So, why do we have a best man in a wedding? If you are in the mindset of a 2012 Groom, you would probably say: To hang on to the rings during the ceremony, make sure that the groom has the marriage license, to help the groom dress for the ceremony, legal witness to the marriage, or perhaps to single that man out as a very important person/friend to the groom.
This current role, evolved from a very different “best man” role. The best man, at one time, was there to support his best friend that was seeking and capturing a bride. In a situation where men greatly outnumbered women, this scenario was necessary. And since kidnapping, I meant to say, acquiring a bride could be so much work, it was too much for just one man, alas, his most trusted friend would be asked to help in this endeavor.
The best man role continued to evolve, and somewhere around 250 A.D. his task was to safeguard the bride, against the threat that the bride’s family would attempt to forcibly kidnap, and again, I meant to say; forcibly re-aquire the bride. The best man was armed and ready to fight for his friend, and the groom’s, bride. He also guarded the new couples home after the ceremony.
And, I recently read in the book “Common Phrases And Where They Come From” by: Mordock & Korach a similar, but different version. “In feudal days a rival of the groom, if he was any kind of a gallant, took an oath to carry off the bride before or during the nuptials. Since marriages were arranged and the groom often wasn’t the brides first choice, romantic triangles were not uncommon. In order to avoid the rival, most nuptials took place under cover of night. fortunate was the groom who could get as a best man, a worthy and versatile warrior to defend him against his rival should he discover where and when the wedding was to take place.
A wise best man would enlist a coterie of ushers in armor who were expert lancers to accompany him to the ceremony. Behind the altars of many a feudal church were stored for emergency use by wedding parties; huge collections of long lances with torch socket. The lances were used both for defense and for illumination during a get-away. Only the bravest of the brave volunteered to attend a bridegroom at his nuptials, and the best man was truly the best man, for if he was unable to fight down the groom’s rival and his supporters, the groom would lose his bride.”
Sheesh. So much work for the best man back then! Now all he has to do is mind the ring, the marriage certificate, make a lovely toast and have some fun at the reception! Anyway, ladies, aren’t you glad that all of the kidnapping, weapons, and violence is out of the picture?