For most brides it’s hard to image walking down the aisle without the support of their bridesmaids. These lovely ladies are on hand every step of the way, from helping you pick the perfect veil to planning a killer hen-party to making sure your glass never runs low all though the wedding day. We just wouldn’t be without these wonderful, supportive women.
But did you know that in many cultures, brides don’t have bridesmaids at all? For lots of our brides from other parts of Europe, of course their girlfriends are still on hand to provide love and support. But bridesmaids? Matching dresses and accompanying them down the aisle? It’s just not something they do. It’s got us thinking about where the tradition came from!
What The Romans Did For Us
Our bridesmaids story beings way way back in Ancient Rome! Like many wedding traditions and superstitions, bridesmaids have more than one ‘origin story’. Lots of them though, like veils and hen parties, first crop up in Ancient Rome.
Roman weddings sometimes required as many as 10 witnesses, hence the need for a big bridal party with plenty of bridesmaids and groomsmen! These early bridesmaids would wear the same dresses, but they’d take it further than we do today. They’d dress the same as the bride, veil and everything! Newly-weds were thought to be easy pickings for evil spirits, so by dressing the same and concealing their faces, the spirits would be confused.
The maid of honour was there too, but she had a slightly different role. For a start, she was the matron of honour. She acted as a role model for the new bride, and actually was responsible for joining the couple’s hands during the ceremony!
By medieval times, bridesmaids played a slightly different role. The majority of weddings were arranged and could be used to form powerful alliances. The bridesmaids in matching dresses were no longer there to confuse malevolent spirits, there were to confuse the much more physical threat of other parties who might not like the match! In addition to the bridesmaids, you could expect to see the groomsmen rebranded as ‘the bride’s knights’ – tasked with protecting the bridal party.
The groom hasn’t been forgotten. The best man first showed up around the 16th Century. As well as making a speech, the best man was in fact the best swordsman. Aren’t you glad that the worst jeopardy you’ll have to face at your wedding is Auntie Maud having too much champagne?
Here Come The Girls
Victorian bridesmaids look a lot more familiar to us. Early Victorian bridesmaids wore less ornate versions of the brides outfit, but this fell out of fashion and finally bridesmaids were wearing something totally gorgeous yet totally different to the bride. And hello much loved (and much dreaded?) night in making DIY favours! As a Victorian bridesmaid you’re expected to get crafty with ribbons and flowers, a proud tradition that I’m sure you’re still familiar with.
The Perils Of Being a Bridesmaid
There’s bound to be a scuffle to see who’s going to catch the bouquet. But if you were an Anglo Saxon bride you would be instead throw a shoe. Lovely. It gets weirder! The shoe would first have been thrown at you by your new husband, you then throw it to your bridesmaids and the lucky girl who catches it throws it at the first man she sees. And that’s who she marries. Right.
You might want to catch that shoe though. Because if you were a bridesmaid three times without being married yourself then bad luck lady, you’re cursed! You better hope plenty of your friends are getting married because the only way to break the spell is by being a bridesmaid a total of seven times. That’s a lot of hen parties!
We Love Bridesmaids!
Three cheers for the amazing women you’ve invited to walk down the aisle with you. Ladies, you are awesome. We’d very proud to stock some beautiful dresses from Ghost London and Two Birds. There’s a colour and style to suit everyone! Book your appointment at Oxford or Beaconsfield to come and get dressed up.