Cultures give and take from one another in a multitude of ways. The age-old tradition of bridesmaid at Western weddings is no different. The chosen ones stand by the brides’ side right up until she makes her almighty vows. But when did the bridesmaid phenomenon enter the Indian wedding?
Bridesmaids aren’t typically seen at weddings in India; customarily, the bride and groom’s cousins and family members handle any of the duties bridesmaids are usually responsible for. It’s a recent phenomenon that many have only witnessed at Indian weddings in the U.S.
So where did the idea of having bridesmaids come from? According to historian Ginger Strand, the Western tradition of bridesmaids served a greater purpose during its 19th-century inception by warding off evil spirits at the wedding ceremony.
Roman Law required 10 witnesses to be present at a wedding. By dressing in similar clothing to the bride and groom, the witnesses were meant to confuse evil spirits as to who was getting hitched. Some consider the Book of Genesis to be the real origin: Jacob and his two wives both came with “handmaidens.”
Fast-forward to present day where a quick Google search on bridesmaids will tell you ‘How to be the World’s Best Bridesmaid.’ Modern-day bridesmaids help in arranging brunches, bachelorette parties, and bridal showers for the soon-to-be-Mrs.
The Indian wedding, already a marathon of sorts, can become even more complex with these added events. The brides top gals don matching saris and lehengas, complementing her wedding outfit of choice.
The question of how exactly Indians picked up on the tradition of having bridesmaids remains unclear, but most likely is a case of cultural copycat; we saw others do it and so we should do it too. Chalk it up to wanting to fit in. It’s possible immigrant Indians took on Western traditions in this way. That being said, Indians certainly don’t need a cause to celebrate, especially when it comes to weddings. Hindus alone have more than 30 holidays in a calendar year!
Many Indian brides have openly admitted to including bridesmaids in their wedding festivities because of pictures. Uniformity of outfits and colors creates a focal point around the bride, centralizing attention on her.
The simple act of asking a close friend or family member to be a bridesmaid has turned into a grand overture: personalized gift bags, opulent group dinners and expensive goodies for the chosen lot. The original purpose of protecting loved ones gets lost in the process of wedding details and social pressure to be like the rest. The wedding process can be an exciting time both for the bride and her bridesmaids but there’s no denying its snowballing effect in weddings of today.
Having bridesmaids at an Indian wedding doesn’t beseech everyone; it can feel burdensome for the maidens or perhaps the bride wants to keep the attention on herself for the special day.
I’ve personally been a bridesmaid at several friends’ weddings and I’ve been to Indian weddings where brides have opted not to have bridesmaids. Whatever your decision is on the topic of bridesmaids, keep in mind the bride has chosen you as one of her best friends/sisters to walk her down the aisle. And who knows, maybe you’ll want someone standing by your side on your special day to help ward off those evil spirits.
This post was originally published on our partner site India.com and is republished here with permission.