AskDefine | Define bridesmaid

Dictionary Definition

bridesmaid n : an unmarried woman who attends the bride at a wedding [syn: maid of honor]

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Noun

  1. A woman who attends the bride at a wedding ceremony, as part of the main wedding group.

Translations

woman who attends the bride at a wedding ceremony

See also

Extensive Definition

In a traditional wedding, the wedding party refers to the group of people participating in the ceremony with the bride and groom (formally, bridegroom). The bridal party consists of the maid of honor (matron of honor if she is married) and the bridesmaids. The groom is accompanied by the best man and the groomsmen. Finally, any flower girls and page boys (including the ringbearer) are traditionally included in the wedding party.

Bride

wikiquote Bride A bride is a female participant in a wedding ceremony: a woman about to be married, currently being married, or, in some uses, very recently married (applicable during the first year of wifehood). The term used to mean 'daughter-in-law', as newly married women at one time moved into the husband's family home. Further back, the word possibly comes from the Teutonic word for 'cook'. A bride is typically attended by one or more bridesmaids or maids of honor. Her partner, if male, is the bridegroom or "groom", after the wedding, in marriage, her husband. In same-gender weddings, two feminine participants may both be termed brides. In some cultures, successful sexual intercourse between the bride and bridegroom is a required step to complete ("consummate") the wedding ceremony.

Attire

In Europe and North America, the typical attire for a bride is a formal dress and a veil. Usually, the dress is bought only for the wedding, and never worn again. For first marriages, a white wedding gown is usually worn, a tradition started by Queen Victoria's wedding. Etiquette once prescribed that a white dress should not be worn for subsequent marriages, since the wearing of white was mistakenly regarded by some as an ancient symbol of virginity, despite the fact that wearing white is a fairly recent development in wedding traditions. Today, brides may wear white, cream, or ivory dresses for any number of marriages; the color of the dress is not a comment on the bride's sexual history. In fact, up until the 19th century, the bride generally wore her best dress, whatever color it was, or ordered a new dress in her favorite color and expected to wear it again.
In addition to the gown, the bride often wears a veil and carries a bouquet of flowers. A garter may also be worn by the bride, and later removed by the groom during the reception (US).

History

|- ||- ||} 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 during or after a wedding or marriage ceremony. Traditionally, bridesmaids were chosen from unwed young women of marriageable age.
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.
The Western bridesmaid tradition is thought to have originated from Roman law, which required ten witnesses at a wedding in order to outsmart evil spirits believed to attend marriage ceremonies by bridesmaids and ushers dressing in identical clothing to the bride and groom, so that the evil spirits would not know who was getting married.
However the origins of the tradition are both more ancient, and more recent then Rome, derived from the Hebrew Bible, and adopted by Christianity. The tradition originates with Jacob, and his two wives Leah and Rachel, who both literally came with their own maids as detailed in the Book of Genesis (29:24, 46:18), where Zilpah (Heb. Drooping) and Bilhah (Heb. Faltering; bashful) were the handmaids of Leah and Rachel, respectively, who were actually younger daughters of Laban . According to Rashi, Zilpah was younger than Bilhah, and Laban's decision to give her to Leah was part of the deception he used to trick Jacob into marrying Leah, who was older than Rachel. Both maids went on to have some of Jacob's children on the initiative of his wives.
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.
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. Then, as now, a large group of bridesmaids provided an opportunity for showing off the family's social status and wealth.
Bridesmaids in Europe and North America are often asked to assist the bride with planning the wedding and a wedding reception. A bridesmaid is also typically asked to play a role in planning wedding-related events, such as a bridal shower or bachelorette party, if there are any. However, according to etiquette expert Judith Martin, the required duties of bridesmaids are very limited: "Contrary to rumor, bridesmaids are not obliged to entertain in honor of the bride, nor to wear dresses they cannot afford." A junior bridesmaid has no responsibilities beyond attending the wedding.
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 assessed fees to 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.

