In Israel at the time of Jesus, the formalities of a marriage took place in three stages. First, there was the engagement when a formal arrangement was made between the respective fathers of the bride and the bridegroom. That was followed by the betrothal; a ceremony held in the home of the bride’s parents during which promises were exchanged which committed the brand and groom to one another.
About a year later, the marriage ceremony took place. The bridegroom would go to the bride’s house, accompanied by his friends, who would walk in procession with the bride and groom back to the bridegrooms home.
In the story, Jesus has the marriage ceremony in mind. He is the bridegroom and the bridesmaids represent Christians waiting for his return. The marriage feast symbolizes his second coming. And the message is: Jesus’ disciples must make sure that they are ready for his return. The wise bridesmaids live in a state of readiness. But the foolish ones do not live in expectation of His return. They do not remain ready. The wise bridesmaids, who are prepared, stress the simple truth that readiness is a commitment that each of us makes in response to the groom’s love.