How Did the Tradition of a Best Man in Weddings Come Into Being? -

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How Did the Tradition of a Best Man in Weddings Come Into Being?

          A number of my male friends were once a best man for a wedding and one of them explained the origin of a best man in weddings.  According to him, there was no exact era as to when the tradition of a best man started.  But he believes that the best man was created to protect the groom from the bride.  Huh?!  He further explained that in the early days before Christ was born, all brides were virgins.  The first sexual intercourse was painful and caused trauma to brides leading to development of hate, disgust, and anger towards the groom.  So, to eliminate the situation, the best was conceived and he had the duty of deflowering the virgin bride and the best man absorbed all the anger, hatred, and disgust instead of the husband. 

how best man in weddings came to be
Wedding of Rita Hayworth to Orson Welles with Joseph Cotten as best man
          I knew that the idea was not plausible.  Men in general are territorial and possessive and they do not want to share what is perceived to be their own possession and the bride is a possession to them.  Reading several articles about the origin of the best man tradition pointed to a certain need.  Unfortunately, the need to drive away the negative feelings of the bride towards groom is not one of such reasons.  It proved further that I was just taken for a ride by my friend.
Short Supply of Brides

          The tradition originated because there was no more bride available in the community.  In the olden days, a German Goths’ future husband would select his future wife within his territory but when there was none available, he would select a male partner to search and capture a bride from other communities or territories.  Naturally, the groom would select the best man in the community to help him with his operation or mission. The role of the best man was not limited to helping the groom invade and kidnap a bride. He also had the responsibility to protect the bride from being rescued by the brides’ family.  This is the reason why the groom used to stand at the right side of the groom so he could have easy access to his weapons.

Evolution of Best Man Roles

          The tradition of best man extended into different eras in history but his role as a guardian or protector for both the bride and groom diminished over the years.  This is because situations have changed due to an evolution of cultural beliefs and traditions.  Introduction of religious beliefs and practices have also contributed to the changing role of the best man.  In some countries, the role of the best man was important prior to engagement.  He helped the groom court his future wife instead of capturing him.  Since there is no longer a need to carry weapons to ward off the bride’s family, the best man is now considered to be a witness to the wedding and during reception he holds the privilege of offering a speech in honor of the groom.

Contributed by: Alden I. Bula 

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