For any groom, picking a best man is a pretty big deal. After all, he’s the one who’ll be guarding the rings, making a heartfelt toast, planning the bachelor party, among other important tasks. But have you ever stopped to think where this tradition came from in the first place? Why is he called a “best man” anyway?
Well, centuries ago, men had to resort to stealing the bride-to-be from her family if they disapproved of him. And that’s where the best man came in. He would basically act as the groom’s backup in the event that one of the bride’s loved ones tried to take her back from the groom (or the unwilling bride tried to run away).
Protecting a kidnapper, of course, had the potential to get ugly. That’s why the selected best man had to be the “best” at handling a sword, in case a sword fight broke out. As the official sword fighter, he would serve as the groom’s armed guard right up until the ceremony.
On the wedding day, the swordsman would stand next to the groom at the altar—like modern-day best men do—and be ready to fight, but not just with swords. Groups such as the Huns, Goths and Visigoths, which date back to ancient Roman times, would store a slew of weapons underneath the church floor just in case. The best man’s job continued into the night as he stood guard at the newlyweds’ bedroom door.
So the next time you see a best man at a wedding, give thanks he’s just protecting the rings instead of a bride-kidnapping groom.