ diaries align. He will need to create a detailed budget for proceedings, and costs – which should be fully explained – will be shared equally amongst the guests. Moreover, he will have to organise proceedings (booking a hotel or restaurant, organising flights for a European city break etc).

•If ushers are going to be used, it is the best man’s responsibility to liaise with them and ensure that they have the correct clothes and an understanding of their duties on the day.

•It is traditional for the best man to meet up with the parents of both the bride and groom, as well as the bridesmaids, before the day.

•It is imperative that the best man visits the venues for both the ceremony and the reception, assesses any potential problems or complications, and is familiar with them.

•He must also attend the rehearsal.

On the Wedding Day

•Conventionally, the best man stayed with the groom on the night before the wedding. This is by no means a hard and fast rule, but even if he stays elsewhere, he must ensure that he is with the groom bright and early, ready to check that he has everything he needs (eg rings) and is not suffering from last-minute panic or nerves.

•He is expected to accompany the groom to the ceremony venue, ensuring that he arrives at least 45 minutes before the start of the proceedings. Good timekeeping is of the essence throughout the day.

•On arrival at the venue, it is wise to check that reserved seating for the bride’s and groom’s families has been correctly allocated (remembering to include parents of baby bridesmaids and pageboys).

•As the guests begin to arrive, he may find it congenial to stand outside with the ushers and welcome them. It is his job to keep an eye on the seating of the guests (even if ushers are actually showing guests to their seats) so that he can avert any potential problems.

•He should be sure to take up his position next to the groom before the arrival of the bride.

•During the ceremony he may be required to hand over the rings at the critical moment. He will certainly be required to join the bridal party in the vestry (in a church), or at the register for the signing of the marriage certificate. At the end of the ceremony, he will accompany the chief bridesmaid down the aisle immediately behind the bride and groom.

•Once outside the ceremony venue, it is his job to oversee the whole process of photography, if necessary liaising with the photographer and helping him/her to organise the bridal party for the formal photographs, as well as rallying all the guests together for group shots.

•Once photographs have been completed, he must then usher the newly-married couple to the wedding car if the reception is taking place in a different venue. He must then ensure that the rest of the wedding party have all been guided to the correct cars and, if necessary, offer advice and directions to the rest of the guests.

•At this point he should call the caterers to notify them that everyone is on their way to the reception.

•On arriving at the venue, he should act very much like a co-host. The bride and groom may be feeling overcome by proceedings and are likely to find hosting duties onerous, so it is the job of the best man and chief bridesmaid to circulate amongst the guests, making introductions, and ensuring that everyone is catered for (eg looking after elderly relatives and parents with young children).

•The big moment of the day is the delivery of his speech: for many best man candidates this is a daunting ordeal. Click here to see our advice on best man’s speeches.

•Towards the end of proceedings, depending on the honeymoon plans of the couple, he may have to ensure that luggage and travel documents have all been loaded into the appropriate going-away car. If there is an appetite to decorate the car, then he should supervise the proceedings (usually enthusiastically undertaken by ushers and bridesmaids).

•He will need to stay to the end of the reception, ensuring that all the guests have found their way to cars, hotels or taxis, and sorting out any last-minute glitches.

This list of a best man’s duties covers the main areas of responsibility, and of course will be shaped by the style of the wedding, the number of guests, the complexity of family relationships, the scope and ambition of the celebrations. Suffice to say, the best man’s role on the big day is pivotal and should never be undertaken lightly.

Click here to purchase Debrett's Wedding Handbook


MPA House
66 Baker Street
Weybridge KT13 8AL
United Kingdom
Get In Touch
Subscription Enquiries
+44 (0)330 3339699
General Enquiries
+44 (0)20 3950 5240
Join our weekly newsletter
Subscription Form
MPA House
66 Baker Street
Weybridge KT13 8AL
United Kingdom
Designed by Anna Ocipinska. Developed by BuiltByGo. © 2022 Debrett’s. All Rights Reserved
My cart
Your cart is empty.

Looks like you haven't made a choice yet.