The history of the bridesmaid varies from cultures, religions and time periods. The early Roman bridesmaids were more of a bridal army
accompanying the bride to the groom’s village. This army, all dressed similarly, would intervene if any thugs or vengeful suitors attempted to hurt the bride or steal her dowry.
The Western bridesmaid tradition originated from later Romans which required ten witnesses at a wedding in order to outsmart evil spirits, which they believed attended wedding ceremonies. The bridesmaids and ushers dressed in identical clothing to the bride and groom to confuse the evil spirits as to who was getting married. Even until the late 19th century in England did they believe that ill-wishers could curse and taint a wedding.
Today’s bridesmaid’s duties pale by comparison to ancient traditions, but, nonetheless, the responsibilities and expenses can be quite daunting.
Often the invitation, while flattering, is accepted without considering numerous factors, such as: the wedding location (home or destination), formal or informal wedding, couture or off the rack dresses, the ability to wear a dress in the style, colour or price range that you might not normally consider purchasing.
Traditionally, before the wedding the bridesmaid:
• ensures that she is available for pre-wedding tasks such as making wedding favours and addressing invitations;
• helps select or endorse the bride’s gown;
• shops for and helps select her own dress;
• pays for her own dress, shoes, jewellery, make-up, hairstyling and manicure;
• attends all pre-wedding parties;
• organizes/assists with a bridal shower and stagette for the bride or couple;
• ensures she is available for gown fittings and rehearsals;
• provides a gift for the couple;
• very importantly, understands that this can be a very emotional and stressful time for the bride and is willing to play a strong supportive role.
On the wedding day, the bridesmaid:
• works in the background to ensure that everything runs smoothly;
• keeps close tabs on the bride should she need assistance.
After the wedding, the bridesmaid:
• attends the gift opening party and makes a record of the gifts received and the gift-givers’ names.
Nowadays, the bridesmaid takes on many of these roles, but her overall role as an attendant to the bride is more relaxed. Her primary task is to make sure the bride is happy, secure and stress free.