It’s always a good feeling to be asked by someone to be the Best Man at a wedding. Imagine that moment when a brother, a future brother-in-law or a childhood best friend comes up to you and ask you to be his go-to-man at the Wedding. That’s a huge honor, a big responsibility and a bestowal of pride to get asked to fill in that role at a Wedding. But as you swell with pride knowing that you get a front row seat for the nuptials, do you know where the role of the Best Man comes from?
It has not always been the simple choice of the man you have the strongest Bromance with, as the role of the Best Man has its origins from way back in uncivilized history. You didn’t just want a friend. You wanted a friend who could kick butt. We are talking about going back to the Huns around the 1st Century and 7th Century AD when it wasn’t unusual to bring a cache of weapons to a ceremony. If the weapons weren’t brought in specifically for the day, then they were usually stashed in secret hiding places inside the church for example, just in case things turned ugly quickly. It’s always good to be prepared.
Why the violence? Because of the more barbaric times back then, it wasn’t unusual for a bride to be taken by force. That could naturally spark some vengeance by their family who may try and interrupt the ceremony to wrestle back their daughter. It wasn’t uncommon at all for weddings to be about nothing more than power and conquering as opposed to having anything to do with love. That wasn’t as important as things like status, wealth and land. These were base times and a Groom needed himself some protection.
As well as having to watch out for vengeance-filled families, there was also envy, where a Bride may have been coveted by several and ceremonies would get raided to grab the woman before she was locked down. Or the Best Man was needed at the Wedding as an extra pair of hands in case the Bride herself just decided to do a runner, which would be reasonable if she had not acquiesced to the marriage in the first place
So the role of the Best Man was to serve as a Man-at-Arms as a backup in case anyone burst on to the Wedding scene trying to kidnap the bride. A sort of one-man militia to keep order and to make sure that the union was legalized and to help the married couple escape if need be. You aren’t talking about weddings which were governed by either the church or state back then. It was all pretty lawless.
So that “Best Man” was someone who was “best” in sword skills, so that he had the groom’s back. After all, if you wanted someone to watch your back, you would want the “Best Man” and not that “OK man” guy who may accidentally cut off his own thumb while fumbling to get his sword out of its sheath. The “Best Man” was also charged with standing outside of the bedroom door for protection of the newlyweds while they were consummating their marriage.
While there’s little need to come armed to a wedding nowadays, fortunately, the role of the Best Man in his modern guise, is to be there by the side of the Groom, to serve as an official witness to the nuptials as well and to be armed with a six pack of beer for the Stag Night.