Chinese couples are going places
Destination weddings are in vogue, led by celebrities posting their exotic ceremonies on social media.
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. — Photos:123rf.com
Paris is a popular wedding destination, living up to its reputation as the City of Love.