Bridesmaids are members of the bride’s party in a traditional Western wedding ceremony. A bridesmaid is typically a young woman and often a close friend or relative. She attends to the bride on the day of a wedding or marriage ceremony. Traditionally, bridesmaids were chosen from unwed young women of marriageable age.
The principal bridesmaid, if one is designated, may be called maid of honor if she is unmarried, or the matron of honor if she is married. A junior bridesmaid is a girl who is clearly too young to be married, but who is included as an honorary bridesmaid. In the United States, typically only the maid or matron of honor and the best man are the official witnesses for the wedding license.
In modern times, the bride chooses how many ladies to ask to be her bridesmaids. Historically, no person of status went out unattended, and the size of the retinue was closely calculated to be appropriate to the family’s social status. A large group of bridesmaids provided an opportunity for showing off the family’s social status and wealth. Today, the number of bridesmaids in a wedding party is dependent on many variables, including a bride’s preferences, the size of her family, and the number of her partner’s attendants.
Origin & History
The origin of the Western bridesmaid tradition likely arose from a combination of many factors. The most-likely factors include, socioeconomic class and status, family size, socialization standards of the day, and religion. Notably, in the Victorian era, white was the official color for both male groomsmen and female bridesmaids. This trend originated with Queen Victoria when she married Prince Albert wearing a long white wedding dress, and her bridesmaids matched the color of her gown.