There are a few questions that immediately come to a girl’s mind when a friend announces her engagement. “Will I be a bridesmaid?” Or if she ‘knows’ that she will be, it’s “When and how can I help with the planning?”
As mentioned in previous posts, Luke and I placed a high priority on the significance of our wedding. Almost every detail had meaning to either our own relationship and/or to the history of biblical marriage. Choosing a wedding party was an especially difficult decision for us since it held significance in both ways.
The origins of bridesmaids and groomsmen traditions are just as numerous and varied as the venue options we have today. There are the heroic stories of knights chosen as protection for the bride. There are stories of attendants protecting the couple by distracting evil spirits or jealous counterparts. In the time of arranged marriages, there was always a maid to assist the bride, sometimes guards to ensure the safety of the bride and her dowry, and there were always witnesses to ensure that the union was completed and legal. Most often the maids, guards, and witness were not chosen by the couple, but appointed for them as insurance. As marriage shifted from a strategic, financial or influential arrangement to an independent consensual union based in romance and love, the selection of attendants also shifted to that of a self-chosen wedding party. But largely, their responsibilities to assist the couple, ensure their safety, and act as witnesses of the covenant have remained in tradition.
I’m not sure where I heard it, but I’ve always believed that the wedding party was a selected group of people who would care for your marriage and even for your spouse in the instance of your absence. Biblically, we found significance in the role the kinsman redeemer best described in the book of Ruth. The kinsman redeemer (the next closest male relative) was not necessarily required to stand by the groom on his wedding day, but should the groom pass away, it would be the kinsman redeemer’s responsibility to take care of and defend the widow and guard the deceased groom’s possessions as his own. Connecting the support of a kinsman redeemer to the groomsmen or bridesmaids added significance for us. Luke and I felt strongly about honoring the people who invested in our relationship over the past 3 years AND who we felt would continue to be our accountability for the next 10+ years. Our marriage is important to us and we know that times will get tough. We understand that there will come a time when one or both of us will question the other, hurt the other, and possibly even doubt our ability to stay married. We wanted our wedding party to be the group of friends that we would turn to first and trust that we would receive both love and biblical wisdom because they cared about the integrity of our marriage just as much as we do.
When it came my turn to select a wedding party, many thoughts and memories came to mind. Often, a couple is conflicted with family obligations to make a sibling or cousin a groomsmen or bridesmaid. Or there can be pressure from expectations to reciprocate the honor of being asked for someone’s else’s wedding. Both of these scenarios were true for me. In considering the friends and family who had been and would be our continued support to lean on when we need them, I realized that they were almost all couples. If I turned to a girlfriend, her husband was always right beside her to offer encouragement and prayer. If I needed advice, the husbands were there to offer a man’s perspective. So, how could I separate the support I would have from each married couple? Luke also found that his support system was a mix of couples and pseudo-siblings. It was quickly apparent, that our wedding party would not be the traditional bridesmaids for the bride and groomsmen for the groom. We each had our own bridesmaids and groomsmen.
One factor of the wedding party discussion came pretty easily. Prior to even being engaged, I mentioned in a late night conversation that I felt parents often get overlooked in their children’s wedding. If our measure of a bridesmaid or groomsmen was continued support and accountability, no one fits that better than our parents. My parents have invested 30 years of love, support, joy, and heartache, teaching, rebuking, and molding me into the woman I am today. They helped pay for over half of the wedding. Not to mention the years of dating they witnessed and counsel they gave that helped get me to the altar. There are some traditions that highlight parents, but even those are almost exclusively for the father of the bride or the mother of the groom. I love my dad and didn’t want to steal those moments aways from him, however… my MOM! She’s my best friend! She’s been my confidant and wisdom for my entire life! How could she not be honored during this critical day in which she invested so much of herself to get me here?! I love my friends. Luke and I are unbelievably blessed with an incomparable group of friends on both sides. But they have been in our lives and supported us a fraction of what our parents have. So, it was a very quick mutual decision to honor our parents by asking them to stand with us while we said our vows. This is a part of the jewish tradition that we loved so much. Since we wanted to include the symbolism of a jewish chuppah, it made sense that we would also borrow the tradition of our parents standing with us rather than the wedding party. The wedding party was involved in every other aspect of the wedding and planning, but they sat in the front rows during our vows while our parents stood by our sides. This was quite a surprise to our parents, but all of them teared up at the honor.