I’m 32 years old this year, and a survivor of multiple wedding ceremonies. For the past few years I’ve probably averaged ten weddings a year. I’ve been a Heng Dai for at least five.
If you’ve not been to one, the Heng Dai games are a series of obstacles that the bridesmaids set on the morning of Chinese Weddings. The groom and his entourage need to successfully pass these “tests”, before the bridesmaids open the door and allow access to the bride.
Supposedly the tradition originated from China, and every Chinese couple seems to do it these days. But with the trend towards embarrassing, sexually-suggestive games — I find most of the games harmful at worst, and meaningless at best.
I’m not writing this because I’m jealous that most of my friends are married. Or because I’m still emotionally scarred from passing a frozen banana with my mouth to Brother Fong. I’m writing this because I think a lot of the games go too far. And since we’re bros — I’m not gonna let you go through another one without offering you some words of advice.
If you’ve never been a Heng Dai, hopefully this one will help you navigate your way through the craziness. And if you’ve already experienced it before — maybe these tips will help you through your next one feeling much happier.
You’re not some loser who’s gonna get his ass kicked. You’re a hustler and I’ve got your back. Here’s how to win:
1. Perform Inception
This happens way before the wedding. Your friend, the groom (and for your sake I hope he has balls) needs to talk his bride out of preparing any silly games for the groomsmen.
Actually, the whole wedding door games thingy is usually set up by the lead bridesmaid. And if the bride just leaves her to it, she could come up with some crazy ideas (see Point 2 below).
The best thing is to set boundaries early: nothing sexual, nothing embarrassing, no eating stuff that can make the guys lao sai. If the bride sets the rules, the bridesmaids need to follow. Even better—if you can meet with the couple and bridesmaids before the wedding—here’s your chance to convince them the wedding will be a lot classier if there are no weird games. (No guarantees though—I did this, and still got screwed).
Someone says: “then what’s the point of the games, if it’s not to torture the groomsmen?” Huh, really—is that the purpose of the games? Isn’t it supposed to be fun for both sides?
In ten years’ time, do we really want Little Junior to look at wedding pictures and ask, “Mommy, why is Uncle Robin licking cream off Daddy’s backside?”
2. Divide and Conquer
There will be multiple bridesmaids. The majority of them will be cool, sweet girls who actually just wanna take selfies, but think they “need” to do this as part of their duty. One of them will be prettier than the others, and if you’re lucky you’ll get her number.
But if you’re unlucky, you’ll run into a crazy one. Perhaps she has some pent-up anger towards ex-boyfriends, she hates men, or she’s just jealous. But she’s the one who will come up with thesilliest games of all—like asking you to drink pure vinegar mixed with wasabi. She’ll be the one who wants to strictly enforce the rules for maximum embarrassment too. You can easily identify her that morning: the loudest one.
Understand that the other girls are not like her. Deep inside, they’re thinking “Oh shit, this is so silly, the morning sun is melting my makeup, and I just want to get this over with.” So they’ll usually be much more lenient than Ms. Crazy.
This gives you leeway to cheat.
So spit that poison out, and pour it away when Ms. Crazy isn’t looking. Get illegal help from other Heng Dais and the crowd. And if you make a dramatic and sad enough face, Ms. Cutie might just come over and help wipe your chin.
3. Money Matters
Now let’s talk about ang pow. In our quest for the perfect wedding day, what we really want is to maximize the amount of money the couple have—not take their money and give it to the bridesmaids. The newlyweds already spent a lot on the occasion and need money to start their new life together.
But because of the games, they’ve now prepared a stack of ang pows for the guys to use to on the bridesmaids—to persuade them to open the doors, or as bribes to get past one stage to the next. This sounds crazy as hell to me, but oh well… “tradition.”
Here’s what to do: display just enough ang pows that the bridesmaids don’t think you’re swindling them. Hide the rest of them somewhere safe (not with the wussy friend who easily gives in). Give the excess money back to the couple later. (If you pull this off, give yourselves a pat on the back for being awesome project managers).
When you’re forced to part with the ang pows you’re showing (the bridesmaids will aim to get every single one), make a big, dramatic show of it. Haggle like you’re in the heart of Chinatown. And when you do give in—remember: volume is more important than value.
It’s much better to have fifty $1 ang pows than ten $5 ang pows.
4. Mother Time
Eventually you will fail at some of the games… Because they’re designed for you to fail.
When you do—negotiate as if you’re Jose Mourinho explaining a loss. Blame the referee, say that the ground is uneven, and then ask for another try. Then do it again.
If you have to pay ang pows, ask for a discount. If you don’t get a discount, ask why?
It’s not rude; negotiation is part of the games.
But there comes a time when someone will come over to the lead bridesmaid and whisper into her ear. Or if she’s a senior enough member of the family, she’ll just announce the ultimate saving grace loudly:
“Faster finish playing… we need to get on with the ceremony.”
This never fails to happen. Nobody defeats Father (or Mother) Time.
So use it to your advantage; don’t rush—the bride’s not going anywhere without you guys.
* * * * * * * *
Supposedly, the traditional wedding door games were a way to show the bride how unwilling her family and friends were to let her go. With China being a huge-ass country, they were saying goodbye for a long time. That’s why they made it difficult for the guys.
In modern times, this is obviously irrelevant. If it were up to me, I’d ditch the games completely. But I know some people need ceremony. Most people do. So you’ll likely have to be involved in some crazy—but I hope the above will make it more comfortable for you.
Just remember we’re not here to screw the bridesmaids or ruin anyone’s day. Everything should be done in a good-natured and gentlemanly way. Use your charm. You’re a hustler, not the male equivalent of her crazy friend.
It’s a game; a show. Just like WWE.
Have fun performing.
Normally I write about more serious stuff at http://mr-stingy.com
Photo by enshahdi at https://www.flickr.com/photos/enshahdi/6877797086/sizes/l