always a bridesmaid, never a bride

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Alternative forms[edit]


Title of a 1917 English Music Hall song by Charles Collins. Later used in a United States advertisement for Listerine mouthwash (implying that the use of mouthwash could improve a woman's chances of marriage).[1]


always a bridesmaid, never a bride

  1. Said of a person who has potential that is never fulfilled.
    • 1959 June 15, "After Belmont Mishap: Sore but Chipper is Eddie Arcaro," The Spokesman-Review, p. 10 (retrieved 10 April 2013):
      Sword Dancer seemed destined to be always a bridesmaid, never a bride, after losing the Kentucky derby by a nose to Tomy Lee and finishing second, beaten four lengths, to Royal Orbit in the Preakness.
    • 1997, Jaqueline Girdner, A Cry for Self Help[1], page 137:
      " [] But he was always a bridesmaid, never a bride. He 'assisted.' He wrote pamphlets. He even ghosted biographies for some of the biggies. But he never really got his career off the rocks until Sally died. So he wrote romances for the money."
    • 2010, Michael Young, The Ghosts of Martyrs Square: An Eyewitness Account of Lebanon's Life Struggle[2], page 101:
      [] upon Musawi's assassination he was promoted over the head of Sheikh Naim Qassem, to this day Hezbollah's deputy secretary-general—always a bridesmaid, never a bride.

Usage notes[edit]

Also commonly used more literally, of a woman who assumedly has acted as bridesmaid at weddings but has not yet married. An assumption of personal desire to marry is implied – as is, in general terms, the desirability of marriage. Use of the phrase may constitute or be construed as social pressure to marry.

See also[edit]