It’s the stuff that Hollywood thriller movies are made of. Ten bridesmaids and groomsmen, all dressed in matching attire, all of similar heights, and all kinda looking a bit like matching pawns in a life-sized game of lawn chess. Both the groom and the best man carry a sword on their hip, and at a moment’s notice, any one of the bridesmaids could be asked to take a sip for the team when the bride has had one too many gulps of rice wine during the reception toasts.
Incredibly, the elements of this supposed made-for-Hollywood wedding scene don’t come from Hollywood at all but rather from the annals of history, according to Reader’s Digest. Some variation of these traditions goes back to ancient times when having 10 wedding attendants was required to fend off nefarious attempts to steal the bride or to act as witnesses to the nuptials. And any modern bride and groom who wonder how many people should be in the bridal party can thank our ancient ancestors for the confusion.
A Little History Lesson on Destination Weddings in Ancient Times
It’s probably important right now to acknowledge that we know you didn’t come to this wedding blog to get a history lesson. However, believe it or not, we think it’ll help you to learn where these traditions come from. Then, should you decide to break with the tradition of having one bridesmaid or groomsmen for every 50 guests, you won’t feel guilty about it.
Once upon a time when the world was a bit wilder than it is now, it wasn’t unusual for rival suitors to try to steal the bride while the wedding party was on the road to the ancient versions of destination weddings. To remedy this, a number of bridesmaids were chosen to wear outfits that matched the bride’s to travel with the wedding party to act as decoys, the idea being that if the wedding bandit was successful, he would only be partly successful because instead of making away with the bride, he may have only nabbed one of the bridesmaid decoys instead.
This is where the tradition of a large number of wedding attendants wearing the same thing came to be – or one of the traditions, anyway. The larger the number of matching decoys, the better chance that the bride had of making it to the wedding activities in some big city in the ancient world.
In a related line of thought, the Wedding Wire reports that the groomsmen once functioned as protectors of the bride, with the best man being chief among them. To have a best man meant that you had the best swordsman in town – more or less – at your wedding, protecting the interests of your soon-to-be family. All of this may explain why it was once logical to have one-to-50 ratio of wedding attendants versus guests because you never knew when having a bouncer might come in handy at one of these ancient luxury weddings.
The unspoken wisdom here is that the bride was probably someone worth stealing, as in she was maybe a princess or a Duke’s daughter or some such thing. Few other people in society could afford the trappings of the ancient luxury wedding, with its numerous attendants and travel required to make destination weddings of old happen.
And while all brides might be worth stealing, figuratively speaking, modern wedding planning no longer needs to include so many precautions against the bride being stolen on the way to the road to the wedding.
Southern Destination Weddings: How Big Should Your Wedding Party Be?
Additionally, while it was the case in ancient Rome to have 10 wedding attendants because the law required there to be 10 witnesses to the wedding, today, it’s the best man and the maid or matron of honor who usually act as official witnesses for southern destination weddings in Alabama now.
In short, many current wedding traditions, like having a large number of attendants, reflect the times from which they arose, and not necessarily the needs of weddings today. At one time, it made sense to have large wedding parties with 10 or 12 people on each side. Today, soon-to-be-marrieds often lean toward having smaller wedding parties, with as few as one witness on each side or as many as four or five.
Certainly, this is more budget-friendly, but even more than that, it is more intimate and meaningful and reflects more modern sensibilities about proper wedding etiquette and traditions for today.
Taking Care of the Wedding Party at Your Southern Wedding
What this means is that the bridesmaids no longer have to drink the libations in the bride’s place when the alcohol from the toasts got to be too much for one person to handle. Today, the bride and her party are more likely to spend the days before a southern wedding in Alabama at a sweet tea-tasting or at the destination wedding venue’s spa or yoga space.
And rather than using a sword, blub, or a gun to fend off false suitors, the groomsmen of today are more likely to use their clubs to take part in a stay and play golf package with the groom or to use a rifle for the purposes of shooting sporting clays – and not romantic suitors – in the days before the wedding.
In both cases, these practices allow the soon-to-be-marrieds to spend more intimate and quality time with the respective members of their wedding party. Many of these pre-wedding wedding activities not only give the bride and the groom a chance to connect with the people who are important to them but also allow them to give meaningful gifts of time and memorable experiences to those closest to them, the members of their wedding party.
Final Thoughts on Choosing Your Wedding Party
The bottom line of it is, the right number of people in the bridal party comes down to budget, taste, and a desire on the part of the bride and groom to create new traditions that are meaningful to them. There is no reason to have 10 or 12 members on each side of the wedding party unless you want to.
If you recently got engaged and need some assistance trying to decide on the right number of people for your southern destination wedding party, or would like to learn about some new wedding traditions to include in your wedding, please reach out to us for a proposal.