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Are there such roles? If so, what purpose do they serve? If creating bridesmaids or groomsmen is a distinctly American (or Christian) cultural practice, then what are some reasons for or against including it an American Jewish wedding today?

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From what I've seen, while there are positions of honor (people holding the chupah poles, people to chant the sheva b'rachot, etc), the idea of "attendants" is American and/or Christian. But I don't have sources, nor have I been to a vast number of weddings. –  Monica Cellio Sep 9 '13 at 19:49
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Meliorate, welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks for bringing this interesting question here! I hope you'll look around and find other material here that you'll find interesting, perhaps including our 73 other wedding questions. –  Isaac Moses Sep 9 '13 at 19:57

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The Talmud talks about having shushbinin -- close friends -- escort the bride and groom, to the point that someone who was shushbin at your wedding can't testify in court about you, as the personal connection is too tight.

What is still found today is having one good friend (each) serve as "honor escort", (shomer) for the bride/groom: for a day or two before the wedding, the bride-and-groom-to-be are treated as VIPs such that they shouldn't go out unattended. Hence a good friend accompanies them until the wedding.

Today I'm not aware of "bridesmaids and groomsmen" being part of what we'd expect at a traditional Jewish wedding, but given the above Talmudic discussion, I can't get all that upset about it. (Though keep in mind, we're talking a very tight handful of people whose job it is to help out, not a massive chorus line to serve as window dressing. Similarly, a lot of people will likely be busy, or don't want/need the spotlight. A Jewish wedding is about things that are bigger than just ourselves. "Hey everybody look at me!" isn't the right theme.)

As for the bridesmaids all wearing matching dresses -- I'm told this has non-Jewish origins about so the demons can't tell who's who or something -- my guess is no one today thinks superstition, only aesthetics on that one.

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On your last paragraph, if the point of the identical dress is to confuse demons, then it seems like the practice makes it easier on the demons by pointing out unambiguously which one is the bride (who is dressed differently in that scheme)! –  Monica Cellio Sep 9 '13 at 20:21
    
Shalom: thank you for the insightful response. I also understand that the shomrim provide logistical and emotional support for the bride and groom and, for Orthodox couples, ensure that they don't accidentally see each other during the week leading up to the wedding. I have also seen shomrim guard the door during yichud. –  Meliorate Sep 10 '13 at 3:43
    
@Meliorate technically it's two (male, unrelated) witnesses observing that seclusion is occurring. (Also considered an honor to give friends.) But once they're waiting around anyhow, they might as well guard the door, especially if it doesn't lock. (If someone came in, they wouldn't be witnessing seclusion, would they?) A shomer / shomeret's job is escorting the bride/groom before the wedding. –  Shalom Sep 10 '13 at 17:36
    
In regards to the previous comments about "confusing demons"; it used to be that the maid of honor would wear the same dress as the bride, hence confusing any demons or evil spirits. Unlike today where the bride looks different from the bridesmaids. –  user4602 Dec 8 '13 at 1:43
    
It probably depends on what you define as "traditional". I've been to more weddings than I could estimate, and a very large number of them (at which orthodox rabbis have officiated, at which the witnesses are kosher and at which all is done in accordance with halakha) have had groomsmen and bridesmaids. What they've not necessarily had is a best man. –  Shimon bM Dec 8 '13 at 11:56

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