The tradition of the groom selecting a best man to help him carry out the wedding traces its lineage back to Germanic tribes. Rather than helping carry out the wedding, the best man originally was tapped to help carry off an unwilling bride-elect, if necessary. The best man’s position beside the groom during the ceremony was meant to situate him as a shield between the groom and angry members of the bride’s family [source: World Wedding Traditions].
Other traditions evolved from earlier customs. To ensure a marriage was actually consummated at early medieval weddings, some guests served as witnesses around the marriage bed. They took the garter from the bride as proof of the consummation. This act was later replaced by the groom simply removing the garter from his bride and tossing it to eligible bachelors.
There’s another tradition that can be found in cultures around the world and sometimes with different explanations for its origins. The custom of the groom carrying the bride across the threshold is a very old one.
As it turns out, weddings in the days of yore sometimes followed kidnappings. This explains not only the role of the best man but also why the bride and groom customarily leave the wedding celebration before everyone else. It’s symbolic of the groom stealing away with his bride, whisking her from her family and into a new life with him. The kidnapping theme also explains why grooms carry their brides over the threshold in some cultures. In Medieval Europe, carrying a bride into her new home prevented her from seeming too enthusiastic about losing her virginity. By picking her up and taking her into their home, the groom provided an alibi for his wife’s chastity
For the past decade and a half I have been making all my content available for free (and never behind a paywall) as an ongoing practice of ephemeral publishing. This site is no exception. If you wish to help offset my labor costs, you can donate on Paypal or you can subscribe to Patreon where I will not be putting my posts behind a lock but you'd be helping me continue making this work available for everyone. Thank you. Follow me on Twitter for new post updates.