WEDDINGS are a big deal. Over the past decade, many Chinese couples have seen their wedding ideas change. In the past a simple dinner in a restaurant was enough. Now many want Western-style ceremonies and extravagant banquets in marquees or five-star hotels.
Rising wealth means more couples can now afford to splash the cash on a novel or flamboyant wedding.
It is clear the wedding industry is changing with brides wanting more than just a regular banquet and carbon copy decorations that have been seen at multiple weddings, said Mark Byrne, CEO of Highlife Asia Weddings, a Shanghai-based company with divisions in event management and luxury weddings.
“Weddings are increasing in price, however so is the demand for a high quality of product,” Byrne said.
The average spending on a wedding in Shanghai is about 220,000 yuan (US$35,483) this year, up 10,000 yuan from last year. This includes the cost of a banquet, decorations, wedding service, bridal gown, candies and vehicles.
The expense keeps growing, according to He Lina, secretary general of the Shanghai Wedding Trade Association.
Meanwhile, the desire for bespoke weddings is increasing, especially in first-tier cities. Many want a wedding that guests will remember for years to come and earn valuable “face” for families.
Shanghai Daily introduces several trendy options couples can consider for their special day.
Hit the beach
Beach resorts are often favored by celebrities as they have a dreamlike and romantic feel due to the beautiful scenery.
An azure sky, white sand, pristine water and palm trees provide a wonderful backdrop for a romantic wedding. Mix in some tasty seafood and music, and you’ve got a wedding few will forget.
Island weddings are also quiet and more secluded, plus the honeymoon trip can be included.
In January, actress Yang Mi tied the knot in Bali. The wedding reportedly cost about 11.7 million yuan (US$1.9 million). Several days later, actress Tong Liya tied the knot in Tahiti. Taiwanese singer and actress Vivian Hsu got married in Bali in June.
Stars like Taiwan singer and race car driver Jimmy Lin, Taiwan actress Kelly Lin Hsi-Lei and Hong Kong actress Gigi Leung have also chosen seaside resorts in Phuket, the Maldives and Ibiza in Spain for their weddings.
Another thing to consider with this type of wedding is that guests can be a part of the honeymoon, with everyone taking part in water sports or taking snorkeling trips.
Travel agencies like Ctrip are poised to cash in on the trend, having designed island wedding trips. In May, Ctrip organized a group of 244 tourists to visit Velavaru Island in the Maldives.
During the trip, 45 couples got married and many brought relatives along for the special occasion.
Sail the high seas
A cruise is usually linked with romance.
Several cruise ship companies such as Royal Caribbean International are now eyeing the wedding market in China by offering wedding services.
Onboard wedding photos can be picturesque while exchanging vows in a ship’s chapel can create lasting memories for both the happy couple and their guests.
Royal Caribbean says the captain will perform the wedding ceremony while couples can tailor the event to their tastes.
A cruise wedding package usually includes a boutonniere, a rose bouquet for the bride, wedding cake, music (live soloist optional), wine, dinner for the bride and groom at an onboard specialty restaurant, photography services, a special commemorative certificate and decorated stateroom for the couple.
Some special events like a dance can also be held.
The cruise also serves as a honeymoon.
A holy experience
In China, church weddings are increasingly popular because some couples believe they are more meaningful.
However, many churches only offer weddings to those in the faith.
In Shanghai, several churches welcome non-followers. Shanghai Community Fellowship and Xujiahui Cathedral in Xuhui District, and Moore Memorial Church in Huangpu District all offer weddings for non-followers.
Moore Memorial Church, also known as Mu En Church, was built in 1887 as a Methodist place of worship. Built in 1925 for American Christians, Shanghai Community Fellowship is Shanghai’s biggest Christian church. It can accommodate about 1,000 people.
Xujiahui Cathedral, the towering Gothic Catholic church originally called St Ignatius Cathedral, was once regarded as the most majestic in the Far East.
Some lovebirds take their wedding photos at churches, which provide a beautiful backdrop.
Other fun options
Getting hitched on a roller coaster packs a thrill for couples with an adventurous spirit. And those who have been married for years can chuckle that such a ride will prepare the couple for the ups and downs of married life.
On the Qixi Festival, or Chinese Valentine’s Day, 12 couples had their wedding on the wooden roller coaster known as Fireball at Shanghai Happy Valley. It was the first time the amusement park hosted a roller-coaster wedding.
The roller coaster, one of the park’s top rides, is 1,200 meters long. One ride lasts about one minute and 45 seconds and featuring a heart-pounding plunge of 33 meters.
The couples kissed before getting onto the roller coaster. After the ride, they had a ceremony and rode in classic cars across the park. Each couple received a special roller-coaster wedding certificate.
“My wife and I were very excited about the wedding, and it will be something we always cherish,” said Gao Qing.
On the big screen
A film wedding is a short film starring the couple that usually depicts how they met and fell in love. The film lasts anywhere from 12 to 20 minutes and is screened in a cinema so family and friends can be a part of the big day.
The emcee will give a brief introduction about the film before it is screened.
The couple essentially writes the script themselves and choose the background music.
Some studios will shoot a film for couples.
“It is a special way to present a wedding,” says Jolie Wu, a white-collar worker who is considering this option for her wedding. “It can show how we meet each other and grow together.
“Plus, my husband-to-be and I can feel like stars.”
Another trendy option is a seabed wedding. This novel experience is for certified scuba divers. Couples dive into the sea, exchange rings and kiss each other.
In such weddings, the bridegroom takes a board in his hand, saying “Will you marry me?” In turn, the bride’s board says “I do.”
Couples will sign a wedding certificate underwater with photographers capturing the special moment.
Sanya in Hainan Province, a popular destination with great beaches and loads of sunshine, is one of the spots in China offering seabed weddings.
Thailand and Malaysia are other options for a wedding among the fish.
In “Up,” a 2009 American animated film, 78-year-old Carl used thousands of helium balloons to lift a house to Paradise Falls in South America to complete a promise made to his beloved wife.
Now hot-air balloon weddings are sparking interest among couples looking for something different. Couples can take a hot-air balloon trip with relatives and friends and exchange vows in mid flight. Couples choosing this option can expect some fantastic photos with wonderful scenery as a backdrop.
On the ground, the party includes flower petals, cakes and Champagne.
The best time for such a wedding is shortly after sunrise and before sunset, when the wind is calm and air current is stable. It also happens to be the best times for photography due to better lighting.
Some hotels and wedding service companies organize hot-air balloon weddings.
Of course, the human imagination has no limit. Couples looking for something memorable and unique, can create a wedding based on their own interests and personalities. Providing you are willing to put in the time and effort to organize it, almost anything is possible.