What is the tradition?
The bride selects her closest friends and/or relatives to stand next to her during the wedding ceremony. She selects dresses for them to wear; generally the exact same dress, though more recently has seen a trend towards different dresses in the same color, or the same dress in different colors. In the US, the bridesmaids are expected to pay for the required dresses, along with specified shoes, and having hair and makeup done by professionals the day of.
One of the bridesmaids is the maid of honor or matron of honor (depending on the attendant's marital status), and stands nearest to the bride during the ceremony and holds her bouquet for her. She's generally in charge of planning a bridal shower and bachelorette party, though all the bridesmaid often chip in to pay for these events.
The maid/matron of honor, along with the best man, likely also take the (actually necessary) role of legal witnesses, signing the marriage license.
What is the origin of the tradition?
This is believed to be derived from a Roman tradition of needing ten witnesses, either for witnessing the wedding and/or to distract evil spirits from the bride and groom. Under such belief, the bridesmaids not only dressed identical to each other, but also identical to the bride! Obviously, cause otherwise the evil spirits would know who was getting married. (So next time you're asked to put out a couple hundred dollars, just be glad you're not required to shell out thousands to match the bride's wedding gown.)
Why do people still follow it?
Part of it is a legitimate desire to honor your friends, along with the obligation to have as bridesmaids any friends who asked you to be theirs. Also, I think many might get a secret satisfaction out of the power they're allowed to have over minute details regarding their friends. But ultimately, this is one of those things that I think people continue to do simply because everyone else does it (but everyone else is doing it because you are).
Why is that crap?
Well, first of all, I'm fairly sure most brides are no longer concerned about being attacked by evil spirits, so that rationale is out.
Even with the best of intentions, it just becomes so easy for your group of bridesmaids to become merely a show of how many friends you have. Yes, it's good that you have close friends who support you, but they have no more part of the actual ceremony to your spouse than the rest of the guests - who don't need to actually stand at the altar with you to show that support. Let your friends sit down and wear what they want. If someone was of particular help and support to you in planning the wedding or in forming your relationship, by all means, acknowledge them in the program. But forcing extraneous dress purchases is not a valid means of showing respect.
Also, can I just point out how stupid it is to distinguish whether the lead attendant is a maid or matron? The groom's attendants' marital status is never revealed, and the maid of honor's marital status also has no relevance to her role. She's not required to married (though perhaps she could provide more valuable wisdom and assistance to someone about to marry if she were), nor to be single (though that might make her bachelorette party planning more appropriate). So how does her marital status become so relevant as to be publicly announced?
What am I doing with this tradition?
We didn't have any attendants, or any showers or bachelor/ette parties.
Since we each have one sibling, we asked our sisters to be our legal witnesses, and they came up during the ceremony to put their names on the license (surprisingly to me, the witnesses aren't required to sign Oregon marriage licenses, you just write their names on it). We didn't ask them to wear anything specific (though they ended up accidentally coordinating fairly well).
|Photo by Stephanie Kaloi|
How did/will you handle this tradition?
I would love to have a lively debate and conversation in the comments! Please join in!
Dissenting opinions (from the post itself or other commenters) are welcome, but I reserve the right to delete any comments that personally attack me or any other commenter.