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Bridesmaid

Bridesmaid

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The bridesmaids are members of the bride's wedding party in a wedding. A bridesmaid is typically a young woman, and often a close friend or sister. She attends to the bride
Bride
A bride is a woman about to be married or newlywed.The word may come from the Proto-Germanic verb root *brū-, meaning 'to cook, brew, or make a broth' which was the role of the daughter-in-law in primitive families...

 on the day of a wedding
Wedding
A wedding is the ceremony in which two people are united in marriage or a similar institution. Wedding traditions and customs vary greatly between cultures, ethnic groups, religions, countries, and social classes...

 or marriage
Marriage
Marriage is a social union or legal contract between people that creates kinship. It is an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually intimate and sexual, are acknowledged in a variety of ways, depending on the culture or subculture in which it is found...

 ceremony. Traditionally, bridesmaids were chosen from unwed young women of marriageable age
Marriageable age
Marriageable age is the age at which a person is allowed to marry, either as of right or subject to parental or other forms of consent. The age and other requirements vary between countries, but generally it is set at 18, although most jurisdictions allow marriage at slightly younger ages with...

.

The principal bridesmaid, if one is so designated, may be called the chief bridesmaid or 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 marriageable, but who is included as an honorary bridesmaid.

Often there is more than one bridesmaid: in modern times the bride chooses how many to ask. 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
Conspicuous consumption
Conspicuous consumption is spending on goods and services acquired mainly for the purpose of displaying income or wealth. In the mind of a conspicuous consumer, such display serves as a means of attaining or maintaining social status....

. 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 attendants her partner would like to have as well.

The male equivalent is the groomsman
Groomsman
A groomsman is one of the male attendants to the groom in a wedding ceremony. The term usher is more common in the UK while the term 'groomsman' is considered somewhat lower-middle- class and used by those who have adopted the term from America. Usually the groom selects his closest friends and...

, or usher.

In some countries, such as Norway
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

, it is customary for bridesmaids to be small children rather than grown women. They may carry flowers during the wedding procession, and pose with the married couple in bridal photos.

Duties



Although many exceed the minimum, the bridesmaids' required duties are very limited. They are required to attend the wedding ceremony and to assist the bride on the day of the wedding. Bridesmaids in Europe and North America are often asked to assist the bride with planning the wedding and a wedding reception
Wedding reception
A wedding reception is a party held after the completion of a marriage ceremony. It is held usually as hospitality for those who have attended the wedding, hence the name reception: the couple receives society, in the form of family and friends, for the first time as a married couple. Hosts...

. In modern times, a bridesmaid is also typically asked to play a role in planning wedding-related events, such as a bridal shower
Bridal shower
A bridal shower is a gift-giving party held for a bride-to-be in anticipation of her wedding. The custom originated in the 1890s and is today most common in the United States, Canada, and by North American influence, in Australia....

 or bachelorette party, if there are any. These, however, are optional activities; according to etiquette expert Judith Martin
Judith Martin
Judith Martin , better known by the pen name Miss Manners, is an American journalist, author, and etiquette authority. Martin's uncle was economist and labor historian Selig Perlman.- Early life and career :...

, "Contrary to rumor, bridesmaids are not obliged to entertain in honor of the bride, nor to wear dresses they cannot afford." If it is customary in the bride's area to have a bridesmaids luncheon, then it is hosted, and therefore organized and paid for, by the bride. A junior bridesmaid has no responsibilities beyond attending the wedding.
The duties and costs of being a bridesmaid are parsed out between a bride and her attendants in a variety of ways. Since modern bridesmaids, unlike their historical counterparts, can no longer rely on having their clothes and travel expenses paid for by the bride's family, and are sometimes even told they must pay for parties that the bride wants to have before the wedding, it has become customary for the bride to present the bridesmaids with gifts as a sign of gratitude for the support and financial commitment that comes with their roles. It has become equally customary for women who are invited to serve as bridesmaids to first ask about the amount of time, energy, and money that the bride expects from them before accepting this position, and to decline or resign if this is more than they will be able to give.

Maid of honor



In the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, the term "maid of honour
Maids of Honour
Maids of honour were the junior attendants of a queen in the royal households of England and later of the United Kingdom. Anne of Brittany is said to have instituted the queen's maids of honour at the court.-Role:...

" originally referred to the female attendant of a queen
Queen regnant
A queen regnant is a female monarch who reigns in her own right, in contrast to a queen consort, who is the wife of a reigning king. An empress regnant is a female monarch who reigns in her own right over an empire....

