Get­ting hitched the way they want

China Daily European Weekly - - Front Page - By HE QI heqi@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Zhang Boya, 28, and Huang Zhan, 27, plan to get mar­ried in Bali, In­done­sia, in May next year. The cou­ple say they were ini­tially un­sure about the kind of wed­ding they wanted, but de­cided on a cozy celebration in a for­eign coun­try after at­tend­ing other peo­ple’s tra­di­tional nup­tial cel­e­bra­tions in China, which were de­fined by lav­ish ban­quets where the guests hardly knew each other.

“I pre­fer a small and in­ti­mate wed­ding with only my clos­est fam­ily mem­bers and friends,” says bride Zhang, who was born in Taiyuan, Shanxi prov­ince.

While de­tails of the event have yet to be con­firmed, the cou­ple have set aside a con­sid­er­able bud­get of 350,000 yuan ($54,500; 46,400 euros; £40,600) to host 18 fam­ily mem­bers and friends in the pop­u­lar trop­i­cal hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion.

Zhang and Huang are one of many cou­ples in China who are choos­ing to

hold their wed­dings over­seas. In a re­cent sur­vey con­ducted by Ctrip.com, one of China’s lead­ing on­line travel ser­vices, nearly 60 per­cent of young Chi­nese in­di­cated that they plan to get mar­ried abroad.

Ac­cord­ing to Gai Yongbo, founder of QWed­ding, the over­seas wed­ding mar­ket in China has been grow­ing at an an­nual rate of 200 per­cent over the past few years. In ad­di­tion, on­line searches on Baidu for over­seas wed­ding ser­vices had also surged by nearly 250 per­cent in 2017 from the pre­vi­ous year, ac­cord­ing to an in­dus­try re­port re­leased by the Chi­nese search en­gine.

In­dus­try play­ers have also re­ported a sim­i­lar boom in sales. Hua Zhenx­iong, the di­rec­tor of QWed­ding’s Shang­hai branch, says their or­ders tripled in 2017. Sales in Jan­uary also sur­passed last year’s first sea­son fig­ures.

“There are many rea­sons be­hind the soar­ing pop­u­lar­ity of over­seas wed­dings, but the most im­por­tant one is that young cou­ples hope to avoid the te­dious­ness of tra­di­tional wed­dings at home,” Hua says. “Due to tra­di­tions, they have to in­vite peo­ple, such as friends of their par­ents or re­mote rel­a­tives who they don’t even know.”

Jon San­tan­gelo, the co-founder of wed­ding bou­tique Char­iot, shares a sim­i­lar in­sight, “An over­seas wed­ding of­fers them a de­cent ex­cuse to avoid invit­ing ex­tra­ne­ous guests, en­dur­ing te­dious rou­tines and get­ting ex­hausted in count­less toasts.”

Psy­chol­ogy also plays a part in choos­ing an over­seas wed­ding over a tra­di­tional one at home, San­tan­gelo says.

After all, an over­seas wed­ding is still novel and per­ceived to be more ex­pen­sive, he adds. As such, ex­otic wed­ding pho­tos will stand out on WeChat news feeds and win the envy of friends.

Zhang says she felt bored dur­ing her friend’s wed­ding last year. She also no­ticed that the bride and bride­groom did not look like they were en­joy­ing their big day. In­stead of be­ing a joy­ous celebration of the cou­ple’s union, the event looked like “no more than a show that they were obliged to present”.

As Zhang and her fi­ance, who is a Bei­jing na­tive, ex­plored other op­tions, they came across nu­mer­ous ad­verts for over­seas wed­dings, and ar­ti­cles about celebri­ties get­ting mar­ried on an is­land in Thai­land, In­done­sia or Italy. Ac­cord­ing to Ctrip, the wed­ding of Tai­wan pop star Nicky Wu and Chi­nese main­land ac­tress Liu Shishi in March 2016 drove the sales of Bali wed­ding pack­ages up by 60 per­cent the fol­low­ing month.

