The Best Man
Always the groomsman, never the groom
By Kevin Faris

Photo by forrest payne

"Always the bridesmaid, never the bride."

A fairly common expression, because a wedding is all about, who? The bride. Trust me, just ask someone or look at the magazines: all brides, all the time.

It's like the groom, and the groomsmen, are mere formalities, something to be picked out and decorated, like the flowers or the table settings.

The groom and his men- and in my case, the Best Man-we get the shaft. No one knows the hard work that goes into getting the groom safe and sound to that altar come the wedding day.

No one knows how we deal with everything that leads up to the wedding, including the all-important bachelor party, and the crucial wedding weekend.

That's why I am here, to showcase what goes on behind the scenes and to show you why we are the Best Men.

The News

Although I am rarely present, I imagine when the bride-to-be tells her close friends and family that she is engaged, it is followed by kisses, tears, and hugs.

And those are quickly followed with questions about dresses, dates, etc. This is a happy time, because for many girls, getting married is a goal. This is not true for all girls, but it seems to be more of a priority for them than it is for guys.

When a guy tells his friends he is getting married, the reaction, well it varies.

When he tells his guy friends who are already married, the reaction is, "Great! Welcome to the cult! We should get together and play Pictionary on Wednesday night!" If they are single, but currently in a long-term relationship, the reaction is more like, "Great! Congratulations! Now the pressure's on me!"

If they are just single, like me, the reaction is a simple "Congratulations! That is great! Do you think there will be any hot, single bridesmaids at this thing?"

But, beneath my happy exterior, is a small sense of sadness. I know, if for some reason, I want to get drunk on Saturday afternoon and watch Army of Darkness, this is one less guy who'll be able to come over. This is one less guy who would be up for an all day session of Gameday on Playstation.

Once I come to grips with this, however, I am sincerely happy for my friend and his fiancée. If this is what they want, than it should be what we want for them. Besides, there is usually a chance for single bridesmaids; I know I will be invited to many events that will feature free alcohol; and , most importantly, there will be a bachelor party.

Saving Ryan's Privates

Once the engagement is announced, the planning for the bachelor party must begin. The bachelor party is one of the most important institutions in a man's life. Never is your job as Best Man more important than during the bachelor party. This is the last chance for your best friend, the groom, to go out with his boys and have an unapologetic good time. My role as the Best Man is to make sure that the groom has the best time possible, while at the same time making sure nothing happens that could put the wedding in jeopardy. It's kind of like Saving Private Ryan.

When Tom Hanks gets his orders, and his men march out, they have one mission: to find Pvt. Ryan and get him home safe and sound.

If they get hurt, shot, or killed, no big loss, they are expendable. As long as nothing happens to Pvt. Ryan. That is the philosophy you have to take when you pump your friend full of alcohol and unleash him, and his friends, on the unsuspecting public.

If the groom is dancing at a club and some redneck decides he doesn't like it, you have to step up and handle the redneck. You can get a black eye, the groom cannot.

If the groom is stumbling in the street and yelling at cops, you have to get him out of there, while your other friends distract the cops. They can go to jail, the groom cannot.

If some stripper offers the groom an illicit sex act, you have to step in front of him and take it. You can accept sexual favors from a sketchy stripper, but the groom cannot.

Once you understand the mission, the bachelor party should flow pretty easily.

It should, except everyone is going to be drinking and that makes anything possible.

At the most recent bachelor party I attended, everyone hopped on a gambling boat to start off the evening. The risk here is pretty low, there is only so much money the groom can take out of an ATM (thank God for modern banking security), so you don't really have to worry about the groom.

This gives you time to worry about your buddy who's trying to hold on 5 during a blackjack game. Bachelor parties are always better when people, like a friendly blackjack dealer, are helping everyone out. We were even given directions to a place in downtown Lawrenceburg, Indiana where we could find some cheap hookers. We decided to pass.

One common misconception of bachelor parties is that they are all about hookers and strippers. That is not true. Well, it is not entirely true. For one thing, a good hooker is expensive, and who has that kind of money to throw around.

Also, a hooker is only fun for one guy, unless you pay extra, while Golden Tee, a golfing video game present at most sports bars, is fun for everyone. If the situation arises when you can combine beer, golf, and video games, you can be sure everyone is having a good time.

Golden Tee was so popular at one friend's recent bachelor party, I didn't think we were ever going to leave the bar at our hotel.

The decision on strippers is one that is best left to the groom, who will share this decision with the best man before the party. If, for whatever reason, the groom does not want to go to a strip club, it is up to the best man to make this clear to the other members of the bachelor party.

If someone is going to play the bad guy, it will unfortunately be you. However, once the groom is passed out, if everyone wants to head to Newport and find some cheap strip club, that is perfectly all right. In fact it should be encouraged, after all, you are not getting married.