. The term bridesmaid is normally used for all bridal attendants in the UK. However, when the attendant is married, or is a mature woman, the term matron of honour is often used. The influence of American English has led to the chief bridesmaid sometimes being called the maid of honour.

In North America, a wedding party might include several bridesmaids, but the maid of honor is the title and position held by the bride's chief attendant, typically her closest friend or sister. In modern day weddings some brides opt to choose a long-time male friend or brother as their head attendant, using the title Best Man or man of honor.

The activities of the principal bridesmaid may be as many or as varied as she allows the bride to impose upon her. Her only required duty is to participate in the wedding ceremony. Typically, however, she is asked for help with the logistics of the wedding as an event, such as addressing invitations
Wedding invitation
A wedding invitation is a letter asking the recipient to attend a wedding. It is typically written in formal, third-person language and mailed five to eight weeks before the wedding date....

, and for her help as a friend, such as attending the bride as she shops for her wedding dress.

On the day of the wedding, her principal duty is to provide practical and emotional support. She might assist the bride with dressing and, if needed, help the bride manage her veil, a bouquet of flowers, a prayer book, or the train of her wedding dress during the day. In a double-ring wedding, the chief bridesmaid is often entrusted with the groom's wedding ring
Wedding ring
A wedding ring or wedding band is a metal ring indicating the wearer is married. Depending on the local culture, it is worn on the base of the right or the left ring finger. The custom of wearing such a ring has spread widely beyond its origin in Europe...

 until it is needed during the ceremony. Many brides ask bridesmaids, if they are adults
Age of majority
The age of majority is the threshold of adulthood as it is conceptualized in law. It is the chronological moment when minors cease to legally be considered children and assume control over their persons, actions, and decisions, thereby terminating the legal control and legal responsibilities of...

, to be legal witnesses who sign the marriage license
Marriage license
A marriage license is a document issued, either by a church or state authority, authorizing a couple to marry. The procedure for obtaining a license varies between countries and has changed over time...

 after the ceremony. If there is a reception after the wedding, the maid of honor may be asked to offer a toast to the newlyweds.

Origin and history


The Western bridesmaid tradition is thought to have originated from Roman Law
Roman law
Roman law is the legal system of ancient Rome, and the legal developments which occurred before the 7th century AD — when the Roman–Byzantine state adopted Greek as the language of government. The development of Roman law comprises more than a thousand years of jurisprudence — from the Twelve...

, which required ten witness
Witness
A witness is someone who has firsthand knowledge about an event, or in the criminal justice systems usually a crime, through his or her senses and can help certify important considerations about the crime or event. A witness who has seen the event first hand is known as an eyewitness...

es at a wedding in order to outsmart evil spirits (believed to attend marriage ceremonies) by dressing in identical clothing to the bride and groom, so that the evil spirits would not know who was getting married. Even as late as 19th century England, there was a belief that ill-wishers could administer curses and taint the wedding. In Victorian wedding photographs, for example, the bride and groom are frequently dressed in the same fashion as other members of the bridal party.

Other people cite the Biblical
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

 story of Jacob
Jacob
Jacob "heel" or "leg-puller"), also later known as Israel , as described in the Hebrew Bible, the Talmud, the New Testament and the Qur'an was the third patriarch of the Hebrew people with whom God made a covenant, and ancestor of the tribes of Israel, which were named after his descendants.In the...

, and his two wives Leah
Leah
Leah , as described in the Hebrew Bible, is the first of the two concurrent wives of the Hebrew patriarch Jacob and mother of six of sons whose descendants became the Twelve Tribes of Israel, along with at least one daughter, Dinah. She is the daughter of Laban and the older sister of Rachel, whom...

 and Rachel
Rachel
Rachel , as described in the Hebrew Bible, is a prophet and the favorite wife of Jacob, one of the three Biblical Patriarchs, and mother of Joseph and Benjamin. She was the daughter of Laban and the younger sister of Leah, Jacob's first wife...

, who both literally came with their own maid
Maid
A maidservant or in current usage housemaid or maid is a female employed in domestic service.-Description:Once part of an elaborate hierarchy in great houses, today a single maid may be the only domestic worker that upper and even middle-income households can afford, as was historically the case...

s as detailed in the Book of Genesis (29:24, 46:18) as the origin of bridesmaids. These women were handmaiden
Handmaiden
A handmaiden is a female attendant, assistant, domestic worker , or slave.-Religion:Norse goddesses had handmaidens, . The biblical Mary referred to herself as "the handmaid of the Lord" in acceptance of becoming pregnant by the Holy Ghost.A man might use a handmaiden as a concubine to bear his...

s (servants or slaves) instead of social peers.

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