We have all been to weddings and seen the friends and relatives of the bride standing next to her and looking on, teary-eyed, as the bride says her vows. These friends are there to help fix her veil for pictures. They have been there helping her plan and throwing showers for her. As a former bridesmaid to many a wedding, it is an exciting time for all involved. But where did this tradition come from?
Where did this start?
There are 3 trains of thought as to the origin of bridesmaids. The first actually dates all the way back to the Bible where Jacob married both Leah and Rachel, each woman brought her own “maid” (as in, “bridesmaid”), though they functioned more as literal “maids”. This was not about posing for pictures or helping pick out fine China. It was about being an actual maid to tend to the bride turned wife.
The next thought is from the Roman Empire. It was Roman law that in order for a marriage to be official there had to be 10 witnesses. Since the Roman Empire was seeped in superstition, the bridesmaids had to dress the same as the bride and the groomsmen had to dress the same as the groom. The idea behind this was to confuse the evil spirits lurking to wreak havoc on the wedding day.
The third train of thought for this tradition also dates back to the Roman Empire but with a slightly different twist. It was the groomsmen who would accompany the bride and the bridesmaid to the ceremony. They went to protect the bride and her dowry. The bridesmaids were set up as a sort of decoy to avoid any kidnapping of the bride. That is a far cry from organizing the gifts at the end of the wedding. I love my friends but not sure I am ready to be hauled off to some foreign camp to be held hostage for a ransom. But apparently, this happened a great deal.
Today in many weddings you will usually see some form of a bridal party. It could be a stretch of gal pals flanking the bride or it could be the family pet. Today’s wedding is more detailed to the bride and groom with bits and pieces of tradition thrown in. Regardless, we have come a long way from being maids or decoys.
And yes…that is me on my wedding day with my bridesmaids and I assure you none were hauled off to the enemy clansmen!