Sim­ple Wed­ding

Mar­riage customs set to get a makeover

Beijing Review - - NATION - By Lu Yan

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

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