The practice of having bridesmaids and groomsmen in Chinese weddings is a custom that has existed since ancient times. It is believed that bridesmaids should be young unmarried sisters or friends and groomsmen can be brothers or friends, married or single. Nowadays, married women can participate as well.
Centuries ago, brides were susceptible to kidnapping at weddings by rival families who wanted ownership over her womb. Bridesmaids dressed up like the bride to lower the risk that she might be identified and taken. As kidnappings became less common, the beauty and numbers of bridesmaids became a sign of power and “face.”
In addition to the traditional duties of a wedding attendant, the bridesmaids and groomsmen have a few additional tasks during a Chinese wedding:
- Organize and participate in wedding games
- Pour tea and wash cups for the tea ceremony
- Stand in receiving line at the end of the reception
- Help the bride change her dress
- Drink during wedding toasts in place of the bride and groom
- Hold onto the red envelopes
If you have bridesmaids or groomsmen who aren’t familiar with Chinese wedding traditions, take some time to explain why the customs are important to you and what their role will be. It will make the wedding more fun and meaningful if your attendants are on board.
It is also helpful to designate someone to serve as a cultural liaison. This is especially important if some family members don’t speak English. The cultural liaison can help explain your decisions about the wedding, help shepherd family members during photos, queue up participants in the tea ceremony, and serve as a go-to in case family members have questions.