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Style Counsel: A better version of the best man

Thanks for writing, BOMB, and congrats on this honour. While there is a lot of work ahead of you, you will also have some fun and be able to say you were part of a dear friend’s great day. At the very least, you’ll be getting a free meal and a few drinks, so endeavor to show some advance gratitude by remembering these basics.

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By Thomas Palakon (Contributor) – Email

Image: Mai Le / Flickr

Image: Mai Le / Flickr

Mr. Palakon, I’ve been asked to be the best man for a good friend’s wedding. Any tips on how to handle all the duties? I’m especially nervous about the speech.

– Best Of Male Buddies

Thanks for writing, BOMB, and congrats on this honour. While there is a lot of work ahead of you, you will also have some fun and be able to say you were part of a dear friend’s great day. At the very least, you’ll be getting a free meal and a few drinks, so endeavor to show some advance gratitude by remembering these basics.

First, it’ll be your job to get the groomsmen organized for their fittings, or at the very least ensure everyone is dressed appropriately and to strictest adherence to whatever the dress code is. Weddings have gotten more casual, and while some may sniff over the move away from tuxedos, I think a sharply tailored suit and boutonniere is more than appropriate. (And what, exactly, is so aspirational about renting a piece of clothing that was last worn by some spotty-faced high school urchin as he tried to paw at his prom date?) Speak to the groom, obviously, but also consult the bride on the smaller details, such as tie choices and pocket squares. These touches are very much on her radar, I assure you.

You’ll also be tasked with organizing the bachelor party. Again, these may not be the bacchanals they once were, but I can almost guarantee one of the groomsmen will be insisting on Vegas, strippers, and various levels of consciousness-altering substances. Ignore him. Go to the groom, find out what he wants, and make the appropriate arrangements. Paintball, golf, casinos, a whiskey or wine tasting, a blow-out meal at an upscale steakhouse — these have all become popular as stag bash ideas. If you indeed intend to support your local arts scene by visiting a dance cabaret of the night, just make sure everyone is comfortable with it, and keep them as well-behaved as possible. (Yes, that’s your job too, especially in the era of mobile phone cameras and The Facebook.) Quick addendum: If your night involves poker and cigars, I strongly recommend a keep-it-friendly $5 buy-in and Cohibas.

Finally, prep your speech well in advance. Open with a compliment to the bridesmaids on their beauty and effortless effervescence. Move on to a brief mention of how you and the groom became great friends, share an amusing anecdote about youthful foibles, and follow that with a story cementing the groom’s impeccable character and integrity. At one point, speak directly to the bride, make eye contact, and thank her for coming into your friend’s life. And for pity’s sake, keep it clean. It’s your goal here to remind people of what a great lad the groom is, not relive past sexual missteps or alcohol-fuelled bust-ups. Lastly, keep it short. Three to four minutes is plenty. You’re not the only one waiting to eat a free meal and check out the open bar.

Apparently, past traditions for the best man included having to stand in the groom’s place if he were challenged to a duel. (That’s fallen out of favour, but if it should come up, always choose pistols over sabres.) While your job here is no longer life-and-death, I strongly suggest you get organized and start planning on your mate’s behalf. A gentleman’s first wedding is, after all, very special.

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