A Brief History of the Best Man

French's Point
Published May 8th, 2012

According to modern wedding tradition, the best man is a close friend or family member of the groom’s who organizes the bachelor party, helps the groom prepare for the wedding, and stands beside him at the ceremony. But the origins of this tradition are a little more violent.

The best man tradition was started centuries ago in Scotland. In the 16th century, Scottish men would usually marry women from their small village. But when there weren’t enough women to go around, a groom would have to invade a neighboring village and steal himself a bride. This kind of marauding was predictably risky and so the groom would bring along the best man he knew — as in, the best and most loyal fighter — to help him kidnap a woman, bring her back to his village, and eventually marry her. The best man would also defend the groom before and during the marriage ceremony against the bride’s family, who would come swords swinging to try and get her back. During the ceremony, the best man would stand to the right of the groom, hand on his sword, to battle anyone who might charge up the aisle toward the groom. Talk about wedding drama!

These days, kidnapping is thankfully no longer the norm. The best man’s strong sentiments for the groom usually come out in the toast, not in a throw-down in his honor. Usually.