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Why Is the Groom’s #1 Buddy Called the “Best Man” at a Wedding?

While today the best man is usually the groom’s best friend, back in history, the best man was so much more: He was there to guard the bride and groom! Read on to find out more!

Hey, John!


I’m getting married in June. I wanted to know the history behind the role of the best man.


–Will, Bewildered in Wilsonville

Hey, Will!

Great question! Here at Ainsworth House & Gardens, the best place to get married in Oregon, we love answering your questions. For this one, we have to go back in history. Waaay back to the 16th. century Europe! If the bride’s parents didn’t agree to letting  her marry her beloved, the couple’s only option was to elope.

While the skinny groom-to-be could ride up on a scrawny pony to his beloved’s home and trot away with his bride-to-be, this often wasn’t successful.


Instead, the groom would recruit as his best man the best swordsman the groom could find; the master swordsman was selected for his fighting skills and how well he could protect the young couple. In fact, he was vital to the success of this marital adventure. 

The best man (or best swordsman) and the small army of bride-knights (the men we now call the “groomsmen”) fulfilled three roles during the eloping.


First, they helped the bride escape her family. Removing a young woman forcibly from her family takes an army. Literally.


Now, that the bride, her groom, and his army have ridden off to the nearest wedding venue, the best swordsman has a second role to play: Protect the couple during the wedding ceremony.




Well, it’s not likely that her family was simply going to let their darling daughter go. Often, the bride’s male relatives formed a posse and charged out over the countryside to get her back.


If they found the couple during the wedding ceremony, the couple was very vulnerable because their backs were toward the door.  If the bride’s angry male relatives charged through the door,  the groomsmen stood between the couple and the relatives. As the last line of defense, the best man or the master swordsman stood to the right of the groom so that he could easily draw his sword with his right hand and immediately be in a fighting stance.


The best man’s third role? He and the groomsmen guarded the door during the couple’s wedding night. 

As to your best man, may he be a knight to remember and may his swash never buckle! 🙂


Your friend in the wedding business



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