Young single Chinese women find a new career as professional bridesmaids

Forget “three times a bridesmaid, never a bride”, more single young women in China are posing as professional bridesmaids and Xie Yuke, 22, is one of them. After “accidentally” dipping her toe into new territory in 2020, the recent finance graduate has been bridesmaid to more than 40 brides she’s never met before until marriage.

Her first experience as a bridesmaid earned her an income of nearly 2,600 RMB ($359.81), including a service charge of 1,600 RMB ($221.42) and the rest were red envelopes (a monetary gift wrapped in a red packet symbolizing good wishes, which is also a Chinese tradition) from the couple’s families and friends, which was more than enough to cover their travel expenses to their hometown in Hangzhou, Sichuan.

Orders for “bridesmaid rentals” jumped 20-fold during the May Day holiday, according to Xianyu, Alibaba’s resale platform.

She is now the CEO of a professional bridesmaid and bridesmaid sourcing platform and is one of many such companies in China. Unsurprisingly, the first part-time job saw peaks in demand during public holidays, with orders for “bridesmaid hire” increased 20 times during the May 1 holiday (or Labor Day in China) in 2021, according to Xianyu, Alibaba’s resale platform. The service was also in high demand during the last seven-day national holiday this year, with hundreds of requests received by Xie.

Although having bridesmaids is not a custom exclusive to Chinese society, bridesmaids are generally indispensable in modern weddings in China and are tasked with responsibilities ranging from helping to dress the bride and decorating the wedding venue to photography, welcoming guests and keeping things moving while preparing for and participating in wedding games. Specific tasks can vary between a traditional Chinese wedding and a Western-style celebration.

Traditionally, bridesmaids are chosen from a couple’s single best friends. But it gets trickier and the general tendency to delay marriage among Chinese millennials is to blame. The country recorded 7.64 million newlyweds last year, down 6.1% a year, the lowest record in 36 years. Newly married couples between the ages of 30 and 40 were the main contributors, indicating a further increase in women’s age at marriage which was 26.3 in 2016.

China registered 7.64 million newlyweds last year, down 6.1 percent a year, the lowest record in 36 years.

The status quo therefore poses challenges for overdue married couples who normally expect to find a perfect mate who is not only accommodating and can satisfy their needs for physical intimacy. Moreover, in a rather superstitious way, some believe that having a compatible Chinese zodiac sign brings good luck to the couple. In light of these requirements, hiring bridesmaids is quickly becoming a profession.

So far, the new practice seems to be more appealing to women than to men. A bridesmaid hire app developer by the name of Hu observed that 90% of his more than 110,000 users have been women since the app’s inception in 2019. The 29-year-old bachelor believes he there isn’t much difference in the market demand for bridesmaid and bridesmaid, but acceptance of this practice as a profession is relatively lower among men which results in a gap. However, market demand data indicates otherwise, as the average service delivery rate of top candidates was only 25 percent of that of bridesmaid candidates in 2021, according to Xianyu.

Nevertheless, a new industry is on the horizon to formalize the practice in a more professional capacity, from recruitment to training and execution. Typical requirements for a bridesmaid include being a single woman between the ages of 20 and 27 who is “decent looking”, meaning “beautiful but can’t be too pretty, otherwise they would steal the thunder of the bride,” but they also can’t be too simple, or “the host would feel like they’re losing face,” according to several experienced bridesmaids.

A new industry is on the horizon to formalize the practice in a more professional capacity, from recruitment to training and execution.

In addition to this, a friendly and outgoing personality is generally welcome as it would inject more energy into the ceremony and potentially, although less likely to be anticipated, to resolve any embarrassing drama on the wedding day. In addition, knowledge of the local dialect would work in favor of the candidate, and when dealing with more demanding clients, holding at least a bachelor’s degree would also be advantageous.

Once the order is confirmed, a bridesmaid will be briefed on the schedule, do’s and don’ts, and tips on how to handle any incidents. Some even hold a rehearsal the night before while allowing the bridesmaids to familiarize themselves with the family. For those who apply with Xie’s platform, they will spend the night before the wedding with the bride in case she gets too anxious before the big day.

With its bridesmaid rental service platform now having more than 80,000 users since its inception in February, Xie has seen a total of 300 couples get married with a profit rate hovering between 30% and 40%. As she’s determined to make professional bridesmaids a more widely recognized profession, when asked about her own wedding plans, the Gen Z CEO simply smiled, saying, “I didn’t think of that.”

Leave a Reply