Friday, June 17, 2011

Bridesmaid FAQs

 Bride of the Early Roman Empire, courtesy of 
History of the Bridesmaid

Bridesmaids have been around since the early Roman Empire.  By law, a minimum of ten witnesses at a wedding was required.  Roman tradition was to select several young  women and men of a marriageable age to dress identically to the bridal couple and then surround them during the ceremony. This was to confuse the gods of mischief and mayhem and thwart all potential evil spells and curses cast on the bridal couple (possibly by jealous exes!).  These ancient bridesmaids and groomsmen were not social peers of the bride and groom-- they were servants and slaves. 

Victorian Bridesmaids, courtesy of
 In Victorian times, the number of bridesmaids a bride had in her wedding party was closely related to her family’s wealth and social status: the more money the family had, the more bridesmaids were required.  It would have been socially unacceptable for a bride from a wealthy family not to have a large contingent of bridesmaids; likewise, it would have considered ostentatious for a bride of little means and social position to have more than a few bridesmaids.

How Many Bridesmaids Should I Have?

In a recent interview with Marlo Thomas on her online AOL show, “Mondays with Marlo,” when asked how many bridesmaids a bride should have, David Tutera, celebrity wedding planner replied, “Not so many.  I think three to five bridesmaids is plenty.  When you start to cross that line of nine or twelve bridesmaids…you open the door to so many people complaining; so many questions and so many people with opinions.  And then you’re not a bride anymore:  You’re a ringleader!” [1] 

Of course, the number of bridesmaids you choose is entirely up to you—as Marlo commented in the before-mentioned interview with David Tutera, “It’s all about choices!”  It also has to do with the wishes of your groom and those footing the bill for your wedding.  It's also a matter of balance and aesthetics. A good rule of thumb is to have two or three bridesmaids for the first 100 guests and then one more for every 50 additional guests.  If you're having a very small wedding with very few guests, consider having a Maid, Matron, or Man of Honor do the honors.  After all, she/he is the majordomo of bridesmaids!

If you have more friends than bridesmaids' positions, ask your non-bridesmaids friends to do things such as be in charge of the guest book,  punch bowl or gift table or help with hostess duties. There's always something to be done at a wedding, and your other friends will be pleased to be a part of your big day in some special capacity.

Who Should I Choose as My Bridesmaids?                                    

A bridesmaid is usually a female friend or relative age 16 and up.  In this day and age, there are no longer the requirements that a bridesmaid be your age or younger, or single.  Brides come in all ages and so do bridesmaids!  To avoid undue stress, it's a good idea that your bridesmaids will get along with one another and refrain from dissension and drama.  After all--this day is your big day, and who wants a crabby bridesmaid who refuses to go with the game plan?  Do yourself a favor--make it a happy experience and choose friends who are team players who support your marriage and wedding plans.

Etiquette expert Judith Martin (a/k/a “Miss Manners”) has written in her book, Miss Manners on Weddings, “Contrary to rumor, bridesmaids are not obliged to entertain in honor of the bride, nor to wear dresses they cannot afford.” [2] While this may be (very technically) true, it’s wise to choose bridesmaids who will be eager to join together with your maid of honor in throwing you a bridal shower and/or a girl’s night out and will be around to help out when needed. Your wedding plans will also run more smoothly if your bridesmaids are willing to make concessions and agree on choice of bridesmaid’s dresses without being difficult or disagreeable. Most bridesmaids’ dresses are reasonably priced; however, if one of your bridesmaids is having a hard time paying for her attire, it’s a nice gesture to help her pay for her dress if you possibly can, rather than forcing her to opt out for lack of funds. 

Beautifully coordinated without being matchy-matched.
Bridesmaid's Attire

Bridesmaid’s dresses do not have to match exactly in style or color, although it’s a good idea to buy all dresses from the same design line in order to coordinate basic cut, fabric, theme and colors.  Bridesmaids’ dresses can be long or short, and there is no hard and fast rule about the length of the bridesmaid’s gowns matching the length of the bridal gown. It’s a good idea for each bridesmaid to choose her own shoes, too—not all feet are built the same, but as long as their shoes are similar in style and coordinate well with their dresses, your bridesmaids will look great! A personal aside: In the hippie-flower child days of 1973, the Red Letter Lady walked down the aisle barefoot!  

What are the Duties of a Bridesmaid?

The duties of a bridesmaid are simple, although they do run into outlay of time, attention and out-of-pocket expenses. 

Bridesmaids Duties:

  • Purchase own wedding attire and accessories.
  • Pay for own travel expenses.
  • Help address invitations.
  • Assist Maid of Honor in planning, contributing to, and hosting bridal shower and/or bachelorette party.
  • Help with wedding favors.
  • Run errands as needed for bride
  • Attend rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. 
  • Arrive early at the ceremonial site to begin getting ready.
  • Walk down the aisle before the Maid of Honor, flower girl and ring bearer, usually paired with an usher.
  • May stand in receiving line.
  • Dance, mingle, and be charming and gracious at the reception.

Have a blast, and Happy Planning!

1. ^ David Tutera on Weddings,

2, ^ Martin, Judith (1999). Miss Manners on weddings. New York: Crown Publishers. pp. 136–137. ISBN 0-609-60431-7.

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