Have you ever wondered why we do what we do at weddings?
As I planned my wedding, I questioned every long-held tradition of the modern wedding (of the western culture) until I found a significance that made sense to me. One of the most important traditions I wanted to unpack was the expectation of the bridal party.
Before most of us even get engaged, we have already picked out our bridesmaids. Yet somehow, choosing friends and family can be stressful when the actual wedding planning begins. In my opinion, these are the top 5 issues with picking a bridesmaid:
- Anna asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding, should I ask her for mine?
- I have 3 sisters, 3 future sisters-in-law, 2 best friends, and only 4 bridesmaids spots!
- All of my friends are already married. Can I have 4 brides-matrons?
- I promised my best-friend in high-school that she would be my maid-of-honor, but we really aren’t close anymore!
- Marriage isn’t even on the radar for most of my friends; they kind of resent me for being the first one to get married. And my sisters are too young to plan parties and help me pick out honeymoon stuff.
For many brides, narrowing down (or broadening) the scope of ladies to be your bridesmaids is intimidating. Perhaps a bit of historical and biblical context will help.
What’s the History?
There are 2 historical accounts for bridesmaids that I have found particularly fascinating:
In the early Roman culture, a bride would choose women to accompany her on the journey to her future-husband’s home. These women acted as soldiers and protectors, keeping the bride (and the dowry her father sent with her), safe from harm on the road.
Later, brides began to choose women to stand with them at the altar to fool any supposed evil spirits from attacking the bride. All the women would wear the same dress to add to the confusion. The same would go for the groomsmen. (Source)
Currently, a bride and groom typically build their wedding party to obtain witnesses, recruit party planners, honor individuals, and add to the aesthetics of the ceremony. That and its one of the checklist items in theKnot.com’s wedding planner.
Interestingly, the Bible also has something to say about this tradition.
What the Bible says:
The Bible emphasizes the role a bride’s girlfriends play in her marriage. We see this particularly in Song of Solomon, the great love story of the Bible, where the bride’s friends make several vocal appearances. They express their celebration of the bride and her marriage, (SOS 1:4), offer support and accountability for her (SOS 2:15), and even show praise and encouragement to the groom (SOS 3:6-10)!
Later, these women encourage the bride to be sexually intimate with her husband (SOS 5:1, 9), and make a point to reunite the couple after they are separated (SOS 6:1).
Titus 2 emphasizes the importance of having mentor-women in our lives:
These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God. (Titus 2:4-5)
Also, Proverbs 12:26 tells us that “The godly give good advice to their friends; the wicked lead them astray.”
How to choose your bridesmaids:
On your wedding day, you are making the one of the greatest decisions in your life (second only to your decision to follow Christ). The people you ask to stand up with you as you make that decision should be those who are willing to hold you accountable to it. Each women should stand with you not as a wedding decoration, but as a trustworthy pillar to hold you to your vows.
Instead of the above 5 frustrations, I encourage you to ask these questions as you choose your bridesmaids:
Who is my accountability partner?
Who is willing to help me process through, celebrate, and be Christ-centered about the coming changes in my life?
Who is a good example to me?
Who is bold enough tell me that I need to repent and seek forgiveness?
Who wont stop praying for my marriage, even 50 years down the road?
As a former bridesmaid for 6 different weddings, I have made a point to hold each bride accountable to her vows. I pray for their marriages regularly, and check in to see how things are going. I am probably a pesky bridesmaid, but I wont relent. Unfortunately, I have already seen 2 of these marriages dissipate. It breaks my heart, but strengthens my resolve to be vigilant in my role for the other 4 brides. (And I invite all 6 of my AMAZING bridesmaids to do the same for me).
This can actually be a very liberating process! You don’t have to ask only women who are your age, and you are excused from having to match numbers of bridesmaids to groomsmen. (If you are OCD, disregard the last statement).
Most of us have a friends or family member who we still want to honor (or still expect to be honored) as a bridesmaid, even if she isn’t ready or able to fill the above-mentioned roles of Christ-centered accountability. Please feel free to include these individuals in your wedding party! But first, choose that woman who will serve you and your marriage in the spiritual capacity.
You could even give her a new title, like “Mentor of honor.” It might get people asking questions about this new role in the wedding party, which will allow you to share your convictions of having a Biblical accountability. Who knows, maybe it will open the door to share the gospel with your wedding planner or guests!
After you have chosen your crucial accountability partners, fill the other spots with individuals you wish to honor as well. Spread out the “duties” for each bridesmaid (hosting showers, helping pick out the dress, etc.), but also feel free to delegate these roles to non-bridesmaids.
You may not want a cavalry of iron-clad ladies, marching at your side with protective gear; but you may want to consider an army of women clothed in the armor of God, ready to do battle for your covenant marriage at the slightest attack.
Who will you choose for this task? More importantly, are they really up for it?