Groomsman

A groomsman (North America, Australasia) or usher (Britain, Ireland) is one of the male attendants to the groom in a wedding ceremony and performs the first speech at the wedding. Usually, the groom selects close friends and relatives to serve as groomsmen, and it is considered an honor to be selected. From his groomsmen, the groom usually chooses one to serve as best man.

Participant in Western wedding ceremonies
Three groomsmen stand to the left of the groom and three bridesmaids stand to the right of the bride in this wedding in Kep, Cambodia.

For a wedding with many guests, the groom may also ask other male friends and relatives to act as ushers without otherwise participating in the wedding ceremony; their sole task is ushering guests to their seats before the ceremony. Ushers may also be hired for very large weddings.

In a military officer’s wedding, the roles of groomsmen are replaced by swordsmen of the sword honor guard. They are usually picked as close personal friends of the groom who have served with him. Their role includes forming the traditional saber arch for the married couple and guests to walk through.

The first recorded use of the word ‘groomsmen’, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, was as recently as 1698, although the words ‘bride’ and ‘groom’ both date back to Old English.[1]

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The groom, his best man, and two ushers.

The most visible duty of the groomsmen is helping guests find their places before the ceremony and to stand near the groom during the wedding ceremony.

Additionally, the groom may request other kinds of assistance, such as planning celebratory events such as a bachelor party, also called a stag-do or buck’s night; helping make the wedding pleasant for guests by talking with people who are alone or dancing with unaccompanied guests or bridesmaids, if there is dancing at a wedding reception; or providing practical assistance with gifts, luggage, or unexpected complications. Groomsmen may also participate in local or regional traditions, such as decorating the newlywed couple’s car.[2]

Bridegroom-men formerly had important duties. The men were called bride-knights, and represented a survival of the primitive days of marriage by capture, when a man called his friends in to assist to “lift” or kidnap the bride, or from the need to defend the bride from would-be kidnappers.[3][4][5]

“Best man” redirects here. For other uses, see Best man (disambiguation).
A best man and a maid of honour with newlyweds

The best man is the chief assistant to the groom at a wedding. While the role is older, the earliest surviving written use of the term best man comes from 1782, observing that “best man and best maid” in the Scottish dialect are equivalent to “bride-man and bride-maid” in England.[6]

In most modern Anglophone countries, the groom extends this honor to someone who is close to him, generally a close friend or a relative (such as a sibling or cousin). When the groom wishes to give this honor to a woman, she may be termed the best woman or best person,[7] although traditionally she would still be referred to as the ‘best man’. The bride’s equivalent of the best man is the bridesmaid, or the maid/matron of honor. If this honoree is male, he may be called a “man of honor.”[7] During a wedding ceremony the best man stands next to the groom, slightly behind him. This means that the four people present at the altar are the officiant (such as a civil celebrant, priest, rabbi, minister, or other religious figure), the bride, groom, and best man. This is common in some western countries, although in others the best man and bridesmaid participate on an equal footing.

While the best man’s required duties are only those of a friend, in the context of a western white wedding, the best man will typically:

  • Assist the groom on the wedding day,
  • Organise a stag-do,
  • Be in charge of the ushers[8]
  • Keep the wedding rings safe until needed during the ceremony,
  • Stand next to the groom during the ceremony,
  • Act as a legal witness to the marriage and therefore sign the marriage certificate, and
  • Prepare a “best man’s speech” to be read at the reception[9]

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