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Satanic Kidnapping and the Mysterious Origin of Bridesmaids

Published Friday, Apr. 12th, 2024

A man in a Satan devil costume embraces a woman in a white dress.
Photo via Dangerous Minds: SATANIC STRIPPERS: VINTAGE BURLESQUE PERFORMERS DANCE WITH THE DEVIL / "Burlesque performer Diane de Lys, in a publicity photo for her her show, 'The Devil and the Virgin,' 1953"

Why do we have bridesmaids? You might be surprised...



Bridesmaids serve a very important purpose at the wedding ceremony, but it’s not what you’re thinking. 


Sure, they help hire the stripper for the bachelorette party. They hand you little snacks to make sure you don’t get hangry, pack extra hairspray and bobby pins, and keep your fiance’s weird work friend from hitting on Aunt Mabel at the open bar. 


But did you know bridesmaids also help prevent mid-ceremony Satanic kidnappings? 


Yep! At least according to a slew of superstitious lore posted online.


These sources say that bridesmaids wear those frilly, fancy dresses to confuse Satan, and to keep him from snatching up the wife-to-be and making her his fire-and-brimstone-singed hell bride. 


Related: Bridesmen and Groomsmaids: Tips for Planning an Unconventional Wedding Ceremony


See, Satan doesn’t know whose wedding it is, after all. He just knows a proper wedding dress when he sees one! And if every woman up front is wearing one, the bride's got much better odds of surviving his attack.


As for the hapless hellbound bridesmaid he takes instead? Well, at least she doesn’t have to clean up after the reception. 



Black and white vintage wedding photo with the bride and groom, bridesmaids and groomsmen, all wearing formal attire.

Photo: Imagesbybarbara / iStock

Where's the bride? Take your chances, Satan!



Other (more probable) theories on the origins of bridesmaids also include kidnapping, but without the devilish overtones...


In feudal China, for example, experts say that royal brides were highly valued for their ability to produce an heir. They often had to travel a long way to the wedding ceremony, which put them at great risk of attack from “rival clans and hooligans,” so bridesmaids would dress in matching outfits to confuse attackers and keep the royal bloodline safe. (via The Conversation; and Marriage Customs of the World)


Another likely origin story comes from the Bible, in the twisting tale of Jacob’s marriage to Leah and Rachel (thanks for the tip, Reader’s Digest). In this retelling of a messy Biblical love triangle, bridesmaids were simply the bride’s maids...


Just dressed-up servants standing around to do the bride’s bidding  which might resonate with modern bridesmaids more than they'd care to admit.


Which is all to say – 


If you're asked to be a bridesmaid these days, you’re probably getting off easy. Even if it doesn’t feel like it. Even if you do have to wear a dress that looks like it was picked up at a clown college rummage sale. Even if you're the one taking calls from a drunk, sobbing bride at midnight, or hauling around boob tape and bandaids, or handing out gum and anti-diarrheal tablets like they’re candy the morning of the ceremony... 


No matter how many times you mutter, ‘I’m in hell!’ while greeting handsy strangers at the guestbook table, at least you aren’t spending the day sitting next to Satan on the back of a winged serpent, on your way to literal hell.



Vintage bridesmaid photo with matching dresses

Photo credited to Diana Allaman / Pinterest

(They're making this look work, honestly)



Read Next: 


Ask a Bridesmaid to Get Ordained

to Serve as a Backup Officiant


Want to avoid a disaster on the wedding day? Ask a bridesmaid or groomsman to serve as a backup wedding officiant! This simple form of 'wedding insurance' can help save the day when your first-choice officiant has an emergency and can't make it to your ceremony. Say yes to a stress-free wedding day and ask a bridesmaid to be your backup! 



Bridesmaids smile at the camera, posing with the happy bride on the wedding day.



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Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

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