China: Young couples increasingly shun ‘formal weddings’

Young Chinese couples are increasingly abandoning large formal wedding ceremonies for smaller, intimate ones at unconventional locations, such as meadows and coffee shops, wedding planners said.

When Sun Hongxu started a wedding service business in Beijing in 2012, she found most weddings were celebrated in a “typically Chinese way” at venues such as hotels and restaurants, with a large number of guests, often 200 or more.

“There were friends and relatives of the young couple, or their parents, sitting at 20 or more tables, watching the bride, groom and their parents enter the venue,” Sun said. “Then, the couple exchanged vows and rings.”

“After the formalities were completed, performers entertained guests and the banquet got underway with toasts and a lucky draw for the wedding guests. The newly-weds would give out presents and even cash to show their appreciation for the attendance of their guests,” Sun said.

Despite some couples not wanting such traditional nuptials, they felt obliged to meet the wishes of their parents “who thought this was what a wedding should be like,” Sun said.

However, a report released in July by wedding service website Hunliji and science and technology media platform 36Kr, shows that the generation born after 1990 is against formal weddings with too many complex procedures. Instead, they are paying more attention to having a “happy and joyful” small wedding that reflects the personalities of the bride and groom.

The average cost of a wedding in 2020 was 231,000 yuan ($36,105), 3.7 times higher than five years ago, the report said. However, it added that the majority of young couples take cost into consideration and spend reasonably on their weddings.

Xu Lin, a wedding planner in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, said compared with those born in the 1980s, who took into consideration their parents’ wishes for grand traditional indoor weddings, couples today prioritize their own wedding preferences.

“In recent years, we have often received requests for small, intimate weddings held in all kinds of venues: coffee shops, old-fashioned houses, on lawns, besides lakes … The venues are chosen by the young couples themselves, and their parents respect and support their choice,” said Xu, who has planned more than 100 weddings since she entered the business more than a decade ago.

Li Pumei, an employee at a transnational company in Beijing, had a special wedding celebration in July. It was held in a meadow in the Garze Tibetan autonomous prefecture, Sichuan Province. Only the couple and their parents attended.

“Strictly speaking, it couldn’t be called a wedding because there were no well-designed decorations or delicately arranged banquet. Both my husband and I were in windbreakers, and the only thing that distinguished us from other tourists was that I had a white bride’s veil on my head and he had a corsage on his chest.

“The place was where our romantic story started, so we wanted to return there to celebrate an important moment in our relationship,” she said. After the “wedding”, the couple and their parents continued their travels, and the combined nuptials and holiday only cost them a few thousand yuan.