Wedding traditions -- where do they come from? What do they mean? Wedding Traditions Reboot looks at the history behind these customs and offers inspiration for how to use old and even ancient traditions from the past as a springboard to plan your own wedding with unique twists that make them new -- that make them uniquely your own.
Monday, January 29, 2018
Maid of Honor and Bridesmaid Roles Through Time
Today, if I say the word bridesmaid, you know I'm talking about a friend of the bride who is part of the wedding party. Of them, one friend is asked to be the main bridesmaid known as the maid of honor if
unmarried or matron of honor if she is married. Bridesmaids today are often a
mixture of married and unmarried friends, but it wasn’t always this way because,
traditionally, bridesmaids were selected from young unmarried women who were of
Modern day maid of honor responsibilities include
things like planning the bridal shower, dress shopping with the bride, and coordinating
the bridesmaids. During the ceremony she makes sure the bride’s train is
straightened, holds the bridal bouquet, and things like that. In similar
fashion, in 1700s the maid of honor helped the bride remove her gloves and held
them during the ceremony, and instead of a bouquet she might have been asked to
hold the dow-purse which symbolized the groom’s dowry to his wife. It was represented
by coins placed on the service book. By the eighteenth century this was no
longer part of the ceremony, except in parts of northern England where the practice
continued into the nineteenth century.
The matron of honor joined the right hands of the bride and groom.
In ancient Roman weddings, the matron of honor had to
be the model of moral excellence with a reputation for fidelity and obedience.
She couldn’t be married more than once and had to have a living husband at the
time of the wedding. Her part in the ceremony was to join the right hands of
the bride and groom for the first time.
Unique Bridesmaids Roles
The maid of honor role isn’t the only one that has
evolved over time. In medieval times, the bridesmaids dipped plum buns in
spiced ale and made the bride eat it to restore "the energies." Of course, those
responsibilities change from one culture and time to another, but a few more unique
duties worth mentioning include things like leading the bridegroom to the
church (while the groomsmen did the same with the bride).
Victorian times, bridesmaids were expected to make party favors using materials
like ribbons and flowers. These would be pinned onto guests’ sleeves or
shoulders as they left the ceremony. And when it came to bridesmaid dresses, the wedding custom of this era had
everyone dressed in white, including the bridesmaids who were to be younger
than the bride. They not only wore white dresses but short white veils, while
the bride's veiland train were more elaborate. By the twentieth century this tradition
fell out of favor and only the bride wore white.
A wedding from middle 1800s
from Evil Spirits
When looking at the history of wedding traditions, there’s often a “good
luck” element or some sort of protection from evil spirits superstition, and
when it comes to the bridesmaid tradition it’s no different. In this case, the
beliefs are tied to the bridesmaid herself, for the superstition held that if
the bridesmaid stumbled as she walked the aisle to the altar, that she would
never marry. In Victorian times, the bridesmaids carried bunches of garlic, herbs
and grains to drive the evil spirits away.
Today we have a saying, “Always a bridesmaid, but
never a bride.” In the sixteenth century being a bridesmaid was considered a good
way to find a husband. I think some people still believe that today, but back
then if a person walked the aisle as a bridesmaid three times without getting
married, it was believed evil spirits had cursed her. The antidote to this curse
was to be a bridesmaid four more times to hit the lucky number seven.