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Your Complete Guide to Best Man or Best Woman Duties

Congratulations on being chosen to be best man or perhaps, as it is becoming increasingly common for couples to break away from traditional gender roles when assigning these key wedding positions, the best woman. We’re guessing that right now you’re feeling both pretty chuffed at being given this honour but also pretty apprehensive about what such an important title actually entails. Well, worry not! We’ve got you covered with everything you need to know to make sure you fulfil your duties impeccably.

The History of The Best Man

Let’s start with the history of the best man, it’s not quite the story full of love and romance you would expect! Thought to have begun in the 16th Century in Scotland, marriages used to take place between a man and woman from the same village. During times when there were more men in the village than woman, a man would travel to a nearby village and kidnap a bride. To carryout this task he would choose a ‘best man’ to aid him, someone who was most loyal and would stand by his side to fight. The best man would than stand on the groom’s right-hand side with his hand on the groom’s sword during the wedding ceremony to protect and guard against the brides family who would attack to try and rescue the bride back. Thankfully nowadays the role of a best man doesn’t involve having to protect against sword swinging attackers, but what does it involve?

The Role of a Best Man / Best Woman

While a wedding may look effortlessly beautiful and relaxed with romance seeming to float in the air, the truth is a lot of planning and preparation goes on prior to any wedding and behind the scenes on the day which the best man or woman has a key role to play in.

As a close friend or family member you’ll know the couple inside out and discussing what they would like you to help with early on will give you time to prepare for the important tasks you’re given. It's also important to note that you might not be alone in your duties, it’s not uncommon for there to be more than one best man or best woman. A wedding is very personal to the happy couple and there aren’t any rules, it’s all about creating a day which encapsulates the bride and groom and celebrates their love.

Responsibilities for the best man or woman will vary from actual jobs which need to be carried out, being the sounding board for ideas and providing emotional support in the run up to the wedding. It’s important to remember that every couple is different and therefore some will want you to take control of certain elements and other will prefer to look after things themselves and for you to take a more relaxed approach to the role.

Below in the best man duties checklist we’ll talk you through the most common roles for a best man or best woman in preparation for the wedding, on the wedding day itself and also after the wedding, as the role doesn’t stop once the band begins!

Now this does seem like quite a list but as the groom is one of your closest friends you will find that many of the typical best man or best woman tasks are ones you would naturally do without thinking about it.

Best Man / Best Woman Duties Before the Wedding

As you can imagine there is a considerable number of tasks for the best man or woman before the wedding as there is so much to organise including people and many things to book so let’s dive straight in.

Getting To Know the Ushers and Other Groomsmen and The Maid of Honour

As best man or woman you need to make sure that the ushers and other groomsmen are where they need to be on the wedding day so getting to know them and their personalities if you don’t already is key. Are they super organised and can be trusted to be where they should be when they should be or are they possibly super laidback and may need to be reminded of their duties from time to time. It also helps to introduce yourself to the maid of honour in case you need to team up on any aspects of the wedding such as organising umbrellas if it looks like the weather might take a turn for the worst.

Helping With the Wedding Attire

Your role with this will depend on how involved the groom would like you to be. Typically, you may organise an appointment for the groom’s party to either be measured so that suits can be ordered or collect the party’s measurements and order the suits for the whole party. You may need to organise a further appointment for final fittings and could also be tasked with making sure each member of the groom’s party pays for their suits and picks them up.

Offer Your Services with Any Wedding Admin or Planning

Traditionally it is the bride and groom who undertake the wedding planning with the best man or woman not being expected to pitch in however the groom will be touched if you offer your help if required. As it can get super time consuming the happy couple may ask if you would be able to ring suppliers on their behalf to either gather information or confirm bookings. Booking the wedding transport could also be a nice task for you and the groom to do together.

Do Your Homework on The Guests

This may seem a little strange but having a little background on each guest might just prove hugely beneficial on the wedding day itself and also any pre wedding events such as the Wedding Rehearsal Dinner. Knowing who doesn’t get on with who and therefore who maybe shouldn’t be stood next to each other in the photos etc. could help to avoid any uncomfortable moments and keep everything running smoothly and relaxed so the happy couple have nothing to worry about and can enjoy the day. One of your roles is also to mingle with guests and make them feel welcome so again having a little information on each guest will make this easier to strike up a conversation and find common ground to chat about, other than obviously the happy couple!

