Marriage customs set to get a makeover
Zheng Tiantian and Ren Guoqing had three wedding ceremonies in 2018. One was in her hometown in Hebi City, central China’s Henan Province; one in his hometown in Juxian County, east China’s Shandong Province; and the third was in Shandong’s Qingdao City, where the two work at a public institution.
“It’s quite common to have more than one wedding ceremony for couples like us who are from different cities. On some occasions, if the newlyweds work for different companies, they even have two banquets for each side of their colleagues,” Zheng told Beijing Review.
The three wedding ceremonies cost the couple about 70,000 yuan ($10,000), which is equivalent to over three months of their combined income.
“A wedding is one of the most important events in a person’s life, so it is natural for people to feel like they want to make it big and good, as long as it is within their financial capability,” she said.
However, there are people who go to the extreme and squander money on wedding ceremonies as a way of showing off or satisfying their vanity. More and more people are concerned with this trend and are calling for reform of marriage customs in order to curb wastefulness in weddings.
“We should improve the current system of marriage customs so as to help promote marital harmony and social stability,” Wang Jinhua, Director of the Social Affairs In China, a marriage is legal only after the pair registers at a government office. This is often coupled with a traditional ceremony at a private wedding banquet attended by friends and extended family, before or after the registration, depending on specific customs in different regions.
During the banquet, the newlyweds give welcome speeches, express their love for their families and each other, and exchange wedding vows and rings in front of the guests, with everything presided over by a wedding emcee. At the same time, guests are served a several-course meal. Throughout the feast, the bride and groom walk around the hall, attending to their guests’ needs and making toasts. They may also enter and reenter several times wearing different outfits.
For Zheng and Ren, the ceremony in Qingdao mirrored the traditional ceremony and included about 100 guests. The ceremonies held in the couple’s birthplaces were smaller banquets of about 50 people each attended by their families and close friends.
The couple started preparations many months before their weddings, including booking wedding halls, picking out dresses and suits, taking wedding photos and videos and making the guest lists. Zheng still remembers that she felt both grateful and extremely tired after their largest wedding party in Qingdao.
“I don’t really like big weddings; it consumed too much energy and time, but we needed to do it mainly out of respect for our parents’ wishes,” she said, adding that her ideal wedding would have been small, intimate and memorable both for the couple and guests.
Wang He, who is preparing for her wedding of at least 300 guests in May 2019, feels the same way. “Although it’s very troublesome, we will do it to honor our elders. Besides, everyone else does the same.”
Zheng and Wang are typical young women who want to please their families, but are trapped in traditions that they feel are excessive and exhausting.
Officials and sociologists at the symposium addressed these issues, pointing out problems in current marriage customs. In some places, wedding ceremonies have