You made it. The big day is here; in just a few hours, you will trail down the aisle and say “I do”. And who’s surrounding you for support? Your bridesmaids, of course. Your closest friends. There’s nothing quite like the way you band together with your bridesmaids in the days leading up to your wedding day. These women have been with you through it all; the highs, the lows, the laughs, the tears. And now they’re here on arguably the most important day of your life, helping you with hair, makeup, and getting rid of those pre-nuptial jitters.
Category: Bride & Bridesmaids 👰🏾♀️🤍 pic.twitter.com/oPGf2WOZPM
— Inspiring Content ✨ (@chrlzmood) May 4, 2021
But that wasn’t always the case. Throughout history, the bridesmaid’s role has varied from servant to protector, to helper, and ultimately to the friends the bride knows them as today.
When Jacob married Leah and Rachel in the Old Testament, the bridesmaids were exactly what they sounded like: the bride’s maids. They were no more than Leah and Rachel’s personal servants, there to assist their needs on the wedding day. For centuries, that remained their role until wedding customs grew more intricate with different cultures.
I believe we all know about the story of Jacob and his wives, Leah and Rachel? You know Leah could give birth and Rachel could not right? Rachel even gave out her slave Bilhah to Jacob and she bore 2 children for Jacob(Genesis 30:4-8).
— Pee🧚🏾♀️ (@aasabea_xx) August 28, 2020
In Feudal China, for example, the bride usually traveled long distances and needed her “maids” to accompany her. They would act as servants to the bride, similarly to Leah and Rachel’s wedding, but also acted as protectors. Brides in transit would often be attacked by criminals or rival clans trying to kidnap her, so the bridesmaids were props that would confuse the bandits so they wouldn’t know which woman was the bride. On the bridal train were a woman’s dowry, riches, and other valuables that she’d bring to her fiance. This is why brides were prime targets for criminals, and also why the maid of honor was there to carry the dowry so that if they were attacked, her life and not the bride’s would be at risk.
This idea of bridesmaids as protectors shows up in many parts of history, in many cultures. In Rome, the bridesmaids would wear matching gowns to confuse evil spirits who might be lurking at the ceremony, hoping to curse the union of the couple. In addition to protecting the bride, the maid of honor played a major role during the ceremony. In order to be a maid of honor during Roman ceremonies (alongside the ten other witnesses), a woman had to have been married at least once and had to have a living husband at the time. Because of this, she symbolized fidelity and obedience and therefore would join the hands of the bride and groom to bless their union with the same.
There was also the crucial role played by bridesmaids (and the groomsmen) at the wedding ceremonies at marriage by capture. This custom traced back to ancient Ze Ju and Hmong cultures of China when the groom would kidnap the bride and hold her hostage for three days. Whether or not this implied that the bride was raped or “lost her virtue” consensually, she was ruined after being alone with a man for so long, and society deemed that they had to get married. While this was controversial, even back then, and would often result in the bride’s angry relatives storming the ceremony. This is where the groomsmen would come in, who would flank the couple with weapons in case any intruders thought to interrupt.
Fast forward to the modern age during the Victorian era, from which much of today’s wedding traditions come from. Here is where bridesmaids started to have a role in the wedding planning process when they would make party favors out of flowers and ribbon to pin on the sleeves of the guests. They still wore gowns to match the bride, and when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in 1840, she was the first bride to make the white gown popular (although not the first bride in western history to don the celestial color). To match the trendsetting queen, the 12 bridesmaids also wore white, but this changed toward the end of the Victorian era when dyes became more available and bridesmaids were able to wear their own colors, styles, and designs.
🎵Here comes the bride. All dressed in white….🎵
Did you know that white wedding dresses became popular after Queen Victoria wore the colour for her wedding to Prince Albert in 1840. Have a look through some of our favourite dresses
Which is your favourite? pic.twitter.com/Us4sZPBaB3
— V&A (@V_and_A) February 18, 2021
The reasons for the bridesmaid in the protector role may be outdated, but women being loyal and protective of each other spans time periods, cultures, and beliefs. We see this in today’s wedding traditions, where protecting, supporting, helping, and making up the bride is deeply ingrained in her friends’ responsibilities. It’s easy to see how the bridesmaid’s image evolved from servant to trusted friend. On such an exciting day, you want to be surrounded by those who will love, support, and care about you no matter how many bandits or evil ancient spirits try to attack you.
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