The origins of the term Groomsmen
The first recorded use of the word ‘groomsmen’, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, was as recently as 1698, although the words ‘bride’ and ‘groom’ both date back to Old English. Originally the word ‘groom’ simply meant ‘man’, but by Shakespeare’s time it had come to mean ‘a male attendant’. The tradition of ‘groomsmen,’ as trusted companions of the bridegroom, seems to date back to least the Anglo-Saxon period, at which time the groom was protected by a group of loyal warriors. The groomsmen may have been used to abduct the bride from her family or to protect her from attack during the wedding. Weddings of the wealthy were a target for thieves, because of the valuable gifts which would be brought, and though there is a long tradition that weapons were not allowed in churches, in medieval Scandinavia the covered porch over the church door was known as the ‘vapenhus’ or weapons’ house, acts of violence in church, such as the murder of Thomas Becket, were not unknown. In military weddings to this day, groomsmen are referred to as ‘swordsmen’ and the married couple make their exit by walking under an arch of crossed swords. Nowadays groomsmen play a less violent role, supporting the groom in the preparation and management of the celebrations, rather than fighting off adversaries.
The history of Groomsmen gifts
The giving of gifts is as old as human interaction. It is a symbolic gesture of friendship and goodwill, a mechanism by which a bond is established. The rise of the consumer society in the 19th century and the growth of an affluent middle class saw the proliferation of gift giving, promoted by manufacturers as a means of selling their wares. Over time, the giving of gifts at specific occasions, such as birthdays, became an expectation and failure to give a gift at such times is seen as an act in itself. The giving of groomsmen gifts became institutionalised during the 20th century as the weddings of ordinary people gradually became larger and more expensive. By the end of the 20th century the wedding, in Western culture, had become the key ceremonial event in a person’s lifetime and the commercialisation of wedding minutiae firmly entrenched. Groomsmen’s gifts are not optional, they are an expectation; a recognition of the time and money that the individual has committed to the role.
Groomsmen gift etiquette
When you ask a friend to be your groomsman you are asking them to devote time, energy and money to help ensure that your wedding is a success. Though the individual may feel ‘honoured’ to have been asked to be a groomsman, they are doing you a favour, rather than the other way around. Do not underestimate the trouble and expense that you are asking them to undertake on your behalf. Your gift to them should reflect your gratitude. It should be an object of quality and perhaps one which is symbolic of your friendship and the occasion of your wedding. Personalise the gifts rather than individualising them, which could cause discord if one gift is perceived to be more expensive than another.
Groomsmen: Commonly Asked Questions
What is a Groomsmen gift?
A groomsman gift is a gift given by the groom to the male friends who will be acting as groomsmen at his wedding. The gift is an acknowledgement of their help and an affirmation of friendship.
Why give a Groomsmen gift?
Although an individual may feel pleased and honoured to have been asked to be a groomsman, the role does require them to devote time, energy and expense to the task of contributing to a successful wedding. The groom should not assume that the ’honour’ of being asked is sufficient compensation in itself. The gift is not a financial recompense, but an acknowledgement of the groom’s appreciation and friendship.
How and when to give a Groomsmen gift.
There is no hard a fast rule, and where and when you choose to give your groomsmen, their gifts are a matter of personal preference. That said, there are clearly some points at which gift giving might ill advised. Giving the gift as soon as you ask your friend to be a groomsman feels inappropriate because it precedes the shared experience of the wedding. Likewise, giving the gifts during a stag weekend might well result in most of them being left behind. Giving groomsmen gifts on the day of the wedding, during speeches, is possible, but is a very public gifting and it intrudes on the other traditions of the day. A meal on the night before the wedding or at the conclusion of a wedding rehearsal may be the best options as they are smaller, more intimate, occasions. You may choose to give groomsmen gifts individually but finding the time to do so could prove problematic. Giving all your groomsmen their gift at the same time also gives you the opportunity to make a short speech of thanks.
How much should I spend on Groomsmen gifts?
The gifts that you give your groomsmen should be as generous as you can afford, but never embarrassingly ostentatious. Giving gifts which are cheap, tawdry or lacking in thought are demeaning to you and insulting to your groomsmen.
Are Groomsmen supposed to give gifts?
Groomsmen are not expected to give gifts at a wedding. Their gift is the time and energy they have committed to help making your wedding a success.
A Groomsmen gift for someone who doesn’t drink.
A bottle of liquor, such as a fine wine or a quality spirit is an appropriate groomsman gift, though it does have the disadvantage that once it is drunk there is no memento remaining, however, it may be that your groomsman does not drink alcohol. A good choice of gift is something that will remind them of the wedding and is something that they would not usually buy. Leather goods, such as a washbag, wallet or messenger bag are quality gifts which will last a lifetime and can be personalised with the initials of the individual. A personalised pen, cuff links or pocket-knife are also gifts which might be appropriate.