Every year, millions of weddings take place in the United States. Millions of grooms marry millions of brides, while multiple millions groomsmen stand behind the grooms, likely bored, wondering when they can drink again, or whether that cute bridesmaid is single.
We’ve all been there. A close friend or family member finds the woman of his dreams and decides it’s time to settle down. Then it’s time to decide who will have the distinct honor of standing behind him as he pledges his undying and permanent love to his soon-to-be-wife. But is it an honor? Sure, it’s great to know that you mean enough to your friend for him to consider you among his elite circle. But once you’re a groomsman a few times, the whole experience can become a bit monotonous and almost annoying, save for the happiness you (hopefully) feel for your buddy.
There ARE ways a groom can make sure a wedding is as much a wonderful experience for the groomsmen as it is for the happy couple. Here are just a few:
Make a show of the request
Most guys tend to avoid the mushy stuff: all handshakes and high-fives, no hugs, no terms of endearment among guy friends, etc. But, at times, like when you’re getting married, a little show of appreciation for your buddy might be necessary. So don’t just casually ask when you’re already together and certainly don’t just make it a phone call (unless it can’t be avoided). Take them out for a beer. Spring for some tickets to a ball game. Take them fishing. Some special outing — either one-on-one for each guy you’d like to ask or the whole group at once.
Take the tedium out of tuxedo rental
In my experience, the rental and trying-on of tuxes is the most tedious part of any groomsman preparation. Few guys like the idea of getting measured and trying on tuxes, especially when they have no control over the color or style. But, again, if you can plan it as a group activity, it becomes much more enjoyable. Try to center all the groomsmen’s preparations on one day, so you can try to diffuse some of the annoyances with your collective humor, and maybe head out for a beer afterward to relax.
Pass on the silly groomsman gifts
Every wedding I’ve been in has come with a “groomsman gift” — a little memento from the groom to his friends in remembrance of his special day. It means well, but often falls flat. All over my apartment now and again, I’ll find one: an engraved pocket knife, a shot glass, a flask, a tie clip — all as pristine and unused as the day I got them.
Instead of giving everyone the same lame cliche, try to shoot for something a little more personal. Give each guy his own gift. Something that reminds you of him specifically, or something special of yours that you know he’d enjoy. If trying to think of individual gifts is too much for you, then maybe plan a getaway six months to a year after the wedding. Get the whole groomsman gang together for a trip to Vegas or a ski trip, or maybe just go camping at a local lake. Anything to avoid handing out another useless knickknack.
Thank them with your words
As mentioned above, some guys are preternaturally averse to sappiness, so it might be hard for you to let your closest friends know how much it means to you to have them there for you on your special day. And even though you may have done everything above to show how much it means to you, this last step is necessary just to hammer home the fact that you don’t take their kindness and willingness to carry on cordial conversations with your new wife’s family for granted.
Maybe some of your buddies are more enlightened, in which case you can just tell them directly. But it might mean more — especially if they’re particularly reticent in the feelings department — if you write your thank you down and present it to them after the dinner, or even the next day. Just writing a short little note with a personalized message of thanks can both help make the experience worth it for your friend and increase the likelihood that they’ll help you out in the future when you really need it.
Return the favor (but don’t get upset if you don’t have the chance)
This one may seem like it goes without saying, but once you ask someone to be a groomsman in your wedding, it’s sort of a contractual agreement that you’ll do the same for them when their day comes. Hopefully, with any luck, they’ll put the same effort into making your experience enjoyable as you did, but even if not, you better agree unless you have a really good excuse.
Almost more important than your willingness to participate though, is your willingness to understand if you aren’t asked. Guys have a lot of reasons for picking who they pick to be in their weddings. Just because you don’t fit the criteria, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re any less special to your buddy than he is to you. The best thing to do is show up anyway and do the best you can to have a blast.