On September 22, an even day on the Chinese lunar month calendar, a convoy of ten Mercedes-Benz led by Lincoln limousine preceded up the Chang’an Avenue in Beijing and stopped before a grand hotel. Flowers, balloons and small figurines decorated the motorcade. The newly wed couple stepped out of the limousine and were quickly surrounded by photographers, video cameras and a cheering crowd. This is the scene of a genuine modern day wedding in China.
According to the Purple House Wedding Company, one of the most famous nuptial companies in the city, there were also many other wedding ceremonies that day, considered an auspicious date in China. To seize one of the limited numbers of banquet halls, photographers, bands and wedding DJs for the day, many couples had to book these services several months in advance. Large hotels and restaurants were also running out of available weekends.
These days, as lifestyles improve, Chinese weddings are becoming increasingly extravagant affairs. Instead of being content with taking wedding photos and having a family banquet, as was the case in the past, young couples are willing to spend considerably more on memorable and distinguished wedding ceremonies. A recent survey shows that young people of marriage age are ready to spend up to 91.2 percent of their savings on a wedding. As such, the wedding industry in China has created a huge market with massive potential.
Official figures suggest that 10 million people wed annually and that the industry as whole turns over more than 250 billion yuan (US$30.2 billion) each year. Big cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou have established well developed wedding celebration markets. Beijing, for example, leads the country with 1,000 wedding related firms. About 50,000 couples get married each year in the capital, a “diamond mine” for the wedding businesses.
Yang from the Shengshi-Xinyuan Wedding Company in Beijing said, “Wedding DJs are one of the most important factors for people when they choose a wedding company,” during a telephone interview with China.org.cn. Wedding DJs are divided into five categories with prices ranging from 600 yuan (US$72) to 1,500 yuan (US$181). So the prices for various wedding packages start from several thousand yuan and can go up to hundreds of thousands of yuan (currently, 1 USD = 8.26690 CNY). To share in a slice of the wedding cake, many TV station personalities, actors and actresses are also cashing in on the industry.
To cater to the differing tastes of couples, wedding companies now provide an assortment of wedding packages ranging from underwater weddings, tree-planting weddings, meadow weddings, and church weddings, to villa weddings, overseas travel weddings, group weddings and bridal sedan weddings.
Overseas honeymoons are also becoming more popular among young Chinese, who think this kind of wedding is more romantic and in some cases more economical. A travel agency and wedding company in Beijing have joined hands to introduce the Thailand Travel Wedding program, where a couple spends 8,288 yuan (US$1,002) for a romantic tour of Thailand, 50 percent higher than a regular trip to the country. This cooperation between the travel-agency and wedding company enhances the competitiveness of both parties.
The first wedding company in China was established in 1990. Now the wedding celebration market is huge and still rapidly expanding. Its prosperity has also propelled the development of hotels, wedding photo studios, car hiring companies, flower shops, travel agencies, and even media organizations. Shops, stores and photo studios benefiting from the boom in lavish weddings will continue to grow. The flower industry flourishes from the brisk wedding trade. One wedding celebration involved 10,000 yuan (US$1,209) worth of flowers just to decorate the hired cars.
Yet as the wedding market lacks any supervision and control, there exists a large opportunity for exploitation, inferior quality services and outright fraud in the market. Some economists have advised that it is essential to establish relevant regulations to oversee the industry.
(china.org.cn by Guo Xiaohong, October 23, 2002)