Attend The Pre-Wedding Events

Following on from above, depending on the couple they may wish to hold prewedding events such as a ceremony rehearsal and / or a rehearsal dinner. This is a wonderful opportunity for everyone to meet ahead of the wedding day and get to know each other which helps to create a relaxed and less formal atmosphere on the wedding day itself.

Plan The Stag Do / Bachelor Party

One of the most commonly known jobs assigned to the best man or woman is to plan the stag do, also referred to as the bachelor party. Depending on the groom this may involve just a small number of close family and friends, or it could be quite a sizable group of friends. It’s your job to make sure everyone knows the plan, the details of where you are going and when, and how everyone is getting there. You also need to make sure everyone has accommodation if you are staying away and make sure that everything has been paid for (travel, accommodation, activities etc.). More likely than not the groom may want to be involved in the planning as they may have a specific location or activity in mind but usually the best man or woman will throw in a few surprises along the way to keep the groom on their toes and make the stag do a truly memorable experience. If you’ve been tasked with planning the whole stag party, then start by having a list of everyone the groom would like to invite and message everyone with 3 dates so that you can pick the date that the majority of the group can attend. Then take into account the budget everyone can afford before deciding on the location and activities. A group trip abroad sounds amazing but might be a struggle financially for some of the group. You also need to consider the timing of the stag do in relation to the wedding. If the stag do gets a little rowdy then you don’t want any hangovers on the wedding day or sunburn or bruises on show for the wedding photos. A good rule to have in mind is to have the stag do roughly 3 months before the wedding so everyone has time to recover.

Write The Best Mans Speech

Along with planning the stag do, writing a best man or best woman speech is the most well-known of the best man or woman duties and the one which possibly instils the most concern and trepidation. Standing up in front of a room full of people can make most of us feel uncomfortable but try to keep in mind all you are really doing is sharing memories of your time with your best friend. And as you will have done your homework on the guests and already spent time chatting to guests either on the wedding day or at the pre wedding events it won’t actually be a room full of strangers but instead a room full of people who all love the happy couple and will love to hear your memories. A top tip would be to prepare the speech in advance, so you have time to try it out on other people to get their opinions and also rehearse the final version. And don’t feel pressured to make it funny, if this isn’t naturally your personality then you don’t have to try, if your speech is heartfelt, it will be memorable for all the right reasons.

Check In with The Groom

Naturally in the lead up to one of the most important days of the groom’s life, the nerves and anxiety will creep in from time to time. Throughout the lead up to the wedding check in with the groom to make sure they’re feeling ok and offer that emotional support. As one of your best friends, you will find you naturally do this anyway, but you may just need to be particularly mindful of how the groom may be feeling as the big day gets closer.

Stay Over with The Groom the Night Before the Wedding

Traditionally the best man or woman will stay over with the groom the night before the wedding. You’ll be on hand to settle any last-minute nerves and can reminisce over a drink. 

Best Man / Best Woman Duties on The Wedding Day

So, the wedding day has finally arrived, and you’ve got a full day ahead of you. You’ll need to make sure everything is running smoothly and on track. It will help to have a plan of the day with timings which you can refer to throughout the day, but also make sure you spend some time enjoying the day yourself and make new memories with the groom and his new bride.

Help With the Pre-Wedding Set Up

On the day of the wedding the morning will be filled with the hustle and bustle of suppliers arriving and rooms being prepared. As best man or woman one of your roles is to help out the morning of the wedding wherever you’re needed. This might be directing suppliers, carrying supplies and equipment or moving tables and chairs. Just remember to leave enough time to shower and change before the guests start arriving!

Help The Groom Get Ready

Once everything is set up for the day your attention needs to turn toward getting yourself and the groom ready. Make sure the groom has everything to hand, solve any problems which may crop up and have a final check in to make sure the groom is ok. You will also need to make sure you have the buttonholes for yourself, the groom and the other ushers which you will need to hand out before the ceremony.

