I have grown somewhat cynical about weddings and marriage in generally. Do not get me wrong, I believe marriage is a beautiful concept and can be cool. But being the Best Man or a member of the groom’s fraternity is a different kettle of fish.
The history of the best man dates to Medieval Europe and is deeply rooted in Chivalry. There was such a time when “marriage by capture” was practiced, where close friends of the groom (most notably the Best Man) assist him in kidnapping the bride from her family and protected her from re-capture by her relatives.
I have never been saddled with such daunting task as stealing a bride from her family in the wee hours of the night, but the honour of being the Best Man in the twenty-first century is no less tasking.
There is a plethora of responsibilities the Best Man should perform but the classic three are: safeguarding the ring, ensure plans are nice and tight before the D-day (well, primarily the bachelor’s eve), and third, guaranteeing the groom doesn’t fuck himself up the night before. This of course means the Best Man has the least fun and gets no joy himself and takes one for the team.
I have had this privilege a couple of times and I can say as honourable as these responsibilities might seem, there are several reasons I’d be declining further invitations.
NUMBER ONE: THE COST
Weddings cost plenty of money in pretty much every culture. Many would-be couples find ways to stay within budget and a ‘decent’ ceremony in Nigeria could run into ones of millions. By whatever cost cutting measures are in place, essentials such as the reception venue, cake, food and souvenirs are sacrosanct. What the intending couple never account for however is what the groom’s men would wear. That cost is passed on to the groom’s man.
I have a few suits in my closet. I do not need a tuxedo, more so, one I must pay for. The usual practice here is for groom and best man to wear ensemble tuxedos while the rest of the cast don similar suits. The problem with this setup is that the groom in his bid to look distinct, drags the best man along with him in wearing a piece that can only be worn on special occasions. What use is a burgundy, auburn, white or blue tux to me after the wedding? What would I do with the waist coat and pocket square? Let’s not forget I had to shell out forty, fifty or sixty thousand grand to buy this suit I probably will never wear again.
NUMBER TWO: MY BEING MARRIED
Traditionally, I believe the best man ought to be a Bachelor. There should be a rite of passage performed by the groom’s men for the groom. He- groom – should be made to rue opportunities lost in his abandonment of bachelorhood. He can no more bed women as he wishes, he can no more keep late nights clubbing or hanging out, his money is no longer just his. It is the best man’s job to highlight these losses. The best man becomes the patron saint of Casanovas, he typifies the groom’s bête noire- his nemesis. The groom should find a tormentor in his mate- someone he admires and resents at the same time. If the best man is married, this sort of banter is impossible. We see this dramatized well by Steve Stifler (American Pie) and Quentin (The Best Man). Having someone married standing by your side and ushering you into marriage is bit of a downer. I should no more be allowed to perform this solemn duty!
NUMBER THREE: THE SERMON
I like the solemnization ceremony. I just like the reception party more.
The night before has happened, and we are hopefully going to keep mum about everything that happened in Vegas. The paraphernalia of the day is set in motion and my best man check-list is complete; everyone is looking their best. The groom leads us like minions in Kim Jong- un’s army- soldier ants, towards the altar.
The chaplain leads the couple through their vows and have them repeat one of the most dreadful words known to man: “Forsaking All Others”. If my mate only knows what he just signed up to!
The chaplain continues to dish out advise like Serena serving a worthy opponent. The recitals come hard and fast like curve balls – submission, stoop, sacrifice, selfless but the chaplain forgets one vital “s”. The one that meshes the rest together. Perhaps this lapse in memory is because we are in sanctuary.
He goes on: Courage, Compassion…, now I have had it. He should have just thrown in celibacy for good measure.
Wedding sermons remind me how I should live. I want to run.
Can we go to the reception already?
NUMBER FOUR: THE SPEECH
In one wedding, the groom wants us to make a legendary entrance into the reception venue. He wants the moment etched in our memories for the rest of our lives.
I omit to tell him this: I won’t be remembering this moment bro, only you will.
He asks that we dance in with the bridal train in pairs. Not a problem, anything to show my dancing skills, however rusty. I make a vow: I am gonna shake it till I break it.
I am of course paired with the chief bride’s maid. She looks like she fancies me unfortunately the downside of being a married Best Man is that you are now a waste of space for the ladies. She’s immediately disappointed and already looking towards the other groomsmen.
The Cake is cut. The couples dance, the Bride and her father dance and then it is time for the toast. Me time.
The attention is on me, to say something lovely about the fine couple. One problem here is that I know everything about my guy but zilch about his wife. The best man toast ends up being a setup to lie.
“When Martha met Lazarus (not real names), I began to see positive change. He became responsible and I could see a boy mature into a man. I have never seen my friend love anyone like he loves Martha
And she, the wife has this beam on her face like she believes me. She knows I don’t know her, and we hadn’t spoken until a week before the wedding when we met for the rehearsals.
I go on:
Lazarus is a man you can trust. A man who would be your faithful friend
The words roll out my tongue like pounded yam with ogbono soup. Lazarus was the least faithful guy I knew. In fact, back in University, I had to clean up a lot of his mess when there were bursts ups between his several girlfriends. I did the dirty job of fending off “brutal attacks” and I was a shoulder they could cry on.
There was one ex, Nkoli who was out there and could marry him this minute if he was willing to walk from Martha. I preferred her for him and I still think Martha was a wrong choice but of course that is none of my business.
Can we all raise our glasses to the newest couple in town
NUMBER FIVE: THE END
The wedding Is finally over. I should be happy, yeah. My buddy Is off with his bride to some Island hopefully living up to man creed.
But there is this feeling of nostalgia I cannot shake off. The man I knew before he got hitched is gone. He is changed, metamorphosed. He is a new man. The whole Second Corinthians, five- seventeen miracle just happened to him.
And hence, from the day of his wedding, he is technically not my “bro” anymore. His wife comes first.
No one readily admits this, but marriage changes people irredeemably. Not sure he’d readily advance me that 500,000 grand now, damn!
Otaigbe Itua Ewoigbokhan is a Sales Manager in Lagos, Nigeria. He writes fiction and essays during his spare time. His writings have appeared in major Nigerian publications including The Guardian and This Day. He holds a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the University of Benin. A member of the Abuja Literary Society, Otaigbe maintains a blog at ItuaLive! where his focus is politics and culture.
Follow him on twitter @otaigbe05