After the last high fives have been slapped, the last tequila shooters have been shot, and the last declarations of undying bro-love have been made, the fact will remain that your pal/brother/etc. has just asked you to be his best man ... and you have no idea what the hell you are doing.
Being a best man is awesome, sure, but it’s also a lot of responsibility, work, and stress, since everyone will be counting on you — you, whose previous party-planning pinnacle was that time in college when you bought a bunch of inflatable pool toys and filled them up with helium and then during the party there was, like, an alligator and a killer whale just floating in and out of your apartment’s various rooms and between the guests as they hung out — to be a legit adult, and make sure the groom has an awesome time w/o requiring the services of a bail bondsman. Oh, and you have to make a big speech in front of literally everyone. It’s enough to make a grown man cry.
Here’s how to handle.
Planning the bachelor party
This is the most purely fun part of being the best man — but it’s also one of the most stressful. Why? Because all the various bachelor partiers will be looking to you to basically recreate the most ultimate lost-weekend movie ever — minus any tribal face tattoos. Here’s how you can mastermind an epic blowout that won’t get anyone jailed, killed, or infected with anything permanent:
- Base it around an activity. Fishing or camping are great; so are getting tix to a big-time sporting event or learning how to surf. Basically you want to have *something* central to do, otherwise you run the risk of descending into a beer pong–fueled spiral of madness.
- Hitting “the club” is fine. But leave it at that. Strip clubs are legitimate businesses that aren’t trying to do anything shadier than parting a man from his money ASAP. You’ll feel dumb the day after, but hey — in some ways, a bachelor party is about One Last Big Dumb Hurrah, and that’s fine. But seriously, though — don’t go further than that ... and you know what I mean. Even if you think that’s what the groom wants, just — don’t. It’s not a good look for anyone, and nothing’s going to jack up your stress level like coming home from the bachelor party with a shameful secret.
- Be safe. I’m not saying you can’t have fun. It’s just that you are a grown-ass man, and you don’t want anyone (including you) wrecking what should be a great time by ending up in the ER or the back of a cop car. So if your crew is hitting the sauce, make sure everyone takes cabs, or that a designated driver is appointed. You don’t have to fall on your sober sword every night, but offering to be the DD once is a nice touch.
Keeping the groom’s head straight
During the weeks leading up to the big day, the pressure on the groom — and, by extension, you — will start ratcheting up. Sure enough, one night you’ll be out getting a bite to eat, blowing off steam, and your buddy will start listing all the ways in which his future mother-in-law is making his life hell RE: reception place settings, and maybe this whole marriage thing isn’t meant to be. What do you do?
- Be the bride’s staunchest ally. For real. In the past, when the happy couple was just getting to know one another, your job was to help your pal decide whether or not this girl was an ideal long-term match. You took his side in fights, spoke your mind when things were going south, and so on. But now that these two fine people have decided to take the plunge, you want to do everything you can to help — both of them — make that happen. Listen calmly to his grievances, don’t get incensed on his behalf, and respond thusly: “That really sucks, man. Try to be chill, though. Planning a wedding is difficult, but you love Becca* and this whole wedding-planning situation is temporary. Just keep your head down and stay focused on the fact that you want to be married to her. Becca, I mean, not her mother.”
*Note: Use of the name “Becca” is recommended, but not required.
On the day of the wedding
It’s all been leading up to this. The bride is freaking out because the flowers haven’t shown up yet, one of your fellow groomsmen is near-terminally hungover from the rehearsal dinner after-party the night before, and you can’t stop envisioning yourself accidentally tripping the maid of honor as the two of you walk down the aisle that evening. How can you stay calm?
- Be a helper monkey. Your duties today are to do whatever is asked of you — and, if you don’t know what that is, ask. Offer to carry chairs, help old folks up the stairs, fetch water or food for both halves of the wedding party, and in general just help out wherever is required. Not only will you contribute positively to the wedding experience for everyone, but it’ll take your mind off the stuff *you’re* worried about.
- Oh, and also: Don’t get over-served at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. There will be time for plenty of clinking glasses later, after your most stressful, high-profile job is completed, which is, of course...
Toasting the bride and groom
If public speaking is people’s No. 1 fear — and it is, even more than actual death — then giving the best man’s toast at a wedding is the tactical nuke of high-pressure public speaking. The bride’s dad who never liked you in high school is glaring at you; you’re running out of time to make that one bridesmaid swoon at your wit and sensitivity; you keep worrying about flubbing that Shakespeare sonnet you memorized; and, of course, you want to make your buddy and his new wife feel special and honored. Here’s how you can manage all that while not sweating through your suit jacket:
- Write something down ahead of time. You may be the funniest man on Earth when you’re three drinks deep on a Friday night, but now’s not the time to wing it. That said, don’t write out your whole speech, either; nothing’s worse than the best man who recites in a monotone, head down, from the glaring blue screen of his smartphone. Instead just plan what you want to say and put down some talking points on a notecard or two. That will give you a general outline while still letting you sound off-the-cuff.
- Make it PG-13, tops. If you want to rib the groom about his history of dubious hairstyle choices, or reminisce about that time you and your buddies had so much, ahem, fun on a camping trip that you couldn’t get the tent up and ending up sleeping in a canoe, knock yourself out. But that’s as far as it goes. No crazy exes, rap sheets, or stripper stories. With any anecdote, ask yourself, would you tell this story in front of your mom? If the answer is “no,” then why would you tell it in front of his mom?
- Include the bride. A best-man speech should be a tribute to the life of the groom — and of course, the girl is now (and theoretically has been for a while, barring certain shotgun-wedding scenarios) a big part of that guy’s life. Tell a funny story about the two of them, or cite how she makes the groom less likely to leave the house looking homeless.
- Don’t make yourself crazy. Unless you are a former debate-team captain, you are not going to be perfect. And that’s OK. All you really have to do is speak from the heart and people will appreciate it.
You’re going to be All Right. Follow the tips above; remember to swipe on some Gillette Clear Gel under that sharp white dress shirt; and you’ll be sure to stay calm, cool, and collected — plus have a lot of fun! — on this red-letter day in your best buddy’s life. #NoSweat
Hunter Slaton is a senior writer for Studio@Gawker. He has successfully completed one tour of duty as a best man, and looks forward to future campaigns.
Illustration by Rob Dobi.