Bridesmaids are a given at nearly all weddings, but where did this tradition come from and why do we have bridesmaids at weddings?
Everyone knows that the main job of the bridesmaids is to assist the bride in the run up to her wedding with the planning as well as to support her on the big day itself, which will undoubtedly be one of the most emotionally stressful days of her life. However, you may be surprised to read that bridesmaids had a more supernatural role when it came to weddings.
Evil Spirits and Highwaymen
Most modern wedding traditions stem from the era when brides would be routinely kidnapped, this is why brides always stand on the left during the wedding ceremony, so that the groom’s right hand was free to allow him to easily draw his sword to fight of would be kidnappers!
Bridesmaids traditionally all wear the same colours, the historic reason for this was to confuse evil spirits. Originally the bridesmaids would not just be dressed to look like each other, but to look like the bride herself.
This custom goes back centuries to ancient Rome and China where the bride would have to travel many miles to the groom’s village where she would be vulnerable to attack by highwaymen and rival suitors. With everyone looking so alike it made it difficult to identify the bride, this is also the reason behind brides wearing veils to mask their face.
When Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in 1840, all of her twelve bridesmaids were dressed in identical white dresses to compliment Victoria’s beautiful white, satin gown. It was Victoria and her bridesmaids that started the tradition of royal brides wearing white instead of silver on their wedding day.
Thankfully modern weddings are a bit more laid back when it comes to bridesmaids’ duties. The head bridesmaid, known as the maid of honour if she is unmarried or matron of honour if she is married, is by tradition in charge of the other bridesmaids.
It would be the maid of honour’s duty to give out chores to the other bridesmaids to help in the planning of the wedding, she would look after the bride and help her get ready for the ceremony.
Hand Picked Hotels explain that traditions have changed over the years, “Today, the maid or matron of honour offers emotional and logistical support to the bride and handles numerous wedding day details from holding her bouquet during the vows to toasting the bride and groom and if there is no ring bearer wears the groom’s ring on her finger. The bridesmaids act as a support team for the maid of honour, and form the bride’s entourage helping with any pre-wedding tasks.”
Traditionally bridesmaids were all unmarried eligible young women, usually relatives or close friends of the bride and the number of bridesmaids chosen depended on the social status of the bride’s family.
Luckily, today those traditions have long gone, a bride will now choose her nearest and dearest, whether they are married or unmarried, and at any age to stand by her side on her wedding day.