Zheng Yigong’s second daughter married recently. Comparing the wedding to his eldest daughter’s, he has noticed a big shift in how newlyweds celebrate their big day.
During his eldest daughter’s wedding seven years ago, held at a star-rated hotel, he says there were dancers, singers and magicians. Between performances, he walked around checking on guests and asking “Does the food taste good?”
Zheng’s younger daughter’s wedding was held at a large cafe in a creative park adapted from an old warehouse. They had an outdoor barbecue and a micro-film of the couple’s honeymoon was screened for guests. There was no singing or dancing.
“Young people today care more about romance and uniqueness, while years ago food and a bustling atmosphere mattered the most,” Zheng says.
Zheng remembers when they consulted wedding planning companies for his eldest daughter’s wedding. He says there wasn’t much choice: the emcee, the performances and the main color for decorations — red, pink, blue or purple.
Again, not this time.
“We had lots of choices,” Zheng says. “For example, my little daughter said she preferred purple and the company provided seven shades of purple.”
There’s little doubt that a quantum leap has taken place in terms of wedding celebration preferences.
Yang Yin, owner of Hangzhou In-love Wedding Planning Company, says the shift is especially noticeable among the young couples.
“Many weddings were quite similar because they were basically a show and a dinner,” she says. “But people born after 1985 want to show their individuality and being different is what they are pursuing.”
The trend is most noticeable in first and second-tier cities.
Location is one of the main changes. Wedding receptions are no longer limited to hotels and restaurants.
Couples are choosing to hold their wedding ceremonies on meadows, beside swimming pools, in fancy villas or even an airport.
They are also selecting themes like environmental protection to reflect the things they care about, Yang adds.
“The standard now is to ensure guests have a great experience, not just a good meal,” she adds.
Another trend among newlyweds is to hire professionals to make a micro film of their honeymoon, which is then shown at the reception. In China, couples marry legally but sometimes delay moving in together and holding the wedding reception for several months.
Hangzhou Procolor Studio’s Gan Yifen says more couples want honeymoons abroad and a wedding video, thus the desire for a micro movie has evolved naturally.”
Gan says they try to be as unobtrusive as possible — they take photos and shoot videos on one day during a couple’s honeymoon. It costs about 25,000 yuan (US$4,070) although the price obviously varies depending on the location like Bali, Greece or Thailand. The further from China, the more expensive it will be.
Couples find the extra expense worth it since they end up with something different while regular wedding photo packages already cost around 15,000 yuan.
“Chinese people now have more money to spend, international flights are cheaper than before due to more competition and visas to many foreign countries are easier to obtain now,” Gan says.
The studio also provides a high-end service in which they book the hotels and fights and spend more time with the couple during the honeymoon to make the movie. This costs about 50,000 yuan, but again depends on the destination.
Still, these new wrinkles in wedding celebrations do not necessarily mean the special day will cost more since some couples are no longer spending as much on the traditional feast.
Du Juexiang, secretary-general of the Zhejiang Restaurant and Hotel Association, says more star-rated hotels are opening and the increased competition means prices have stabilized.
According to the Zhejiang Wedding Service Industry Association, each Hangzhou newlywed couple spent an average of 150,000 yuan on their wedding last year. The average cost for a table of 10 people was about 4,000 yuan last year.
This year the country’s wedding industry is estimated to be worth about 750 billion yuan.