The custom of having bridesmaids at a wedding
It was thought in those dark days of the past that evil deeds would be committed on what was supposed to be the happiest day of anyone's life. Bridesmaids would dress in identical outfits to the bride to confuse the evil doer and this part of the custom is still a little evident even up to today. The veil was supposed to keep the face covered right up until the ceremony so that no one would know if it was the bride or not. This was also there to confuse the evil doer. Indeed, Chinese customs still cover the bride's face c completely unlike our see through efforts. In days past, as the preacher was just about to marry the couple, the groom would lift the veil to check to see if it was his heart's desire lurking there and not some other woman who was trying to entrap him! It was up to him to confirm the identity of the bride before saying the magic 'I do' words.
These days, bridesmaids all tend to wear the same clothes but different from the bride who traditionally wears white. This was supposed to show the virtue of the bride but in these times even pregnant brides wear white wedding dresses. Of course, for most, this is not really important but it the tradition was to be followed to the letter then the bride would be a virgin on her wedding night.
In Jewish customs, the bed sheet that the couple used on the first night was supposed to be inspected for blood by both sets of parents to prove that the bride was a virgin when she slept with the husband. It would seem incongruous to do that these days and surely most would object to that particular custom.
Indeed, most of the traditional customs have become somewhat stylized over the past hundred years or so. Bits of the ceremony hark back to the past and some of the customs also have become a little mixed up but still valued. For an example, couples in the days of slavery, were not allowed to marry in the Christian way. So the slaves devised a ceremony whereby the couple jumped over a broom to signify that they now belonged to each other. Many African Americans will still incorporate this small custom to remember those bad days when they were not free to marry in church. From that ritual, the old saying for any couple living together, without marriage, was considered to be living 'over the broom'.
So where did the custom of giving bridesmaids gifts to say thank you for attending the bride on her big day come from? It may have come from the custom of giving all 'maids' at the wedding a piece of wedding cake to take home and place beneath her pillow. It was thought that if she did that then she would dream of her future husband that night. The act of giving bridesmaids gifts was possibly born out of that custom. These days of course, many will just eat the cake at the wedding and that custom seems to be dying out.
Jewelry seems to be a very popular choice for bridesmaid's gifts. Gold or silver necklaces with perhaps a monogrammed pendant, is the perfect gift and could possibly be worn on the day to set off the bridesmaid dresses. Matching bracelets are also a good idea and many outlets will offer the set together to save the customer searching for a match.
Pearls are also making a come back and could be a great choice for the gift. Younger bridesmaids may not appreciate the beauty of these beautiful necklaces but the older ones will. If there are younger ones, any piece of jewelry is normally acceptable and can be put aside for when she is older.
The matron on honor normally gets something a little extra for all her help with the bride and getting her ready on the day. She is also probably the instigator of the usual bridal shower before the wedding so therefore deserves to be rewarded more. Even if it is the addition of a beautiful picture frame as well as the jewelry, the matron of honor would be delighted to receive something special from the bride and groom.
If the maids or matron are related then it is probably inevitable that they will all be at other weddings at one time or another. Perhaps a beautifully crafted charm bracelet would make a great gift so that for every wedding or function that they go to will be met by yet another addition for the bracelet. These hold so many memories that monetary value is nothing compared to the memories contained therein. They even make great future heirlooms to be passed down through the family.
Gold or silver key fobs are also good ideas but younger maids may think these gifts are not for them. Earrings are a good choice, in gold or silver, with precious or semi precious stones, but it may be a good idea to check out whether the maids have pierced ears or not before the big day.
For the really funky wedding gift, try out the belly button attachments. Of course, these will not be visible on the big day, hopefully, but some maids will be truly delighted with this small but important addition to their jewelry boxes.
Whatever is given, make sure that a small card is given with a personal message from both the bride and groom. This somehow lifts the prestige of the bridesmaids' gifts and makes the receiver feel that the gift was chosen specifically for them even if it was one of ten identical pieces!