Bravo for Bridesmaids: The Story Behind the Matching Dresses

By Theresa Litalien

Bridesmaids aren’t just arm candy for the bride. These lovely ladies are so much more!

History

To fully appreciate bridesmaids, let’s start with their backstory. The wedding party concept is believed to date back to the Roman Empire. In the days of Caesar, it wasn’t just nice to have the bride surrounded by her gal pals — it was required by law for her protection. There was great concern then that evil spirits would descend upon the wedding and snatch the bride before she could seal the deal with her betrothed.  The solution? Confuse them by surrounding the bride with other ladies. Not taking any chances, the Romans took it a step further by putting the bridesmaids in dresses identical to the bride’s. Thank goodness brides no longer have that law on the books!

Duties

Fast-forwarding to today, our ladies’ responsibilities are a bit different. First and foremost, the bridesmaids attend to the bride. This is the very reason you will also hear them sometimes referred to as “attendants.” If they do nothing else, they are to make sure the bride looks her best on the big day. They fluff trains, arrange veils, secure errant tresses, ensure teeth are lipstick free, and provide an extra pair of hands for the bouquet. While all of these are important, let’s face it, where many brides really need support is on the inside. Truth be told, the most important role bridesmaids play is keeping nerves calmed.

Beyond the wedding day, bridesmaids”™ duties can span quite a range. They usually are in charge of the bachelorette party. In keeping with their Roman roots, in addition to providing the fun, they are equally in charge of keeping the bride out of any unwanted trouble.

Bridesmaids are also involved in bridal shower hosting. Beyond being the party planners, they can help with invitation addressing, wedding day favor assembly, bridal gown shopping, and record keeping the gifts. All the while, they should be sympathetic to any pre-wedding jitters by providing understanding and support.

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Betty Clicker Photography

 

If you are looking to incorporate your heritage into your ceremony, there are some unique bridesmaids traditions in other countries. In the UK and Norway, for instance, bridesmaids are young girls not yet of marrying age all dressed in white. You may remember that in the most recent royal wedding, Princess Kate embraced this and was surrounding by adorable girls. In German days of old, a bride was blindfolded at midnight and the bridesmaids would dance around her. The one she grabbed was predicted to be the next to be married.

While their roles can vary greatly, what should be universal is an upfront agreement between the bride and maids. Brides can avoid misunderstandings and bruised feelings by clearly communicating what she would like them to be involved in and in charge of.

Appreciation

For all they do, our bevy of beauties deserves a token of thanks. When possible, this gift should be something they will be able to use after the wedding while at the same time always reminding them of the special day they shared with the bride. Much like their role, the gift can run the gamut from simple to extravagant. Guidelines run from 20% of their expenditures (dress, shoes, hosting parties) to $75.00 a piece. The important thing really is to stay true to your budget and follow what your heart tells you when it comes to honoring your “ladies in waiting.”

Theresa Litalien is the owner of On Pointe Designs bridal jewelry. Her collections for brides and wedding parties feature Swarovski crystals and pearls and can be customized to match your color palette. For more information, please visit www.onpointedesigns.com.  

Featured image: Neilson-Hall Photography

4 comments on “Bravo for Bridesmaids: The Story Behind the Matching Dresses”

    Thank you so much for posting this! Being a bride-to-be myself, I had always wondered how the bridesmaid tradition got started. My future mother-in-law is from Peru and she has been pushing me to include her son's Peruvian roots into the wedding in some way. I did some research and actually found a bridesmaid tradition of putting strings attached to charms between each layer of the cake. One of the strings will be attached to a fake wedding ring. All of the bridesmaids pull out the strings and the one who gets the ring is the next to get married! I actually thought this idea was pretty cool and agreed to add something new to the wedding and appease my mother-in-law!
      YAY Julianne that is awesome! We're so happy you found such a fun compromise! Making the mother-in-law happy is always a good thing. ;)
    My daughter is recently engaged. About how far in advance should we plan her wedding. This is my first time doing this so I really have no idea. Thanks for the great post.
      Hi Oliver! Thanks for reading & asking! We recommend that couples start planning about 12-18 months in advance for some things! Check the link below to find our budget chart & wedding countdown checklist. The checklist is a GREAT tool to get you started! /wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Issue-48-Planning-Tools.pdf

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