The bride’s guide to bridesmaids

Posted on: 6th February, 2017

Category: Image

Contributor: Louise O'Dwyer

Did you know that ancient Roman law dictated that you must have 10 witnesses present at your wedding? Ah…the days of simplicity, weddings have changed quite a bit since then! This was the precursor to the bridal party tradition. In ancient times, bridesmaids and groomsmen had to dress just like the bride and groom, to confuse vengeful spirits or real-life spurned suitors, who might try to harm the newly-weds. Even in the Victorian era, bridesmaids (who had to be younger than the bride) wore white dresses with short veils while the bride wore an identical dress with a long veil.

I think these snippets of history are amazing; we all go through the same wedding steps but never stop to question why we do the things we do. I for one am glad that the tradition of bridesmaids wearing the same dress as the bride has changed because this is the bride’s day to shine more brightly than anyone else.

Historically, it was an honour to be a bridesmaid because it was considered a good way to procure a husband…in other words, you were put on show for the day! In the days of a dowry, the chief bridesmaid was responsible for the ‘dowry purse’… in much the same way that she now would hold the bride’s bouquet.

The bride was also often accompanied by a child – think today’s flower girl – as this was meant to symbolise a fruitful union. Flower petals tossed in the bride’s pathway were representative of the way to a beautiful future.

In my research I also came across this little fact and had to share it with you – open carriages were considered an easy target for evil spirits so wedding guests would use belts and firecrackers to scare them away – this translates to today’s celebratory car honking after the ceremony…isn’t that amazing? Remember that the next time you are following the wedding car – what you are really doing is warding off evil spirits!

Bridesmaid attire went through a lot of changes in the 20th century and by the 1930s and 40s, dramatic looks gave way to simpler dresses – it was the height of the Second World War so money was tight and fabric rationing was in place; less fabric demanded simpler designs.

The Mad Men era of the 1950s and 60s saw bridesmaids experimenting with many different looks including chic cocktail dresses and hoop skirts in a variety of colours. However, similar to some bridal dress styles, the 70s, 80s and 90s was the dark period for bridesmaids. Hello ugly bridesmaid dresses! These were the catastrophes that every woman couldn’t wait to get out of and shove into the very back of the wardrobe…never ever to see the light of day again. Identical in colour, shape, unflattering fabric and style, these dresses didn’t come near the gorgeousness of some brides’ gowns – most probably on purpose!

How fortunate for 21st century bridesmaids, big changes in style led to very happy girls donning sexy, couture gowns. Gone are the days that the bride chooses unflattering dresses for the women around her; she now realises that their ridiculousness reflects badly on her, so surrounds herself with goddesses. The overall look of the whole bridal party now is breathtaking, with the bride ultimately stealing the show.

Although the symmetrical look is here to stay (with every bridesmaid in the same dress), some brides are choosing a slightly rebellious deconstructed look, giving their bridesmaids carte blanche as far as dress style and design goes. Harmony can still be achieved, if desired, by keeping the basic silhouette (shape) consistent. For example, the fabric, say chiffon, and the colour or hue remain the same for each dress, but perhaps the shoulder straps or waistline change slightly from one to the next, depending on shape or height.

A deconstructed look is the opposite of symmetry and far from typical. This trend screams confidence and trust in the bridesmaids themselves, giving them full control of their choice and resulting in dramatic and breathtaking results. I always think that this wins outright.

Always avoid the “in colours” because it means that almost every other wedding that season will have the same shade. Be unique, be daring, be romantic, be creative, Google, Google, Google and put in the footwork, trying on all of the dresses until you know exactly what works and why. Note to Bride…you may have always wanted a certain colour for your bridesmaids but when they put it on it and it only works on one out of three, what do you do? Well, different shades of the same colour look very extravagant when put together – try it because it might just be the shade that doesn’t work against hair colour or skin tone. You will get exactly what you want, as long as you open up your mind to the enormous beauty of all of the colours and fabrics out there.

Happy Bridesmaid dress shopping!

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