Getting hitched the way they want
More and more Chinese couples are choosing to ditch the traditional Chinese nuptial celebrations in favour of overseas weddings that are deemed stylish and intimate
Zhang Boya, 28, and Huang Zhan, 27, plan to have their wedding in Bali, Indonesia, in May next year.
The couple said they were initially unsure about the kind of wedding they wanted, but later decided on a cozy celebration in a foreign country after attending traditional nuptial celebrations in China that were defined by lavish banquets where people hardly knew one another.
“I prefer a small and intimate wedding with only my closest family members and friends,” said the bride Zhang who was born in Taiyuan, Shanxi province.
While details of the event have yet to be confirmed, the couple has set aside a considerable budget of 350,000 yuan (Bt1.75 million) to host 18 family members and friends in the popular tropical holiday destination.
Zhang and Huang are just one of many couples in China who are choosing to hold their weddings overseas. In a recent survey conducted by Ctrip.com, one of China's leading online travel services, nearly 60 per cent of young Chinese indicated that they planned to marry abroad.
According to Gai Yongbo, founder of QWedding, the overseas wedding market in China has been growing at an annual rate of 200 per cent over the past few years. In addition, online searches for overseas wedding services on Baidu.com had also surged by nearly 250 per cent in 2017 from the previous year, according to an industry report released by the Chinese search engine.
Industry players have also reported a similar boom in sales. Hua Zhenxiong, the director of QWedding Shanghai branch, said their orders tripled in 2017. Its sales in January also surpassed last year’s first season figures.
“There are many reasons behind the soaring popularity of overseas weddings, but the most important one is that young couples hope to avoid the tediousness of traditional weddings at home,” Hua said. “Due to traditions, they have to invite people, such as friends of their parents or remote relatives whom they don’t even know.”
Jon Santangelo, the co-founder of wedding boutique Chariot, shared a similar insight and said: “An overseas wedding offers them a decent excuse to avoid inviting extraneous guests, enduring tedious routines and getting exhausted in countless toasts.”
Psychology also plays a part in choosing an overseas wedding over a traditional one at home, Santangelo said.
After all, an overseas wedding is still novel and perceived to be more expensive, he added. As such, exotic wedding photos will stand out on WeChat news feeds and win the envy of friends.
Zhang said she felt bored during her friend’s wedding last year. She also noticed that the bride and the groom did not look like they were enjoying their big day. Instead of being a joyous celebration of the couple’s union, the event looked “no more than a show that they were obliged to present”.
As Zhang and her fiance, who is a Beijing native, explored other options, they came across numerous ads on overseas weddings and articles about celebrities holding their weddings on an island in Thailand, Indonesia or Italy. According to Ctrip, the wedding of Taiwan pop star Nicky Wu and Chinese mainland actress Liu Shishi in March 2016 drove the sales of Bali wedding packages up by 60 per cent the following month.
“Once we decided on having an overseas wedding, everything fell into place,” Zhang said.
“It saves us from the complexity and tediousness of a traditional wedding, which can be intimidating when the two families are not from the same place. And because this overseas wedding is not as grand a ceremony as a traditional one held at home, all we have to consider is our budget and the theme.”
Gai from QWedding said the rise in demand for overseas weddings was a result of the upgrade in China's domestic consumption.
He also noted that the most popular traditional wedding ceremonies in China in recent years featured a fusion of traditional Chinese elements with Western trends. Besides the traditional wedding rituals and lavish banquet dinners, a wedding in China is now considered incomplete without choreographed photo sessions and honeymoon trips.
Gai started to offer couples customised photography services in Bali in 2009. Faced with an increasing demand for extended wedding services, he set up QWedding in 2013. Business of the Shenzhen-based company has since taken off.
As one of the country’s leading overseas wedding planners, the company now has 15 branches running across the country’s major cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, Guangdong province.
Gai pointed out that simplicity and convenience were the main factors behind the decision to hold an overseas wedding.
“An overseas wedding trip is usually complete with a pre-wedding photo session and a honeymoon,” he said. “The whole experience is more relaxing than that of a traditional wedding at home that has many routines cramped into one day.”
Hua added that getting married in another country was also not as expensive as most people thought.
For example, the average price of orders at QWedding cost around 70,000 yuan, which was comparable if not lower than most traditional wedding banquets.
Hao Jiejing, 26, and her husband Jiang Kun, 27, can attest to the high price of a traditional celebration – the newlyweds recently spent a whopping 300,000 yuan for a 12-table banquet at Jing An Shangri-La West Shanghai.
The couple said that they were initially looking forward to having an overseas wedding but had to drop the idea after facing opposition from parents, a phenomenon not uncommon. The same survey done by Ctrip showed that only 8 per cent of couples who want overseas weddings actually have one. Parental opposition was cited as the main factor. One solution to this problem, albeit a more expensive one, was having two weddings. This is what Zhang and her fiance plan to do.
“We will have a small wedding in Bali and then throw a banquet for family members and friends who couldn't come to our wedding when we go back to China,” said Zhang.
“This way, we can have our fun while satisfying our parents and keeping with tradition.”