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Malaysian Moonlights as an Expert Best Man

Reuters

Ting Ming Siong--barber, amateur magician and part-time noodle vendor--may be the world’s busiest best man.

Ting, 34, has stood up with 459 grooms in the last 14 years, surpassing the previous record set by a Taiwanese man who witnessed more than 300 weddings.

Clutching two albums of wedding photographs, Ting said his achievement, verified by a state Cabinet minister, is to be noted in the 1990 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records.

Experienced Best Man

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Chinese people in Sarawak state, on the island of Borneo, are very particular about wedding traditions and often seek the services of an experienced best man.

“Cantonese brides and grooms must bow twice before parents who are alive, and three times in front of photographs of deceased parents,” Ting said.

“Add one bow each if you are Foochow,” said Ting, who tied the knot himself in 1978. A friend was his best man and Ting, in turn, acted as his best man a few years later.

Photographs of his wedding, and of himself in his magician’s outfit with wand and top hat, adorn the home of this energetic barber and father of three who seems to have an endless capacity for posing.

2 Feasts at Same Time

Ting said that in this predominantly Chinese town of 100,000 people, unlike in other overseas Chinese communities, two wedding feasts are held simultaneously--one for the bride and one for the groom.

The groom first collects the bride from her home, and after a trip to the local photo studio, whisks her off to the luncheon for the groom, he said.

After toasts and about three of the 10 courses, the bride and groom rush off to the feast for the bride, where they gulp down one or two courses and drink more toasts before returning to catch the end of the groom’s feast.

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The keeping of such traditions requires planning with military precision and the services of a knowledgeable best man who is thoroughly familiar with the procedures and timing.

“It gets a little more complicated if there is a church wedding involved as well,” Ting said. “I study the program and even memorize license plates of cars used by the bride and groom, to make sure everything goes smoothly.”

Started in 1975

Ting acted as best man for the first time in 1975 and became much sought after as he gained experience. He also cuts hair by day and serves up magic shows and noodles at night.

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He was once asked to work at eight different weddings on the same day. “I had to turn down seven of them,” he said.

“It is on a first-come-first-serve basis,” said Ting, who receives a “red packet” containing $40 to $120, for a ceremony, which usually lasts five hours.

“I often have people offering more money to cancel an earlier arrangement and be their best man. But I tell them I am not out for tender,” he said.

Record Is 16 in Month

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“My record is 16 weddings in a month, including two in one day and officiating five days in a row. The peak periods are from December to February, around Chinese New Year,” he said.

Ting attended 71 weddings in 1988--his best year so far--which coincided with the Year of the Dragon, a popular year for weddings and births for Chinese.

“I want my record to stand and hope to touch 1,000 weddings before I stop, in about 10 years, when I may be a bit too old,” he said.


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