During feudal times in China, weddings were a magnet for all the wrong things. Brides were often at risk of being abducted by rival clans. Thus, she had bridesmaids who were dressed like her to serve as decoys.
Of course, the situation has changed and it's no longer "usual" for brides to fear being kidnapped on their wedding day. However, in some cases in China, bridesmaids are still expected to protect the bride at all costs from modern-day hazards that are no less as oppressive as the ones from centuries ago.
"It is a widespread tradition that the newlyweds should toast bottoms up to every wedding guest on an individual basis—leading to bridesmaids over-consuming alcohol when drinking on behalf of the bride," reports Quartz.
Just this September, a 28-year-old bridesmaid in Wenchang, Hainan province died after she was "pressured into drinking an excessive amount of alcohol on behalf of the bride."
Moreover, as the report indicated, "since bridesmaids also act as the last symbolic 'hurdle' before the groom can enter the bridal room, the groom and groomsmen can pull off stunts laced with sexual innuendo." Some bridesmaids are forced to engage in humiliating acts such as licking a banana in public.
The report added, "In extreme cases, some are stripped of their clothes and molested."
While most cases of bridesmaid abuse are reported in rural areas and provinces such as Shandong and Hainan, it also happens in presumably more progressive locales like Sichuan and Shanghai.
Many bridesmaids, though, hesitate reporting the abuse because they fear being blamed for what is done to them.
With so many women begging off from bridesmaid duties, more than 50 wedding-planning firms in China now offer professional bridesmaids as part of their wedding packages.
The report explained that "a professional bridesmaid would be required to act as the makeup artist, to drink alcohol, and to fend off rude guests on behalf of the bride, among many other tasks."
Depending on the level of "difficulty" of the task she's given, a professional bridesmaid is paid between 200 yuan (around P1,429) and 800 yuan (around P5,717) per wedding.
In this case, only those who are in great need of cash would be willing to sign up for a job that other women fear to do.