Hiring bridesmaids is China's latest wedding trend
Brides are turning to professional assistants to save friends from sexual harassment, say critics
Professional bridesmaids are being hired to perform wedding duties in China because amateurs are finding the tasks demanded of them too demeaning or vulgar.
Reports suggest that the role has changed significantly in recent years.
"A bridesmaids' job went from accompanying the bride to gradually being asked to light cigarettes and feed fruits to guests to having physical contact with guests and even being asked to take off their clothes in front of everyone in some rare cases," reports the Chinese news website, China.org.cn.
These increasingly demeaning and humiliating tasks "have scared away the real bridesmaids who usually used to be friends and relatives of the bride", it adds.
The practice has come under scrutiny following a viral video showing the treatment of a bridesmaid at the Bali wedding of Chinese actor Bao Beier.
Bridesmaid Liu Yan is seen being seized by several celebrity groomsmen who then tried to throw her into a pool, ignoring her protests.
Critics say this is sexual harassment and highlights the plight of bridesmaids at Chinese wedding ceremonies.
"Liu was definitely sexually violated, whether she said it is true or not," Luo Ruixue, from the women's right group Women Awakening Network, told the Global Times.
"If we dig deeper, in China, the teasing culture in weddings shows men collectively harassing women," she added.
One professional assistant, Vision Peng, told the Financial Times that by hiring bridesmaids, a bride was effectively doing her friends a favour.
"Professional bridesmaids like me are tougher than amateurs," Peng said. "Some best men will tease bridesmaids or be fresh with them. Professionals like me can solve the embarrassment easily and quickly. That's one reason I think why people hire me, to protect their friends."