“Once we de­cided on hav­ing an over­seas wed­ding, ev­ery­thing fell into place,” Zhang says.

“It saves us from the com­plex­ity and te­dious­ness of a tra­di­tional wed­ding, which can be in­tim­i­dat­ing when the two fam­i­lies are not from the same place. And be­cause this over­seas wed­ding is not as grand a cer­e­mony as a tra­di­tional one held at home, all we have to con­sider is our bud­get and the theme.”

Gai from QWed­ding says the in­creas­ing de­mand for over­seas wed­dings is a re­sult of the up­grade in China’s do­mes­tic con­sump­tion.

He also notes that the most pop­u­lar tra­di­tional wed­ding cer­e­monies in China in re­cent years have fea­tured a fusion of tra­di­tional Chi­nese and Western el­e­ments. Be­sides the tra­di­tional rit­u­als and lav­ish ban­quet din­ners, a wed­ding in China is now con­sid­ered in­com­plete with­out chore­ographed photo ses­sions and hon­ey­moon trips.

Gai started to of­fer cou­ples cus­tom­ized pho­tog­ra­phy ser­vices in Bali in 2009. Faced with an in­creas­ing de­mand for ex­tended wed­ding ser­vices, he set up QWed­ding in 2013. Busi­ness for the Shen­zhen-based com­pany has since taken off.

As one of the coun­try’s lead­ing over­seas wed­ding plan­ners, the com­pany now has 15 branches across the coun­try’s ma­jor cities, in­clud­ing Bei­jing, Shang­hai and Guangzhou, Guang­dong prov­ince.

Gai says that sim­plic­ity and con­ve­nience are the main fac­tors be­hind the de­ci­sion to have an over­seas wed­ding.

“An over­seas wed­ding trip is usu­ally com­plete with a pre-wed­ding photo ses­sion and a hon­ey­moon,” he says. “The whole ex­pe­ri­ence is more re­lax­ing than that of a tra­di­tional wed­ding at home, that has many rou­tines crammed into one day.”

Hua adds that get­ting mar­ried in an­other coun­try is also not as ex­pen­sive as most peo­ple think. For ex­am­ple, the av­er­age price of or­ders at QWed­ding is around 70,000 yuan, which is com­pa­ra­ble if not lower than most tra­di­tional wed­ding ban­quets.

Hao Jiejing, 26, and her hus­band Jiang Kun, 27, can at­test to the high price of a tra­di­tional celebration. The new­ly­weds re­cently spent a whop­ping 300,000 yuan on a 12-ta­ble ban­quet at Jing An Shangri-La West Shang­hai.

The cou­ple say that they were ini­tially look­ing for­ward to hav­ing an over­seas wed­ding but had to drop the idea after fac­ing op­po­si­tion from par­ents, some­thing which is not un­com­mon. The same sur­vey done by Ctrip showed that only 8 per­cent of cou­ples who want over­seas wed­dings ac­tu­ally have one. Parental op­po­si­tion was cited as the main fac­tor.

One so­lu­tion to this prob­lem, al­beit a more ex­pen­sive one, is hav­ing two wed­dings. This is what Zhang and her fi­ance plan to do.

“We will have a small wed­ding in Bali and then throw a ban­quet for fam­ily mem­bers and friends who couldn’t come to our wed­ding when we go back to China,” says Zhang.

“This way, we can have our fun while sat­is­fy­ing our par­ents and keep­ing with tra­di­tion.”

Above: Zhang Boya and Huang Zhan plan to hold their wed­ding cer­e­mony in Bali, In­done­sia, next year.

PHO­TOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Top: More young Chi­nese cou­ples are choos­ing to hold their wed­dings over­seas.

PHO­TOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

A cou­ple from Ningbo, Zhe­jiang prov­ince, held their wed­ding in Fiji re­cently.

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