Weddings are some of the most festive celebrations to attend. The day is filled with music, food, and people, all there to revel in the joy of the start of a new life between two people in love. But there can also be quite a bit of tension and anxiety, especially for the bride and groom. Enter the bridesmaids and groomsmen, the support system for the nervous couple often consisting of close family and/or friends.
But weddings weren’t always as they are now. In older times, they were often filled with superstitious rituals and roles. The bridesmaids were very important in these times and had some rather unusual duties.
Being there for the bride
Obviously, the most important role of the bridesmaids is to simply be there for the bride as a measure of support. Previously, as far back as Biblical times, bridesmaids were actually servants of the bride, tending to her every need and keeping her happy. While it might seem like bridesmaids still do this, at least they are chosen for their relationship to the bride and not because of a rigid vassal system.
Warding off spirits
One of the other very important roles of the bridesmaids was to serve as decoys to deter any harm to the bride. They would dress similarly to the bride so that if any unwanted spirit wished to attack her on her special day, it wouldn’t know who to choose. Interestingly enough, they were also required to wear white like the bride, a general no-no in today’s traditions.
Carrying a bouquet
As part of their role for protecting the bride, bridesmaids carried bouquets made up of herbs like garlic to keep unwanted spirits away. This changed when Queen Victoria decided to do away with the tradition and instead carry a bouquet of her favorite flowers with her bridesmaids carrying similar floral arrangements.
Aside from the point but still interesting is the tradition of throwing the bouquet for bridesmaids to catch. Previously, the bride would throw one of her shoes and not the bouquet. As if the whole thing wasn’t rough enough already…
Dressing the bride
Bridesmaids still assist the bride with getting ready for her big day, but important duty of the bridesmaids, especially the maid of honor, was to make sure that every pin was removed from the bride’s dress. It was considered bad luck if any pin remained in the dress. The tradition still makes a lot of sense today because a leftover pin might not equate to bad luck, but it can certainly be a problem for the bride.
The maid of honor
The maid of honor is often seen as the chief bridesmaid and in ancient times, it was a very morally demanding role. Ancient Romans required the chief bridesmaid to be married (known as a matron of honor), only ever having one husband with whom she was on good terms. She was a symbol of fidelity and obedience and served as a role model to the bride.
In other cultures, where a dowry was required for the groom’s family, it was the duty of the maid of honor to carry the purse which the dowry was in. This often put her in great danger of thieves, so she really had to be committed to the bride, to the point where she might have to give her life to protect the marriage.