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A Lesson from Ancient Rome: How to be a Good Bridesmaid

Although there is a tremendous amount of literature on how to be a “good” bride, there is a noticeable lack of information about bridesmaids.

Even if you were a bridesmaid in another wedding, did the bride explain to you what your role was, what she expected from you or where you could help? As a bride yourself, you will find that establishing your bridesmaids’ responsibilities up front is the most effective way to be on top of everything. The role of bridesmaids dates back to early Roman times when bridesmaids formed a kind of ‘bridal infantry’ as they accompanied the bride to the groom’s village. This “protective shield” of similarly dressed women was supposed to intervene if any wayward ruffians or vengeful suitors tried to hurt the bride or steal her dowry.

As time went on, the tradition became a rule when a Roman law was passed which required ten witnesses at a wedding in order to outsmart evil spirits believed to attend marriage ceremonies. The bridesmaids and ushers dressed in identical clothing to the bride and groom so that the evil spirits would not know who was getting married.

These early customs continue to have an influence today. Although the bridal party no longer functions as a troop of foot soldiers, bridesmaids’ dresses are still commonly chosen in harmony with the look and feel of the wedding. The bridal party continues to serve a vital role in the wedding process, not by fending off hexes and robbers, but by being part of a key support staff and an advisory board. Besides being an honored member of the wedding party and special guest at the reception, today’s bridesmaid is also designated as the bride’s special assistant. From shopping for dresses, scouting hotels for out-of-town guests, writing place cards or hosting a bridal shower, her first duty is to be helpful. The payoff is that walk down the aisle, looking absolutely beautiful in a gown that is stylish, sophisticated, colorful and absolutely wearable. In 21st century America, bridesmaids are chosen to be caring helpers, thoughtful organizers and skillful liaisons.