Getting hitched the way they want
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.
Top: More young Chinese couples are choosing to hold their weddings overseas.
A couple from Ningbo, Zhejiang province, held their wedding in Fiji recently.