They were actually a protection detail
In older times it was customary for arranged marriages to take place. This led to the groomsmen having some very interesting duties like standing next to the bride on her wedding day to make sure she would not run away. Sometimes, it was their job to go and steal the bride away from her village and prevent her family from stealing her back on and before the wedding day.
They had to pay the dowry
The tradition behind bridal showers has its origins in fundraising functions. It was traditionally expected that the bride’s family was to pay the groom’s family for taking on a new member of the family. In the case where the bride’s father did not approve of the marriage (especially when she was stolen), it was up to the wedding party to host a bridal shower and bring gifts. The gifts were often not for the bride and instead were used to pay the dowry.
They had to bring good luck and chase away bad luck
Weddings were very superstitious events in ancient times and it was the responsibility of the wedding party to observe strict rituals to bring good luck to the new couple and protect them from bad luck. Such duties included carrying strong-smelling herbs like garlic, ringing bells, and throwing flowers in front of the bride to welcome fertility. Unlike weddings of today, these superstitions were very strict and bringing bad luck to the couple was a social no-no.
They had to keep the couple separate beforehand
This is a tradition that is followed today, but the seriousness of this duty was much greater in earlier times. Since some marriages were arranged, it was believed that the groom should not see the bride before the wedding in case he was not attracted to her and called the wedding off.
They carried fire
Some cultures required the parents of the bride and groom to each carry fire from their respective homes and join them at the wedding. Imagine the stress of keeping the fire going and preventing it from catching on the decorations or guests’ outfits.
They had to make sure there was no relation
This is a reasonable tradition even by today’s standards, but the reason it’s mentioned here is that many people don’t realize that this is what the purpose of the Catholic tradition of posting the banns was. News of the wedding had to be posted to all of the parishes of the bride and groom and of the wedding party. While some understood this to be about spreading the joy and good news, its actual purpose was to allow members of the community to speak up if they knew of a family relation between the bride and groom.
They buried bottles
In the southern states of the USA, it was believed that the bride and/or her wedding party had to bury a bottle, upside down, exactly one month before the wedding to avoid the rain on that day. On the wedding day, the bottle then had to be dug up (probably while still in wedding attire) and shared among the wedding guests.
Bridesmaids would pinch the bride
This is a tradition from ancient Egypt. It started when a member of a wedding party pinched the bride for being teased about having no marriage proposals. Having heard about this lady’s courage, a man from a nearby village proposed to the pincher. The superstition was then started that bridesmaids should pinch the bride’s knee to bring the luck of being the next to wed.