Though weddings are as unique as the individuals getting married, the traditions involved are unquestionably routine. Their origins, however, are quite surprising.
The roots of the contemporary wedding party go back to an era when being a groomsman or bridesmaid involved the threat of armed conflict or possession by an evil spirit, rather than bachelor party and shower-planning duties.
According to The Origins of Popular Superstitions and Customs, the role of a best man stems from the good ol’ Germanic Goth days (circa 100 A.D.), when marriageable women were literally swept off their feet, abducted from their families by a groom looking to wed. The suitor, a.k.a. kidnapper, would bring along his strongest, most capable friend as backup and to offer defense until the ceremony was complete.
Bridesmaids’ earliest incarnations involved much less violence, but just as much (theoretical) dangers. As Holly Lefevre explains, in Roman times, when evil spirits ran rampant, it was the duty of the bride’s closest female friends to dress in identical fashion on the day of her marriage, accompanying her to the ceremony, so that any ill-wishing entities from the afterlife would get confused, unsure of which “bride” to curse.