The role of a bridesmaid is typically extremely varied according to both the culture the wedding is taking place in, as well as the style of wedding and demands of the bride herself. The bridesmaid is a part of the bride’s wedding party and is typically a young woman who is either a close friend or relative of the bride. The chief role of the bridesmaid is to attend to the bride on her wedding day, performing duties such as ensuring that the bride is fully prepared for the wedding, and liaising with other members of the wedding party to ensure that the day is progressing smoothly. Traditionally, bridesmaids have been women who were themselves unwed, although this is not a requirement.
It is very common for there to be more than one bridesmaid that makes up the bride’s wedding party, with one bridesmaid being referred to as the chief bridesmaid or maid of honour. The maid of honour, alongside the best man, are typically legal witnesses for the marriage on the wedding license.
Historically the side of the bride’s wedding party was a reflection of her wealth, based on the assumption that it would cost more to provide dresses for a larger number of bridesmaids. In more modern times, it is often the closest friends that are chosen, although if a bride has many friends she may not be able to make them all bridesmaids for practical reasons.
In some western cultures, such as in Norway and other Scandinavian countries, the bridesmaid has often been a young girl whose duty has been to carry flowers and pose with the married couple in their wedding photos. The duties that would have been carried out by older bridesmaids in other countries would be carried out by the same kind of woman, albeit under a different title. In the United Kingdom and other English speaking countries, the role of a young girl whose duty it is to carry flowers is typically called a flower girl.
In recent times, television shows featuring bridesmaids have started to become popular, although many critics of the show point out that it is often only the types of weddings that are likely to feature large amounts of drama that are selected to be featured on the show.