Maid of honor

In the United Kingdom, the term "maid of honour" originally referred to the female attendant of a queen. 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. If she is married, the title matron of honor is used. In modern day weddings some brides opt to choose a long-time male friend or brother as their head attendant, using the title 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, and for her help as a friend, such as attending the bride as she shops for her wedding dress. Many brides expect a chief bridesmaid to arrange and pay for a bridal shower as well as the bachelorette party (US) or hen's night (Australia and UK).
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 flower, 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 until it is needed during the ceremony. Many brides ask bridesmaids, if they are adults, to be legal witnesses who sign the marriage license after the ceremony.

"Bridesmaid" as an idiomatic term

The term "bridesmaid" itself has also come to refer to one who comes close to attaining what is desired, only to fall just short, alluding to the fact that though a bridesmaid plays a large role in a wedding, she is not the one for whom the ceremony is given nor is she the center of attention. Commonly recited expressions about this member of the wedding party are "always a bridesmaid, but never a bride" and "thrice a bridesmaid, never a bride"-- an old charm that can be broken by being a bridesmaid seven times.
The term is used especially commonly to refer to a sports team or athlete that routinely comes close to winning an award or championship, only to come up just short. Jason Kidd of the New Jersey Nets had stated, for instance, that he was tired of being the "bridesmaid" after two consecutive losses in the NBA finals (to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2002 and to the San Antonio Spurs in 2003). Other notable bridesmaid teams during the 1990s were the Buffalo Bills, Utah Jazz, the England Cricket Team (for reaching the finals of the Cricket World Cup thrice and not winning it even once) and the New York Knicks.
This idiomatic usage of the word bridesmaid most probably began in 1917 when Fred W. Leigh and Charles Collins composed "Always a Bridesmaid":
Why am I always a bridesmaid,
Never the blushing bride?
Ding! Dong! Wedding bells
Always ring for other gals.
But one fine day –
Please let it be soon –
I shall wake up in the morning
On my own honeymoon.
In 1925 the Listerine Company used it in their ad campaign, claiming that at the root of the 'always a bridemaid' syndrome was halitosis, or bad breath.

Groomsmen

In a North American, Australian or British wedding a groomsman or usher is one of the male attendants to the bridegroom in a wedding ceremony. Usually the bridegroom selects his closest friends and/or relatives to serve as a groomsmen, and it is considered an honor to be selected. From his groomsmen, the groom chooses one to serve as best man.
The required duties of the groomsmen are:
  • to help guests find their places before the ceremony and
  • to participate in the wedding ceremony.
Additionally, the groom may request other kinds of assistance, such as planning celebratory events such as a bachelor party, also called Stag Night or Buck's Night; helping make the wedding pleasant for guests by talking with people who are alone or dancing with unpartnered guests or bridesmaids, if there is dancing at a wedding reception; or providing practical assistance with gifts, luggage, or unexpected complications. Groomsmen may also participate in local or regional traditions, such as decorating the newlywed couple's car.
For a wedding with many guests, the groom may also designate other male friends and relatives to act as ushers, whose sole task is ushering guests to their seats before the ceremony. Ushers may also be hired for very large weddings.
In a military officer's wedding, the role of groomsmen is replaced by swordsmen of the sword honor guard. They are usually picked as close personal friends of the groom who have served with him. Their role includes forming the traditional saber arch for the married couple and guests to walk through.

Best man

The best man is the chief male assistant to the bridegroom at a wedding. In North America and Europe, the groom extends this honour to someone who is close to him, generally either a brother or his closest male friend. When the groom wishes to give this honor to a woman, she may be termed the best woman or best person, or may still be referred to as the 'best man'. The bride's equivalent of the best man is the maid or matron of honour. A gender-neutral term is honor attendant.
While the best man's required duties are only those of a friend, in the context of an American/British white wedding, the best man will typically:
  • assist the groom on the wedding day,
  • keep the wedding rings safe until needed during the ceremony,
  • act as a legal witness to the marriage, and
  • make a toast to the bride and groom at the reception.
  • be responsible for organizing the bachelor party or stag night as it is known in the UK and Australia.

