Facts about the Best Man and the Tuxedo


In the United States, the male attendants at a wedding are generally referred to as groomsmen. In most cases, the groom chooses his closest friends and relatives to fulfill the duties of groomsmen. He will also choose one of these dashing, tuxedo clad gentlemen to be his best man. The history and traditions surrounding the groomsmen date back for centuries and have evolved a great deal from their original form.

History of the Groomsmen

The idea of including a bridal party in the wedding festivities originated from an ancient Anglo-Saxon tradition where the groom would designate several trusted friends to play the role of body guards to the bride. But, there was more than just the bride’s safety at stake. These body guards were also charged with ensuring the safe arrival of the bride’s dowry at the wedding, and then the groom’s home.  In the beginning, these men were referred to as the bride's knights.

While the duties of today’s tuxedo clad groomsmen may not be quite so taxing as those of their predecessors, they still provide a range of necessary services for the bride and groom. The groomsmen, and especially the best man, are there to support the groom and his fiancée throughout the entire planning process. They must attend all pre-wedding functions as well as plan the bachelor party, purchase their own tuxedos and even pick up out of town wedding guests from the airport.

On the big day, your groomsmen will help the groom through the stressors of the day. They will arrive at the ceremony early to help tie up any last minute details and stand by the groom’s side as he pledges his eternal love to his new bride. In many cases, they will often have to write speeches and address your wedding guests at the reception.

The Best Man

The best man plays an especially important role in your wedding party. According to legend, the best man originally stood at the bride’s left side to help protect her throughout the wedding ceremony. Eventually the best man was banished from the bride’s side to avoid jealousy on the part of the groom, and has been standing by the groom ever since.

Typically, the best man will take the lead in any pre-wedding planning that may fall to the groomsmen. He will help coordinate tuxedo fittings, plan the bachelor party and help choose a large gift to present to the bride and groom from the wedding party. He must also safeguard the wedding rings until they are needed during the ceremony. The best man often serves as a legal witness to the marriage, and will usually make a toast to the happy couple at the wedding reception.

The Toast

The wedding toast is another tradition that has been around for centuries. In Ancient Greece, there was a widespread fear of poisoning. At large gatherings, it was customary for the host to drink first, from a shared decanter. He would then offer a toast to his guests who would drink only after ensuring the safety of the drink which they were about to imbibe.

Toasting Flutes.jpgAs time passed, it became customary for the best man to read aloud the telegrams of people who were unable to attend the festivities. Eventually, this practice evolved into the custom we recognize today as the best man toast. This is generally a relatively short speech which combines a mixture of humorous jokes or anecdotes about the couple with sincere wishes for the health and prosperity of their marriage.

To write a proper best man toast, one should start off by brainstorming ideas about the couple. Write down everything you know about them, from mundane items including their names and how you met them to why you were chosen as the best man. Think of any funny or touching tales that you could include in your toast.

The best man toast should include a beginning, middle and end. It is likely that not everyone at the reception will know who you are, so be sure to introduce yourself. This is also a good place to include a joke or funny story to hold the audience’s attention. However, know your audience.  It’s better to find out in advance if the happy couple’s family might find a joke offensive than to find out after the fact. It is also a good idea to thank everyone for attending the wedding and sharing in the couple’s big day.

The toast should generally last no more than three to five minutes, so it is best to keep the body of the speech brief. Refer back to the notes you made in your brainstorming session and compose a personal thought on love and marriage as it applies to this particular bride and groom. The end of your speech is where your actual toast will come in. Wrap it up with well wishes to the bride and groom, and then introduce the next speaker.

History of the Tuxedo

While the exact origins of the tuxedo have been oft debated, the invention of this standard uniform of American formal attire is widely attributed to Pierre Lorillard IV, a wealthy 19th century tobacco magnate.

Lorillard and his family lived in an elite residential colony called Tuxedo Park, 40 miles northwest of New York City. During his lifetime, Tuxedo Park was established as an elite hunting and fishing destination complete with an extravagant social scene. One of the highlights of the colony’s social season was the Tuxedo Club’s annual Autumn Ball, the first of which was held in October of 1886.

Prior to that first fateful ball, it was customary for gentlemen to wear a long tailcoat and white tie. However, Lorillard decided to stray from the norm, commissioning a modified “tailless” black jacket in honor of the Tuxedo Club’s first ball. However, Pierre himself did not follow through and actually wear the new style himself. Instead, his somewhat rebellious son, Griswold Lorillard did wear this new short jacket to the ball, along with several of his influential young friends.

Because of their social standing, these young men set off a new trend in formal wear that would soon sweep the nation. Before long, it became customary for young men to wear the new “tuxedo” to the Dress Circle of New York's Metropolitan Opera. It was only a matter of time before this new standard for formal attire became a symbol of celebration among American men. Today tuxedos are worn for the most formal occasions and are a common site at American weddings.

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by Carlson Craft