Being a bridesmaid in China is so dangerous that brides are buying professionals. Every bride pictures her perfect wedding day with her best girl friends by her side. The average bride from the United States may expect her bridesmaids to provide emotional support, help with decorations and flowers, and pose in picture on the day of the wedding.
In China, the attractiveness and number of bridesmaids is a traditional demonstration of the status of the family. Sadly, the once joyous invitation to participate in a bridal party has transformed into a dangerous responsibility. The general expectations of a bridesmaid in China has escalated to unimaginable heights.
Purchasing professional bridesmaids has become a standard option for wedding packages in China because bridesmaids are regularly victim to verbal, physical, and sexual abuse. After a 28-year old Chinese bridesmaid from Wenchang, Hainan province, died after being pushed to consume too much alcohol, concern was quickly raised.
Bridesmaids are often urged to drink rice wine for the bride. Too often, this obligated drinking leads to overconsumption. Sometimes bridesmaids are encouraged to perform sexual stunts as a symbolic “final hurdle” before the couple’s wedding night. These “stunts” can lead to sexual abuse.
Because the abuse often goes unreported, brides have routinely purchased bridesmaids. Their services can include drinking alcohol for the bride, markup artistry, and keeping impolite guests away. They are also expected to provide emotional support, fake smiling, and contributing a happy atmosphere. Professional bridesmaids are paid between 200 yuan and 800 yuan (around $30-$120) per wedding.
Unfortunately, the professionalization of bridesmaids only offers a band-aid solution to the problem of bridesmaid abuse in China. The professional bridesmaids still have to endure sexual acts often deemed too uncomfortable for the average bridesmaid. Some suggest that the professionalization of bridesmaids actually reinforces the notion that female bodies can be used and sold. Sadly, the professionalization of bridesmaids is increasing quickly in China.