Greet The Guests with The Groom

The groom and best man or best woman should aim to be at the ceremony venue before any guests arrive so that you can be there to greet the guests and direct them to where they should sit. You may already know the guests from the wedding rehearsal dinner however this is an opportunity to reacquaint yourself and make sure they know you are the best man and the person to seek out if there are any issues or they need any information during the day. A welcoming atmosphere will also set the tone for the day.

Keep The Wedding Rings Safe and Organise the Ring Bearers

One of the most important duties on the day of the wedding is to make sure the wedding rings are safe and to hand when they are required during the ceremony. This might mean keeping hold of the rings yourself or making sure to pass them to the ring bearer before the ceremony.

Stand At the Alter with The Groom

After greeting the guests as they arrive for the wedding ceremony and directing them to the seating, you will then take up your position next to the groom at the altar. The groom should stand in the middle ready to be met by his bride and as best man or best woman you should stand on the groom’s right-hand side. If you are the ring bearer you should be ready with the rings for when they are required and also be there to offer those last words of support and encouragement to the groom.

Sign The Marriage Certificate

Immediately after the wedding ceremony the marriage certificate or marriage licence as it’s also known is signed by the happy couple and two witnesses. These witnesses are usually the best man and the maid of honour.

Escort The Maid of Honour Out of The Ceremony

During the wedding ceremony the bride and groom and the best man and maid of honour will be stood at the altar. It is traditional that after the wedding ceremony and the signing of the marriage certificate the bride and groom will walk back down the aisle to the cheering and clapping of the wedding guests and the best man will escort the maid of honour out of the ceremony.

Greet the Guests in The Receiving Line

It’s not as common anymore to have a receiving line at weddings however if the bride and groom choose to then as the best man or woman part of your duties will be to also stand in the receiving line to greet and welcome the guests as they enter the wedding reception.

Be The Wedding Photographers Aid

The bride and groom will already have discussed the photographs they would like their photographer to capture which will include a list of formal photographs of friends and family. As best man or woman your duties will include being the photographers righthand aid gathering the required guests for each shot. This is where doing prior homework on all the guests and also greeting them as they enter the ceremony etc. is invaluable.

Be the Master of Ceremonies

The master of ceremonies or sometimes referred to as the toastmaster has the duty of announcing any key moments through the wedding day for example the couple’s arrival or the cutting of the wedding cake. This is another duty which may fall to the best man or woman if the venue doesn’t have a master of ceremonies so just be prepared to shout up and gain everyone’s attention if required.

The Best Mans Speech

Possibly the duty which instils the most fear! The speeches will either take place immediately before or immediately after the wedding breakfast so make sure to check with the happy couple when they have planned for them. You will also need to check exactly who will be making a speech so that you know when it will be your turn. Traditionally the best man’s speech takes place after the father of the bride’s and the groom’s speeches however it is not uncommon for the bride and also maid of honour to also make a speech. When it comes to making your speech just relax and enjoy the moment, have confidence that you have practiced your speech and remember to take your time. Also remember to read out any messages that have be sent by those loved ones who couldn’t make it to the wedding.

Make Sure the Dance Floor Is Filled

As the day makes way to the evening it’s time to let loose on the dance floor. This begins with the first dance for the bride and groom which then traditionally is followed by the best man and maid of honour who encourage other guests onto the dance floor.

Best Man / Best Woman Duties After the Wedding

Once the wedding day is over the best man duties are very minimal. The main duty of the best man or woman is to ensure the suits, if hired, are cleaned and returned and if the bride and groom head away on honeymoon or a mini moon straight away then you may also be asked to take care of any wedding gifts and keepsakes from the wedding until the newly married couple return. 

Now you’re in the know about what the role of a best man or best woman entails it’s time to start planning! And if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed at the moment don’t worry that’s perfectly natural and to be expected. As a starting point we would suggest talking to the happy couple to see which traditions they are going to follow which will allow you to narrow down your list of duties and go from there.


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