This tradition is thought to have originated from Roman Law, where it was required to have ten witnesses at a wedding in order to deceive evil spirits by dressing in the exact same clothing as the bride. This was so the evil spirits would not know who was getting married. (It is also believed that this is where the tradition of groomsmen came in.)
That custom gave way in Victorian times to dressing bridesmaids in white dresses but shorter veils, in contrast with the bride’s voluminous veil and train. When society’s fears of evil spirits subsided and commercial dyes became more available, those first hideous dresses made their appearance. In colors like lime, mustard, tangerine and fuchsia, those dresses all ensured that the bride would be the best-looking girl in the church.
Today, bridesmaids are there to assist the bride with anything she needs in preparation for her big day. This can range from booking appointments to helping address invitations.
I won’t be having official bridesmaids at my wedding just cause of how the day needs to work out. I have two “unofficial” bridesmaids that I want to be a part of the wedding. It’s also too complicated to try and “choose” among my friends. And besides, I don’t want to make them wear an ugly dress! 😉