Chi­nese cou­ples are go­ing places

Des­ti­na­tion wed­dings are in vogue, led by celebri­ties post­ing their ex­otic cer­e­monies on so­cial me­dia.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Living - By DAVID HO

EX­CHANG­ING vows at a cliff-side chapel in Bali, In­done­sia, or in a sun­set cer­e­mony by the beach in Bo­ra­cay in the Philip­pines, is still a dream for many peo­ple. But more and more Chi­nese cou­ples are mak­ing those dreams a pricey re­al­ity.

Glob­ally, the an­nual op­er­at­ing in­come of the wed­ding in­dus­try amounts to US$300bil (RM1.3tril) , and a sub­stan­tial por­tion comes from des­ti­na­tion wed­dings, held in dis­tant and ex­otic lo­ca­tions.

The US$80bil (RM342­bil) spent on or­gan­is­ing des­ti­na­tion events is ex­pected to grow by 10% each year.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port from mar­ket re­search firm Daxue Con­sult­ing, one of the big­gest wed­ding-plan­ning com­pa­nies in China or­gan­ised more than 200 wed­dings in 2014 and 10% of these events were held abroad.

Jon San­tan­gelo, a co-founder of des­ti­na­tion wed­ding-plan­ning com­pany Char­iot, be­lieves there are sev­eral rea­sons for the in­crease in des­ti­na­tion wed­dings among the Chi­nese.

Des­ti­na­tion wed­dings are not only an ex­pres­sion of wealth but also a means of es­cape from tra­di­tional lo­cal wed­dings which ac­tu­ally can cost more than one over­seas.

In­deed, des­ti­na­tion wed­dings are not nec­es­sar­ily more ex­pen­sive than those in China, said Eda Er­beyli, a project man­ager at Daxue Con­sult­ing.

A ta­ble for 10 over­seas might cost be­tween RMB6,900 (RM4,400) and RMB8,000 (RM5,100), which is more than in China. But the num­ber of guests is lim­ited for a des­ti­na­tion wed­ding, he said. There­fore, the over­all cost will end up be­ing nearly the same as for a cer­e­mony in China.

Ac­cord­ing to a 2016 trend re­port by Des­ti­na­tion Wed­dings Travel Group, cou­ples from the United States spend an av­er­age of US$32,000 (RM137,000) on their wed­dings. This is still lower than the RMB400,000 (RM254,000) av­er­age es­ti­mate for new­ly­weds in the af­flu­ent city of Guangzhou in south­ern China.

On the other hand, the av­er­age spend­ing for des­ti­na­tion wed­dings has re­mained un­der US$10,000 (RM43,000) for over 10 years. Even the na­tion­wide per wed­ding av­er­age in China is higher than that, at more than US$11,000 (RM47,000).

The re­port also stated that the av­er­age cost of ac­com­mo­da­tion for des­ti­na­tion wed­dings is around US$2,000 (RM8,500), with flight costs av­er­ag­ing just over US$1,127 (RM4,800). De­pend­ing on lo­ca­tion, wed­ding pack­ages start from about US$1,600 (RM6,850).

But, clearly, pos­si­ble cost sav­ings are not the only at­trac­tion. San­tan­gelo at Char­iot cited so­cial me­dia at­ten­tion as another in­cen­tive the grat­i­fy­ing awws and wows re­ceived when shar­ing photos and videos of the wed­ding trip.

Fi­nan­cial abil­ity is of course a fac­tor. But now, pub­lic aware­ness and trendi­ness, along with ex­plor­ing the free­dom to have an ex­pe­ri­ence in a par­adise like Bo­ra­cay or Bali, all af­fect the pop­u­lar­ity of des­ti­na­tion wed­dings. They are be­com­ing eas­ier to ar­range and more ac­ces­si­ble than ever be­fore.

Er­beyli at Daxue Con­sult­ing also be­lieves so­cial me­dia plays a part in shap­ing the trend.

Many Chi­nese celebri­ties chose to have their wed­dings by the sea. The pic­tures of their wed­dings are widely shared on WeChat and Weibo and we be­lieve that this will im­pact the choices of the post90s (gen­er­a­tion) who are go­ing to get mar­ried soon, she said.

But or­gan­is­ing a big event over­seas can be chal­leng­ing. Rachel Xie, also a co-founder at Char­iot, ex­plained the need for des­ti­na­tion wed­ding plan­ners.

Wed­ding plan­ning es­sen­tially en­tails lay­ing out the bud­get first, then or­gan­is­ing the wed­ding based on the bud­get and tastes of the client. Then you de­sign the wed­ding style and pro­gramme, Xie said.