Flower Girls

A flower girl is a participant in a wedding procession. Like ring bearers and page boys, flower girls are usually members of the bride's or groom's extended family, but may also be friends.
Typically, the flower girl walks in front of the bride during an entrance processional. She may spread flower petals on the floor before the bride or carry a bouquet of flowers or thornless roses. Once the processional is over, a young flower girl will sit down with her parents. If the ceremony will not be particularly long, an older child may prefer to quietly stand at the altar with the other honor attendants.
Because very young children are overwhelmed by the duties, and older girls may feel insulted by a "baby" role, the recommended age is between four and eight years of age, or even older, if not offensive to the girl's feelings.
There may be more than one flower girl, particularly if the bride has several young relatives to honour. This practice is more common at British royal weddings, at elaborate weddings modeled after royal weddings, or at Victorian-themed weddings.
Historically, the clothing was provided by the families of the bride and groom, but most modern couples expect the parents of the flower girl pay for her dress.
In a formal wedding, the ring bearer is a special page who carries the wedding rings for the bridal party. This is almost always symbolic, with the ring bearer carrying a large white satin pillow on which imitation rings are sewn, while the real wedding bands are kept in the safekeeping of the best man. If the real rings are used, they are tacked on with thread to prevent their accidental loss.
The ringbearer as a separate role is a relatively modern innovation. In a white wedding ceremony, the best man carries the rings.
Ring bearers are often nephews or young brothers (although they can also be nieces or sisters) and are generally in the same age range as flower girls, which is to say that they are no younger than about 5 nor older than 10.

Officiant/Celebrant

In the United States, Canada and many other countries around the world, a celebrant is a person who performs religious or secular celebrancy services for weddings, funerals, child namings, coming of age ceremonies, and other rituals.
Some Celebrants are ordained clergy, while others are Officiants empowered by the Humanist Association of Canada (HAC), the American Humanist Association (AHA), or the Society for Humanistic Judaism. (SHJ). In Australia, where Celebrants are commonly hired, they may be certified by any one of a number of Celebrancy training programs, while in the UK, most belong to one of a number of Humanist organizations, including the British Humanist Association and the Humanist Society of Scotland.
Celebrants may perform alternative and nontraditional ceremonies in places, and under circumstances where mainstream religious clergy will not. Some Celebrants perform same-sex weddings and commitment ceremonies. Celebrants, also called Officiants, often perform ceremonies in parks, on beaches, on mountains, on boats, on hiking trails, in hotels, in banquet halls, in private homes, and many other places.
Laws in each state of the United States vary about who has the right to perform wedding ceremonies, but Celebrants or Officiants are usually categorized as "clergy" and have the same rights and responsibilities as ordained clergy. In Canada and in the US State of Massachusetts, the only places in North America where same-sex marriages are legalized, Celebrants and Officiants perform many LGBT weddings.
In Scotland, since a June 2005 ruling by the Registrar General, humanist weddings are now legal, providing that they are conducted by an Authorized Celebrant of the Humanist Society of Scotland making Scotland one of only three countries in the world where this is the case. (The other two are the USA and Norway.)
Celebrants differ from Chaplains in that Celebrants serve the unaffiliated public at large, while Chaplains are usually employed by an institution such as a hospital or other health care facility, the military, etc.
In Australia, Celebrants have a slightly different role, as regulated by local and national laws. See Celebrant (Australia) for more information.
In the United States, Celebrants are professional ceremony officiants who believe in the power and effectiveness of ceremony and ritual to serve basic needs of society and the individual. They collaborate with their clients to create and perform personalized ceremonies that reflect the client’s beliefs, philosophy of life, and personality; not the Celebrant’s. See Celebrant (United States) for more information.

Gallery

Modern participants in weddings.
Brides in history
's wedding dresses reflected the styles of the day. From that time onward, wedding dresses have traditionally been based on Victorian styles.
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