Traditions & customs are a big point of discussion for most couples as they outline their wedding day. Often times, family & friends have opinions to contribute on the subject and this can lead to a couple making decisions to include or not include specific elements that they might not want to.

We definitely think there's something to be said for tradition- we love our family's holiday traditions and understand the beauty of participating in a custom that has been passed down from generation to generation.  Tradition has its place in our lives and special meaning to certain people so we don't believe you should bunk it all- unless of course, that's what you feel in your heart you want to do! But we definitely don't think couples should do something for the "sake of" tradition. 

In a series of posts this week, we're talking about the origin of some of these traditions as well as some of the elements of a wedding that our couples often reconsider or forgo altogether. 

#4 - The Wedding Party

The Tradition

Like most of the traditions we've discussed so far, the tradition of a wedding party can be traced back to ancient Rome. 

To be considered legally binding, 10 witnesses must be present at the wedding so maids and men stood by the bride and groom. But because the ancient Romans were so superstitious the bridesmaids and groomsmen dressed identically to the couple to protect them from evil spirits. 

The groomsmen had the additional task of protecting the bride as well. They would accompany her to the celebration and fend off thieves who might try to steal her dowry. 

In the Anglo-Saxon tradition, groomsmen were called ‘bridesknights and similarly to the Roman practice, they would oversee the safety of the bride until the wedding ceremony was over.  The best knight would stand on the bride's side so he could be next to her and protect her until the couple were officially married. 

Bridesmaids played a very similar role by keeping the bride's over-protective family and unwanted suitors away. 

During the Victorian era, bridesmaids would wear white dresses to match the bride. They would even wear short veils. Bridesmaids also had the responsibility of making party favors, organizing flowers, and accompanying the bride in her walk down the aisle.

These days, the wedding party tradition continues. Couples choose to incorporate close relatives and their best friends as bridesmaids, groomsmen, attendants, grooms-ladies, and bridesmen. Wedding parties come in all different sizes and compositions these days. Ultimately, these guests of honor are there for support and companionship

groom boutonniere wedding photography

The Alternative

I think traditionally, especially in the US, couples think of a wedding party as having 4 or more people on each side, wearing matching dresses and suits, ladies on one side, men on the other... But this is far from the only option! 

- The Size: Don't feel the need to have a wedding party. Most states require one witness (and some, like Washington, D.C., don't even require that!) so legally, it's not a requirement. If you have a large group of friends and want them all there with you, then have them all. Or perhaps just having one attendant, such as a Maid of Honor or Best Man, feels right to you. 

- The Composition: As same-sex marriage started to become legal, we saw more and more mixed gendered wedding parties. Now, just as many opposite-sex couples choose to cross gender lines. Are you a woman with a male best friend? It's totally acceptable to have him stand next to you. Love knows no gender. <3

- The Look: Gone are the days of matchy-matchy. And thank goodness in our book! For one, mixing colors and textures looks gorgeous in your photos (and bottom line - the photos are the thing you'll have forever!) but also, your friends and family will be happier wearing something that they are comfortable in. GIving guidance is always ok but allowing for each person to choose the specific design of their attire, for example, is a great way to have a happy wedding party!

Did you miss the other posts in this series of Wedding Traditions Reconsidered?
Check them out here:

#1 - The Bouquet & Garter Toss
#2 - Favors
#3 - Cake
#4 - Waiting to See Each Other Until the Ceremony
#5 - Wearing a Veil

About Sincerely Pete

Sincerely Pete is a full service wedding planning and design company in Washington, D.C. and Alexandria, VA with over 13 years of experience. We believe in a personal, curated & customized approach to each wedding couple we work with taking their values & personalities into account and keeping the relationship as the focus of the wedding. We plan Washington DC weddings, Virginia weddings, Maryland weddings and destination weddings all over the world. 

Contact us today for more information!