Lo­cally, in one’s home coun­try, a cou­ple can ar­range many things by them­selves. The ma­jor dif­fer­ences in a des­ti­na­tion wed­ding come with manag­ing the ac­com­mo­da­tion and sup­pli­ers over­seas.

Xie said, “The plan­ner needs to be an ex­pert on the lo­ca­tion and have spent some time there per­son­ally to truly be able to give ac­cu­rate ad­vice and sup­port once the wed­ding trip en­sues. The plan­ner should an­tic­i­pate last-minute needs and have ad­e­quate re­sources on hand, while know­ing what’s within the des­ti­na­tions’ ca­pac­ity and the over­seas sup­pli­ers’ ca­pa­bil­i­ties.”

Ac­cord­ing to San­tan­gelo, the dif­fer­ence in lan­guage does not nec­es­sar­ily pose the big­gest chal­lenge while or­gan­is­ing a des­ti­na­tion wed­ding.

Cul­tural dif­fer­ences and ge­o­graph­i­cal fa­mil­iar­ity pose a big­ger hur­dle, he said, as well as the work­ing re­la­tion­ships you have with your sup­pli­ers.

In this re­gard, he added, “Com­mu­ni­cat­ing ef­fec­tively be­tween the client and your sup­pli­ers over­seas is cru­cial.”

Des­ti­na­tion wed­ding com­pa­nies should pos­sess a thor­ough un­der­stand­ing of the des­ti­na­tions’ pro­fes­sional and cul­tural dif­fer­ences, and not just be trans­lat­ing be­tween the par­ties.

Trans­porta­tion and lo­gis­tics, and ho­tel book­ings and shut­tles are also key in his view.

A des­ti­na­tion’s lo­ca­tion and fa­cil­i­ties could also be de­cid­ing fac­tors for cou­ples look­ing to tie the knot abroad.

Based on Xie’s ex­pe­ri­ence with clients, she found Bali, Phuket, Bo­ra­cay, the Mal­dives, and the Sim­i­lan Is­lands in Thai­land to be pop­u­lar choices for high-end wed­dings.

Er­beyli noted that some cou­ples pre­fer a nearer wed­ding des­ti­na­tion, such as a South-east Asian coun­try, if el­derly par­ents are to at­tend.

But those con­sid­er­a­tions notwith­stand­ing, re­search showed that the Mal­dives, Mau­ri­tius and the Greek is­land of San­torini are some of the most pop­u­lar wed­ding des­ti­na­tions, along with Bali.

France is one of the favourite spots for Chi­nese cou­ples, es­pe­cially Paris and the Provence re­gion. Thai­land, the United States, Aus­tralia, New Zealand and Japan are also be­com­ing pop­u­lar, Er­beyli added.

Many Chi­nese cou­ples ar­range pre-wed­ding pho­to­graphs, some­times taken in over­seas lo­ca­tions.

Philip Tsang, an award-win­ning wed­ding pho­tog­ra­pher, or­gan­ises such shoots at ex­otic lo­cales for his clients.

“Europe seems to be a pop­u­lar choice as a set­ting for Chi­nese cou­ples to take their wed­ding por­traits. I’ve taken clients to places like Prague, London, Paris and Florence, he said.

“A favourite of mine is Bordeaux in south-western France. It’s not a very crowded place and has lovely vine­yards and chateaus for wed­dings and back­drops. I’ve been there more than 20 times now.

Whether they are stay­ing within the Asian re­gion or head­ing to a far-flung con­ti­nent, the mar­ket recog­nises that Chi­nese lovers are go­ing places.

As well as hav­ing more and more op­tions for wed­dings, Chi­nese con­sumers are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly savvy, San­tan­gelo said.

Copy­cat com­pa­nies will un­doubt­edly re­main and fol­low the in­dus­try lead­ers, and the wed­ding in­dus­try as a whole will grow and pro­fes­sion­alise, he said.

What is al­ready a multi­bil­lion­dol­lar in­dus­try will con­tinue to ex­pand.

And as China’s pop­u­la­tion and econ­omy ma­tures, more will marry, and the trend of trav­el­ling abroad will in­ter­twine with des­ti­na­tion wed­dings. – China Daily/ Asia News Network

More Chi­nese cou­ples are choos­ing to get mar­ried in stun­ning lo­ca­tions, and pos­ing for beau­ti­ful wed­ding photos in ro­man­tic set­tings. —

Paris is a pop­u­lar wed­ding des­ti­na­tion, liv­ing up to its rep­u­ta­tion as the City of Love.

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