Down the stretch they come

If all goes well, everyone will return from the bachelor party safe and sound, as we head down the home stretch and toward the actual ceremony. Once the Friday of the rehearsal arrives, your job as best man now expands to the rest of the groomsmen.

You are the de facto captain of the squad, the groom has enough worries on his mind, so you need to make sure everyone knows when, and where, they need to be.

The rehearsal itself can be fun.

OK that is a lie. But, somebody has to pay attention during the practice run, so it may as well be you.

The rehearsal dinner, however, is the beginning of the fun stuff. With any luck, the rehearsal dinner will give the best man, and the rest of the groomsmen the opportunity to lay the groundwork with any potential wedding hook-ups.

I have only brought a date to a wedding once, and she had a miserable time. Besides, as my friend Rob Duncan told me one time, bringing a date to a wedding is like bringing beer to a keg party. Even if you do not hook up, you will have more fun hanging out with your friends and enjoying yourself if you don't have to spend the entire night introducing your date to people.

If you strike out with the bridal party, you can always hold out hope for the random, hot cousin, but if you go this route, be sure to verify her age. You do not want to be the guy at the wedding hitting on the groom's 16-year-old cousin. I have unfortunately been involved in some other bad wedding date stories, that I cannot describe here, but if your buddy's date starts hitting on you and asks you out, my advice would be to run. Very fast. In the opposite direction.

The dinner also provides, not just you, but all your friends the opportunity to tell the most embarrassing stories you know about the groom. The rules still apply, however, so make sure no one says anything that could stop the wedding. This means no stories about what the groom did for beads down in Mardi Gras or what really happened in the strip club in Ecuador.

Stick to drunk and funny, or heartwarming, the more inside the joke the better. Not everyone was around the night one groom was so drunk he got stuck in a corner. Or the night another helped you polish off a 1.75 of Old Crow while dancing to the 2 Live Crew. The rehearsal dinner is a nice opportunity to share these stories. Some people may think these stories are inappropriate to tell in front of family, but hey, who cares, they aren't getting married.

And, lastly, make sure you mention something about how lovely, nice, beautiful, and caring the bride is. Mostly, because she usually is all of these, and it also gives you a nice cushion if you tell a story about her fiancé she has never heard before. Like the time he bit your arm at Cheapside because you would not let him get in a fight with the bartender. Not that anyone I know ever did that.

Church on Time

When all this is done, all you are left with is the big day itself. Being the best man at a wedding is a lot like being the supporting actor in a major Hollywood premiere. I don't mean a big supporting role either, like Han Solo or something cool like that, I mean a real supporting/sidekick role. If the groom is Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire, you are Cuba Gooding Jr. If he is Bruce Willis in Die Hard, you are the overweight black cop down on the street. If he is Woody or Buzz in Toy Story, you are the T-Rex, or Mr. Potato Head. Everyone likes you, they are happy to see you, but you are not the main attraction. Sure, you are real dressed up and a lot of people are taking your picture, but you are not the star. Smile, say nice things, and move on, that is your job.

Much like the aforementioned movies would not be the same without the great supporting characters, everyone knows the wedding will be better if you can do your job right.

This means making sure all the groomsmen are present and dressed. If someone wants to bring a flask, that is great. There is nothing like a few shots of bourbon to calm the nerves, just limit it to a few shots.

If you feel guilty about drinking in a church, don't worry, I'm Catholic and I say, it is OK.

The other big responsibility is the rings. Do not lose the rings. Do not let your friends try on the rings, no matter how funny they might think it is. Do not lose the rings. That is worth saying twice.

photo by forrest payne
Once the wedding starts, if any chump ex-boyfriend tries to stop it, you will pound him and the other groomsmen will join you.

It helps to keep a lookout for any potentials in the crowd. Whenever I attend weddings, I like to make a list of who I might think will show up to stop it. A few months ago I went to a wedding and realized I was probably in the top 5 for someone who might stop it. That probably explains why I was seated in the back of the church.

Anyways, if everyone can make it though the ceremony, remember to say "I will," and no one screws up, you can freely go to the reception, knowing you accomplished your job. The wedding took place and the groom was in one piece. You can rest easy, knowing no one will know how much effort you really put forth, how many times you had to step in harm's way to make sure the groom stayed safe and sound, even if it was just the night before that you had your final save.

The best thing is, now you are sort of a minor celebrity for the rest of the reception. Go inside and grab a beer; you have earned it. You can go over now and talk to that one bridesmaid in the back of the line who was giving you the eye most of the day, or the hot cousin, once you have verified she is over 18.

"Always the groomsman, never the groom" - there isn't anything wrong with that.

He may be the groom, but you are the Best Man

Disclaimer: Every bride I know who's reading this will assume I'm talking about your husband. I'm not. I mean the other guy.