The Better Man

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September 11, 2009 by David Gillaspie



DG’s B&B is big on wedding parties.  There’s something about outdoor arches bursting with climbing flowers that draw people in love.  A Best Man recently spent the night:

“This is my fifth wedding.  Not married five time, best man five times.  I’ve got a good record.  My weddings usually hold; only one divorce in the bunch.  Even on that one both people remarried and had families with someone else, so the vibe wasn’t poison.

I wouldn’t call it a jinx, but my first best man gig was for my older brother and his college girlfriend.  The first time I met her was at a house party.  After we were introduced, if you call shouting names at a kegger an introduction, she found me in the backyard for a proper meeting.

She held my hands, then gave me a hug.  Then the kissing started.  I didn’t panic, but I remembered how agitated big brother got when anyone rode his bike as a kid.  I was pretty sure kissing his girlfriend was a similar violation.  Their sacred union wasn’t doomed from the start, but getting married in puke green tuxedoes you wouldn’t find at the tackiest prom was an omen.

Memo to grooms: unless you’re in Miami, stick to the basic black.  No one wants to see a male peacock strutting their feathers at the altar.  Let that bride shine.

Younger brother tapped me for best man duties after his original choice backed out.  The rumor of the day was he put a liplock on the bride-to-be that left much to desire, which proves that even a beautiful woman can’t improve a bad kisser.  I got the call in bullpen, warmed up, and stood in with the poise called for. 

Their wedding in one of the most beautiful gardens in the country has passed the test of time.  Their devotion to one another grows each year.  I returned best man duties when I asked both brothers to be my best men.  It worked; I’m still married.  That ended the family section of best manning.

My college roommate asked me to be his best man.  He married the girl across the street after her dad came over and threatened to kill everyone in the house if anything happened to his daughter.  Wedding planning started that week.  All the roommates wanted that wedding to happen for their own safety. 

Decades later I was tapped for best man for two second weddings.  The first was a combination of responsibilities that included reception setup, serving, and clean-up.  I even had to sign a sheet declaring myself the responsible on if things went wrong.  Since it was a second wedding I figured everything that could go wrong already had.

A month later I did my best best manning for my best friend.  He asked me and I said yes.  That’s what best friends do.  He and I met as twelve year olds in our hometown.  We’ve shared life’s dramas over the years.  I got married at his house.  He has smoothed some of the rough roads we’ve been down.  He’s been a friend, a mentor, and an example to my kids.  We have a true bro-mance in the classic sense.  One of us will be speaking at the other’s funeral one day.

My best friend set the standard high for weddings of any number.  His wife’s maid of honor transformed hotel rooms and restaurant tables into intimate settings with family heirloom table clothes and bouquets.  She created a touching scene beside a lake that puts every other wedding in shaded light. 

I expected a nice ceremony and an enjoyable evening.  Instead I got a life lesson from mentor-best friend.  He wrote his own vows.  Since I’m a writer I asked if he wanted me to review them.  When he said no, I asked if I could read them.  He said I’d hear them when everyone else heard them.  I heard them alright.

Instead of wedding vows, I heard the Gettysburg Address of marriage; I heard the General MacArthur speech before a joint session of Congress.  Instead of vows memorized from a wedding vow how-to book, I heard a voice speak for all men determined to be better men.  His words deserve to be carved in stone and mounted in every chapel.  

Every man on the altar hears about love and honor while they gaze at their bride.  Most of the time the minister does the talking.  It’s all said in generalities that witnesses have heard before.  Not this time.  The groom spelled out what he will do and what he won’t do.  He spoke for all men trying to be better, trying to be more to their loved one when being less is easier.

I started out as the Best Man.  After the wedding ceremony I wanted to be a better man.  When a friend puts that idea in your head, you know you’ve got a keeper.”


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