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Why Bridesmaids Wear Matching Dresses

Photograph by Twenty20

The first time you're a bridesmaid, every part of the process is exciting—especially the dress. Sure, it's pricey and might not be exactly what you would have chosen—but, hey, there's always the chance you'll wear it again, right?

By your third, fourth and, most definitely, fifth bridesmaid appearance, the excitement of being asked gets quickly overshadowed by the reality of what's to come—forking over $200 for a dress in a color you definitely don't like, in a style you dislike only slightly less. And as for the question of whether you'll wear it again? Those past bridesmaid dresses collecting dust in your closet can answer that.

Of course, matching dresses aren't necessarily a requirement for every wedding, especially nowadays. Having a variety of hues and styles continues to gain popularity among bridal parties who forgo the tradition of having seven bridesmaids in the same strapless, knee-length seafoam green dress.

However, should you find yourself a bridesmaid in a wedding where the bride refuses to buck tradition, knowing where the tradition originates might help minimize the dress dread.

Contrary to what most might think, matching bridesmaid dresses aren't an excuse to showcase the bride's favorite color. In actuality, the tradition of matching bridesmaids is an old one—dating as far back as ancient Rome, around 700 B.C.

In ancient Rome, bridesmaids dressed exactly like the bride, color and all. This way, she wouldn't be as easy to spot, should any of her past suitors try to whisk her away and put a stop to the impending nuptials.

Similarly, another version of the tradition says that it was to keep evil spirits from finding the bride. If bridesmaids were all dressed the same, the spirit might mistake a bridesmaid for the bride and make her life a living nightmare instead.

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So, clearly, back then, bridesmaids had a lot more to worry about than a matching dress that they wouldn't wear again. They were potentially sacrificing their own safety for their friend.

It's only been within the past 60 years or so that bridesmaids started wearing colors and not just styles that drastically differed from the bride. Even Queen Victoria, known for her role in popularizing the white wedding dress in 1840, had 12 bridesmaids who were also dressed in white. Then again, Kate Middleton seemed to have resurrected this tradition as well, choosing a white dress for her sister and maid of honor, Pippa Middleton, in 2011.

Whether they're white or not or matching or not, the important takeaway with being a bridesmaid isn't about a dress, as this history lesson teaches us. It's having a friendship that's worth a sacrifice, whether that be wearing a color that clashes with your skin tone or saving her from deranged exes and evil spirits.

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