“Help!! Our wedding’s not expensive enough!” When’s the last time you heard someone say that? How about never?

The problem with weddings in the Western world is usually too high a price, not too low. Sure, you could reduce expenses by shrinking the guest list. But there’s the boss—oh, and Jim and Frank next door—and oh my God we nearly forgot Great-Aunt Esther…


In Asia, though, matters of status and saving face often trump matters of finance. And if making a good impression means bribing a few well-dressed strangers to attend your wedding, well, what’s a few extra yen, or won, or rupees, anyway?

Let’s say your problem is too few guests at your Japanese wedding. No sweat! The firm Office Agents in Tokyo will rent you some for a mere $200 apiece, all very presentable. Throw in 50 more bucks and they’ll sing a song. Add another hundred and you get a flattering speech too. (Incidentally, they’re available for funerals as well.)

Head counts matter at weddings in Japan, where the ideal celebration features the maximum number of relatives, friends, and coworkers. Likewise, it’s important to balance the number of guests on the groom’s side and the number on the bride’s.

Office Agents’ Hiroshi Mizutani tells of one wedding in which the groom’s entire party, all 30 of them, were shills. It being his second marriage, the groom didn’t care to trouble the same batch of people the second time around.


Koreans like to beef up their guest lists too, but the going rate is much lower than Japan’s. For as little as $16, a smiling guest will chitchat with the bride and compliment her on her dress, and even present the happy couple with a gift envelope.

Keep in mind that your rent-a-guest is likely to duck out just before group photos are taken, so your keepsake pictures don’t end up full of strangers.


Count on Indian agencies, though, to offer the very best rates for phony wedding guests. A 2005 report on the Best Guests Center, in Rajasthan, quoted a price of 600 rupees, only about 12 bucks! And talk about value for your money: Not only can you expect a guest who is well dressed; he’ll also be tall, well-spoken, and, yes, light-skinned. Nasty work, but somebody’s gotta do it!

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DanBing has lived in one Asian country and traveled in various others, engaging in activities that ranged from teaching English to playing Irish music to researching articles to marrying. The best part was usually the food, though the marriage hasn’t been too bad either. But of all his many accomplishments he is perhaps proudest of his close–extremely close–association with the person who wrote The Devil’s Food Dictionary: A Pioneering Culinary Reference Work Consisting Entirely of Lies (www.frogchartpress.com).