As Sabrina discussed in her article yesterday, this lunar year is of a type that only occurs once per 200 years (roughly), and as such is a great luck year to be married.
To take advantage of this good luck, the superstitious Chinese are getting married in droves, and as you would imagine, the wedding industry is in absolute boom time!
Weddings are done differently here to the west. As oppossed to getting everything done on a single day as we do in the west, the Chinese (or at least the Shanghainese) do it in 3 distinctly seperate stages, and they don't necessarily get done in any order.
The three stages are:
- The certification
- The photos
- The dinner
You may notice that there is no ceremony. Quite literally, the wedding is when the certificate (issued in a non descript government office) is chopped by the official at the Ministry of Civil Affairs. No ceremony, no friends & family, no pretty dresses, no flowers - just the 2 of you and the ministry official (and his chop).
The happy couple will generally get wedding photos taken before the dinner. This is where they get the chance to dress up and wear the white wedding dress and the tuxedo. Some photos are taken outside, but many are taken inside studios.
The well known Shanghai blogger Micah Sittig is getting married this year. He and his wife to be did the studio photos.The wedding photo album is actually a printed book. The photos are taken in many different costumes and apparently takes the whole day. The photos are then placed into the album by designers and mixed up with quotes and statements of love and devotion (some are pretty corny). Its about 3,000RMB for the photos which includes the full day of photography, a big book to keep, smaller books for the parents and a small one to take to work to show off.
The wedding dinner is just like the reception in a western wedding. All the friends and family are invited to help celebrate the wedding. This is often held in the best restaurant that the family can afford. If the photos have already been done, then there will be photos of the happy couple in their wedding gear displayed at the dinner. One restaurant we were at recently was hosting a wedding, and at the entrance and inside the restaurant were 2 meter tall posters of the bride and groom resplendant in white white dress and tuxedo. At the dinner she wore a nice Qipao and he wore a casual suit.
The three phases of a Shanghai wedding are able to be interchanged, so no particular sequence must be adhered to. Some people can't afford the money to get the photos taken at the same time as the dinner, as such may have them done 1 or 2 years later.
In terms of it as big business, a walk down Huahai Road will yield you a wedding shop every 100 to 200 meters. A wedding shop is simply a one stop shop for bridal clothes, photography, make up, printing and everything else that is required to go to make the special day.
The 5 star hotels are also booming, with many having all their function rooms and restaurants booked out every weekend for the remainder of this lunar year. This was the case with both the Hyatt Huangzhou and Sheraton Nanjing. For the big hotels and restaurants, if its not booked yet, the price is about 50% higher than last year for the same dinner or function. (In this shop on Huahai Rd, the girl sitting down in the right window is a real girl. She sits there all day modelling wedding dresses. The picture is not so good because we took it through the window on a moving 911 bus).
The scale of the number of weddings happening is reflected in the fact that these photos of the 3 brides outside on the grass were all taken in the space of 1 hour in 1 small park in Pudong. Multiply this across every park in Shanghai on every day of the week, then you will get an understanding of the sheer volume of weddings taking place in this lucky year of the dog.