Chinese weddings are long and complicated affairs, involving lots of activities that, traditionally, span the course of several days. Thus, most Chinese couples opt to involve some attendants in their wedding, to help with the day’s affairs and be available to take up the slack when the bride and groom get tired.
The practice of having bridesmaids and groomsmen is not new in China – in fact, the wedding attendants have played a role in Chinese weddings since ancient times. Traditionally, the attendants were chosen from among the couple’s siblings or very close friends, as they were considered to be “brothers” and “sisters” for the day. Additionally, bridesmaids were expected to be young, unmarried maidens, while the groomsmen could be chosen from among any of the groom’s siblings or friends, married or otherwise.
Bridesmaids and groomsmen serve a variety of functions at a Chinese wedding. One fun task allotted to the attendants occurs on the morning of the wedding. When the groom arrives to the bride’s home to accompany her to the ceremony, the bridesmaids will ask him to perform some tasks to prove his worth as husband, oftentimes humorous or naughty activities like eating a handful of chili peppers or carrying something heavy. If the tasks are too much, the groomsmen should step in to help.
The bridesmaids are expected to surround the bride throughout the day, starting from the early hours of the morning, when the girls should get up and help the bride style her hair, get into her dress and put on her makeup. The groomsmen, meanwhile, stay by the groom’s side all day, making helping him prepare and also taking up the slack when the groom gets tired. This is especially important for both bride and groom when the two become drunk at the wedding banquet, as the attendants will step in and drink in place of the couple.