If you've ever been a bridesmaid, you know it’s a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, getting to be a part of your friend’s wedding can be a really amazing and bonding experience — that is, if they aren’t a bridezilla who makes you stand up and read the schedule aloud to the rest of the bridal party as punishment for asking what time to set your alarm for — true story. (You know who you are, bridezilla.) But somewhere in the process, you may find yourself asking, "Why do bridesmaids wear matching dresses?" Especially when you're covered in turquoise tulle from head to toe and remembering you have to stand in front of 200 people wearing it, and be photographed so that moment is saved for forever. (Again... personal experience.) So, to get some insight on how this all began I did a little research, and the answer really shocked me.
While many modern wedding traditions, like diamond engagement rings, were created by the wedding industry to harvest that wedding dollar, the custom of the bridal party all wearing matching dresses isn't a new tradition created to torture your nearest and dearest gal pals. It actually dates back further — much further.
According to Mental Floss, the tradition of matching bridesmaids dresses is actually an ancient one. "Beginning around Ancient Roman times (when the idea of a bridal party first arose), bridesmaids would not only dress like each other, but also just like the bride, covering the altar with nearly indistinguishable ladies. And that was the point: the bridesmaids were decoys." Yep, the tradition of matching bridesmaids dresses was created to ward off ancient wedding crashers — both living, and (wait for it... ) dead.
"Any glad tidings had the potential to attract evil spirits, for one thing —and then there were all the would-be grooms the bride had turned away. So to keep the bridal couple safe from demons and angry, rejected men, they dressed their friends in matching wedding attire. The theory was that the bevy of brides would confuse any malcontents long enough for the happy couple to get their vows on," reports Mental Floss.
As for the bride wearing white? Edwina Ehrman, who curates fashion and textiles for the Victoria & Albert museum in London, told Quartz that it was all about status. "White was a very, very expensive colour, and most people couldn’t afford to have a white dress in their wardrobe,” she explained. “So it was a special colour, a prestigious colour,” which led to it becoming a popular color for wedding dresses, in addition to fabrics woven with metal threads, like gold and silver. But it was Queen Victoria’s decision to wear white when she married Prince Albert in 1840 that really solidified the tradition, Quartz reports. This also explains why the white dress also became a symbol of chastity.
So, there you have it. Matching bridesmaids dresses isn't just the wedding industry trolling the bride's friends, but rather, a real life example of us doing as the Romans do. Honestly, it’s kind of changed how I feel about the tradition, and serious bonus points for warding off demonic wedding crashers. Better safe than sorry.