July 25, 2022
Traditionally, being asked by a friend or a relative to be a bridesmaid has been considered an honor—but, in China, the job of being at a bride’s side is becoming a booming growth industry, reports Fortune.
Indeed, the magazine says, professional bridesmaids are increasingly becoming the norm for Chinese women as they plan their wedding days.
One bridesmaid and groomsman rental company based in the Chinese city of Hangzhou that its number of registered members has grown to 50,000 since its February launch, and that it has received 10 to 20 orders per day over the past month.
On TikTok—known as Douyin in China—a hashtag that translates to “rent bridesmaids” presents users with multiple videos on the topic, and a video from a Guangdong-based bridesmaid rental studio offers professional bridesmaids who can “save worry and effort,” but “will not steal the limelight.”
Brides reportedly are able to make demands about prospective bridesmaids’ looks, weight, and personality, and even their academic accomplishments.
Xie Yuke—a 22-year-old woman who has traveled more than 140,000 kilometers (around 87,000 miles) to earn a living as a professional bridesmaid all over China—told Chinese state-run news outlet Sixth Tone on Monday, July 18, that the pandemic had helped the rent-a-bridesmaid industry.
A typical day on the job would see Xie wake up at 4:30 a.m. to get ready for the wedding, and she would be expected to spend the day taking photos, entertaining guests, and making toasts until the wedding banquet ends at around 8 p.m. When she works at a wedding, Xie said, she usually pretends to be a friend or classmate of the bride.
While Xie attributed the boom in demand for professional bridesmaids to the pandemic, there is also a darker side to why some women opt to rent strangers to join their wedding party.
According to Yang Hu, a senior researcher at the University of Essex’s Department of Sociology, some women take the hiring route because of “the dangers of being a bridesmaid in China.”
“[Bridesmaids] are expected to fend off drinking requests and in a lot of cases drink Chinese rice wine on behalf of the bride,” he explained in a 2016 blog post.
“It is a widespread tradition that the newlyweds should toast bottoms up to every wedding guest on an individual basis—meaning that the bridesmaid often ends up drinking on behalf of the bride and overconsuming alcohol. In fulfilling their obligation, some of them suffer from alcohol poisoning or even risk death.”
He added that bridesmaids also act as the final “hurdle” before the groom can enter the bridal suite after the wedding, which often leads to the groom and groomsmen carrying out “stunts laced with sexual innuendo.”
He noted that most reports of alcohol poisoning, sexual harassment, and abuse of bridesmaids are concentrated in China’s rural areas and provinces.
Research contact: @FortuneMagazine