In 2015, revenue for the Chinese wedding industry reached $23.4 billion. Revenue has been growing at an annualized rate of 5.3% between 2010 and 2015 according to the Wedding Services market research report released by ACMR-IBIS World in January 2016. The last figure is not surprising as marriage in China is taken very seriously. The wedding is one of the top priorities of Chinese men and women, not only as a celebration of love but also a testimony to the eyes of society, culture and Chinese tradition. Therefore, the Chinese are ready to spend a huge amount of money for the wedding of their dreams. This includes traveling abroad to have pre-wedding photos taken, to hold the ceremony or to spend a honeymoon.
Chinese Wedding Industry: The Growing Importance of Pre-Wedding Photos, Taken Whether in China or Abroad
It all starts with the wedding proposal. According to David Liu who launched the bridal site Ijie.com in 2012 in China, there was no diamond engagement ring
back in the seventies in China as this exists in Western countries. Today, Chinese people have embraced this tradition and get increasingly inspired by what they see in the West. Then come the preparations for the wedding. According to ACMR-IBIS World, half of couples who marry in China every year use services provided by the Chinese wedding industry. As a consequence, the wedding planning industry has mushroomed: more than 1,000 wedding planning companies are registered in Beijing alone in 2015, according to China’s Committee of Wedding Service Industries. In the preparations for the wedding, two distinctive features of a modern Chinese wedding should be highlighted. The first one is the bride’s approach to the dress. While western brides look for the dress, in China it is often a matter of finding three, four or even five gowns. Most of the dresses are usually rented, and less than ten percent of Chinese brides buy a dress according to David Liu. The second distinctive feature is the pre-wedding shooting and videos, which created a huge and lucrative pre-wedding photography industry in China. Crystal Leung who runs Gigibride Wedding Photography explains that “in the last 20 years people have more money, and so it’s become a growing tradition. In the past, they would only maybe take one photograph.” This modern tradition evolved over the years: Lin Ying, head of the wedding planning service company Weddings by Ling, says that “three of five years ago the couples did it in a studio, but right now, the trend is to go overseas.” The most popular destination is Europe, especially France, but Chinese couples also have their wedding photos taken in the US, London, Italy, Greek Islands, Prague, Phuket, Bali, Philippines, Thailand and New Zealand. According to Lin Ying, these day-long photo sessions realized overseas cost at least 30,000 yuan and this amount do not include flight tickets nor hotel fees. The couple then uses these photos to send the wedding invitation via WeChat, and the photos are shown to the guest on cards, on big screens and video during the wedding ceremony.
The wedding ceremony, held in China or abroad, mixes traditional Chinese elements with Western trends
The wedding ceremony is of the utmost importance: its main purpose is to show the couple’s happiness, social status, wealth and financial success to others. Chinese people still want to perpetuate traditional marriage rituals, and the wedding ceremony (or banquet) is one of them. However, Chinese brides and grooms are increasingly inspired by Western marriage practices. “Every bride in China wants to walk down an aisle in a white dress” according to Raul Vasquez, president of Weddings Beautiful China.
Typically, 150 to 300 guests are invited to the wedding banquet if it is held in China, including the bride’s and the groom’s family members and friends, and both families’ friends. Regarding costs, the price of one round table of 10 at a five-star hotel is about 2,000 RMB, but the highest prices can reach 10,000 RMB. As weddings are very much a family affair, the two sets of parents and the four sets of grandparents are often contributing. Wedding guests also pay for the celebrations by giving newlyweds hongbao, that are red packets stuffed with cash. The total amount of money received can cover a significant share of wedding expenses, and can even drive couples to host multiple ceremonies.
More and more Chinese future newlyweds choose to hold the wedding ceremony abroad. In this case, the wedding ceremony can be a kind of the pre-honeymoon holiday. Mocha Wedding, one of the biggest wedding planning companies in China, organized more than 200 weddings in 2014, and 10% of them were held abroad. Lei Tao, co-founder of Unique Way, a company specialized in planning overseas trips for people with very particular needs, noticed that the demand for overseas wedding trips is increasing. The most popular wedding destinations are islands such as the Maldives, Bali, Mauritius, and Santorini according to Lei. France is one of the favorite spots for Chinese couples, especially Paris and the Provence region. Thailand, the US, Australia, New Zealand and Japan are becoming popular. Some couples prefer a nearer wedding destination such as a Southeast Asian country if elderly parents are to attend the wedding. Fewer guests should be involved compared to a ceremony held in China: according to Pan Zhenyu, co-founder of Mocha Wedding, 30 to 80 guests are invited. The cost of a wedding abroad is not necessarily much more than a Chinese wedding. A table of 10 costs between 6,900 yuan and 8,000 yuan which is more than in China, but the number of guests is limited. Therefore, the overall cost will end up being nearly the same as for a ceremony in China.
Going on honeymoon, a Western practice that means additional costs for Chinese newlyweds
In Chinese wedding traditions, honeymoon trips do not exist. It is perceived as a Western practice but is increasingly adopted by Chinese people who can afford it, namely the Chinese of Generation X, the first generation born into the one-child policy. Their honeymoon experiences are often co-financed by their parents, as a honeymoon is an additional cost to an already expensive wedding.The earlier destinations were Thailand and the Philippines, then replaced by islands such as the Maldives, Caribbean Islands or Greek Islands. The lavish spending Chinese honeymooners are seeking for romantic destinations and heavenly places, which can also be found in Europe, in Australia, and in New Zealand. Chinese couples try to make the most of their travel time: they are more interested than Western couples in sightseeing and shopping in cities, or diving and parasailing in beach resorts. Facing Chinese newlyweds’ desire to travel, not only wedding are wedding planning companies offering adapted services, but travel agencies also market package holidays with a wedding theme. Chinese brides and grooms demand for a taste of the exotic brings new opportunities on the domestic market.
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