These days the purpose of bridesmaids is to stretch out the responsibilities of the wedding celebrations. Bridesmaids throw bachelorette parties, give a second opinion on place settings and hold the bride's dress when she needs to relieve herself. However, the original responsibilities of bridesmaids were a little less — shall we say — "fun."
The tradition of having a wedding attendants dates back to Ancient Rome. During this time, Roman law stated that a wedding needed 10 witnesses to be legally binding. For this reason, the bride and groom would have a wedding party accompany them to witness their marriage.
Oftentimes, the bride would have to travel to the groom's town or village to be married. During this journey, she was escorted by her bridesmaids.
But, whether fueled by experience or superstition, the bride was considered to be in grave danger during this journey, as well as during the ceremony itself. To protect the bride-to-be, bridesmaids would don the same exact clothing as the bride (a practice you should probably avoid today since the bride probably won't take it as an act of affection with the intent to protect her from harm).
But how did this protect the bride, and what exactly did she need to be protected from?
Well, according to Valerie Berrios, author of "The Bridesmaid's Companion," the bridesmaids of Ancient Rome would dress the same as the bride as "a ruse to help guard her from robbers, bandits, and kidnappers."
While kidnappers and bandits are scary in and of themselves, many historians believe the bride needed protection from something even more dark. Hanne Blank, historian and author of, "Virgin: The Untouched History," said the practice of bridesmaids dressing in matching attire was meant to "confuse evil spirits or those who wished to harm the bride."
Apparently, the happy event would attract evil spirits bent on preventing the marriage. The bridesmaids dressed the same as the bride — aka decoys — in order to confuse the spirits long enough to allow the couple to complete their vows.
So, whether to protect the bride from robbers, kidnappers or Satan's minions, the practice of wearing matching dresses to a wedding isn't quite as cute as you might think it is.
Just keep that in mind next time you get all gussied up in satin and lace for your BFF's big day.