📋 Get the Wedding Quick Start Guide!

Episode 03: The Bridal Party

When you shop via links on our site, we may earn a small commission if you make a purchase. Learn more.

Ever wondered why couples have people stand next to them at the altar on their wedding day? We’re examining the wedding party tradition and where it came from.

Episode 03: The Bridal Party
bouquet art

Episode 3 of The Bouquet Toss is all about the tradition of The Wedding Party and where it originated! Subscribe to The Bouquet Toss Podcast via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your favorite podcast app!

Listen to Episode #03: The Wedding Party

Have you ever wondered where the tradition of the bridal party came from?

The background and history of the bridal party can’t quite be pinpointed to a specific date. Regardless of when or how they started, though, many brides and grooms today still uphold the wedding party tradition.

From laws about wedding witnesses to marriage-by-capture culture, the bridal party has taken on many forms and responsibilities over the years. We’re taking a deep dive into all of it, as well as alternative ideas for honoring your closest friends on your wedding day! Plus, learn why we think it should be called a “wedding party” instead of a “bridal party.”

Why do couples have a bridal party at their weddings?

Though it’s unclear where and when exactly the custom originated, bridal parties have been a part of wedding celebrations for quite a long time. As early as Ancient Rome, it was required by law that 10 witnesses should be present at a wedding. Many historians point to this rule as the source of the bridal party tradition. Regardless of why, when, or how this tradition was started, modern couples today still incorporate their closest friends to honor and support them on their wedding day.

the bridal party tradition
Image via Canva

What is the average size of a bridal party?

The average number of people in a wedding party is 5 people on each side, according to The Knot.

What does the bridal party/wedding party actually do?

Today, the wedding party is there to offer moral support to the happy couple. On the wedding day, they typically get ready with the bride/groom, take photos together, and stand beside them at the altar during the ceremony.

Leading up to the wedding day, the bridal party may or may not have other duties or expectations bestowed upon them. For many smaller budget couples, they might lean more heavily on assistance from their wedding attendants for pre-wedding preparations. From tackling DIY projects to organizing different aspects of the day, the wedding party can act as a support squad for couples who need extra help.

The wedding party is also often involved in planning pre-wedding events such as showers, and bachelor or bachelorette parties.

Read More: Wedding Party Duties: Everything You Need to Know

Why do the bridesmaids and groomsmen all dress the same?

In Ancient Roman times, bridesmaids and groomsmen had to dress similarly to the bride and groom to ward off vengeful spirits. The idea was that if the men and women were all dressed alike, it could confuse the spirits (or actual, real-life suitors who dared to interfere) and keep them from harming the newlyweds.

While the bridesmaids helped escort the bride to the ceremony safely just by dressing similarly to her, the men had a bigger potential job. Historically, the “groomsmen” assisted in possible kidnapping and had to be open to the potential of battle as part of their duties.

Legends commonly passed down say that the groomsmen and best man actually started out as the people who were entrusted by the groom to help ensure the bride’s safety to the wedding, during the ceremony, and later the groom’s home; sometimes they are called the bride’s knights. Sometimes lore says the groomsmen/best man would kidnap the bride from her home and possible disapproving parents. The Everything Wedding Book (p. 21) says that the best man would help the groom “fight” for the bride if there are other potential suitors. Once the bride has been brought to the ceremony, some lore says the groomsmen and best man would then guard the bride, possibly with swords, so nothing interrupts the ceremony until it is complete. This is why the best man and groom stand to the right of the bride; they will be able to reach their swords easily.

via LovetoKnow

Does your bridal party have to dress alike?

In a word, no. ❤️

Your wedding party can wear whatever they (or you) wish them to wear. It has become more common for bridesmaids to wear mismatched dresses over the last decade or so. If you’re not particularly concerned about aesthetics, your wedding party doesn’t have to all wear the same outfit. In fact, they might be relieved to pick out something for themselves or wear something they already own to save money.

Is being in a wedding party an honor, obligation, or both?

More than likely, both. In modern weddings, there seem to be more duties and expectations on the wedding party than ever before.

Being asked to be in someone’s wedding should be considered an honor. Being a part of a wedding party shows who the couple deems most important and special to them. Standing beside your friends while they make a big, lifetime commitment is absolutely an honor.

However, for some folks, being in a wedding party can feel like a burden of both time and money.

Being a bridesmaid is a good way to find a husband!

In the 16th century, people believed that women who served as a bridesmaid three times without getting married themselves had been cursed by evil spirits. To break the spell, you’d have to be a bridesmaid four more times, for a total of seven rounds on the wedding circuit.

via Mental floss

Selecting your wedding party

Below are a few tips for choosing who you want to be a part of your bridal party:

  • Be selective. Choose people you feel closest to and see being part of your life for many years to come.
  • Consider your expectations. Will you need a lot of help and support outside of the wedding day itself? Keep that in mind when choosing your wedding party.
  • What is the purpose in having a bridal party at your wedding in particular? Get clear on what you need from them.
  • Don’t worry about even numbers. If you and your future spouse have a different number of attendants, don’t sweat it. Do what feels right for you!

So much of the wedding party these days feels like a focus on the aesthetics of the day. If the look of things is important to you, own it! If not, don’t feel pressured to add extra people to your wedding party or to have one at all if it doesn’t align with your vision.

Alternatives to the Wedding Party trend

If you’re not sure about the idea of having a large wedding party at your big day, consider the alternatives:

  • Small bridal party. Just include your siblings or just have a best man/MOH.
  • No bridal party at all! Just the two of you at the altar.
  • You can still take group photos with your favorite people or closest friends! Just be sure to inform your photographer ahead of time of who you want photos with.
  • Allow your wedding party to wear whatever they want. They don’t have to be clones!
  • Call them your wedding party, which is not as gendered as bridal party.
  • Mix genders on each side if you want —  have your people stand on your side of the altar regardless of gender.

As with all the traditions involved in a wedding, the most important part is to do what feels right to you!

Will you have a wedding party as part of your big day or are you tossing this tradition? Let’s discuss this subject in the community!

The Bouquet Toss Podcast

About The Bouquet Toss Podcast

The Bouquet Toss Podcast is Part of the Evergreen Podcasts Network

The Bouquet Toss is a wedding planning podcast that empowers couples to plan a meaningful, authentic, and affordable wedding celebration! On the show, we will have candid conversations all about weddings and why we do them the way we do so that couples can plan their weddings based on their own values, and not on the expectations of others.

In our Budget-Savvy Wedding Planning Community, we see the same questions asked over and over again. So many couples seem to be seeking permission to plan their weddings on their own terms, and we’re here to say go for it! We believe you should have your day, your way and our goal is to help empower you to plan a wedding celebration that actually feels authentic to you. 

This podcast is brought to you by TheBudgetSavvyBride.com and is hosted by the founder, Jessica Bishop, and real weddings editor Sari Weinerman. Subscribe on Apple or Spotify today!

In case you missed it, check out our other episodes:

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

📌 Pin This! 📌

The Bouquet Toss Podcast Episode 03: The Bridal Party

bouquet art

The Bouquet Toss is a wedding planning podcast dedicated to helping couples plan a wedding day that feels authentic to them! We examine wedding traditions and trends so you can decide what to keep and what to toss from your wedding day plans! Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your favorite podcast app!