A groom helping his bride to finish her makeup before their wedding ceremony in Zhengzhou, the capital of Central China's Henan province. (Photo source: Lang Sha / China Daily)
BEIJING -- Younger generation seeks to enjoy modern style of marriage ceremony.
Wang Xiaoqiang, a 26-year-old white collar worker in Shanghai, doesn't really care that the Year of the Snake 2013 is not regarded as a propitious year for weddings.
"I was told Lunar 2013 is not a good year to get married but that is something believed by elderly people," said Wang.
According to the Chinese Lunar Calendar, there will be no li chun (the beginning of spring, one of 21 four-solar terms) during Lunar 2013. Some Chinese media have quoted Chinese experts as saying that it is "feudal superstition" to say Lunar 2013 will be "a widow year", which means women who get married this year will suffer bad luck.
The reality is the young generation do not take the traditional belief seriously. Experts say there will be no significant effect on wedding-related commerce in 2013.
Wang is busy with matters such as booking pre-wedding photos and a video and looking for a place to hold his wedding banquet for his nuptials in October.
"Many people rushed to tie the knot on Jan 4, 2013, because they believe they will love each other forever if they get married on that day. But news reports said four couples who got married on that day have already divorced. How do you explain that? That day is not in the Year of the Snake," Wang said with a big smile.
The pronunciation of 1314 (Jan 4, 2013) is similar to yi sheng yi shi (love you for a lifetime), making it one of the most romantic days on which to wed. There were 7,300 weddings in Shanghai on that day.
Wang's view is shared by He Lina, secretary-general of the Shanghai Wedding Celebration Association.
"Many people have asked my opinion about the so-called "widow year" and the possible effects on the wedding industry. What I want to say is it is superstition without any scientific support and there will be no significant impact on the wedding industry," she said.
Looking around China, it seems the wedding-related business is not being affected by the "widow year". Chinese media have already reported that in Shenyang, the capital of Northeast China's Liaoning province, and Hefei, capital of East China's Anhui province, wedding banquets to be held during this year's May Day Holiday and the National Day Holiday in October are almost fully booked.
She admitted that there will be fewer people getting married in 2013. However, she said it was not caused by the "widow year". According to He, there will be 100,000 people holding wedding ceremonies in Shanghai in 2013, compared with 120,000 in 2012.
"Many people born during the baby boom of the 1980s have already got married so there will be fewer people getting married in 2013," she added.
He said the Shanghai Wedding Celebration Association forecast there would be lower demand in the wedding-related markets. Businesses in the wedding industry have been advised to up their game by improving service quality and presenting more cultural elements in the the wedding planning process.
Compared with the older generation who like to check the almanac to see which year or which day is suitable for a wedding, the young generation are more concerned with how to make the ceremony more memorable.
"We want to do something different and try to make it more impressive," said Wang Xiaoqiang.
Having attended several wedding ceremonies over the years, Wang said wedding ceremonies are becoming predictable and too similar.
"You can figure out what will be presented even before the wedding banquet takes place," said Wang. "The processes and content are so similar".
To ensure guests do not get bored, Wang said he plans to play a short film before his wedding ceremony to introduce him and his bride. It will last three to five minutes.
"We will tell guests who we are and how we got to know each other. We will also want to share the happiness we have enjoyed during our love affair," said Wang. "We believe every couple has a different story to tell, which can make the process lots of fun".
Short films have become one of the most popular wedding services demanded by young couples in recent years. To ensure the best outcome, some couples will invite short film producers to shoot films overseas, paying all the bills themselves. The cost can be as high as tens of thousands of yuan.
"Many people watch idol dramas from Taiwan or South Koreaso they have some ideas they want to present at their wedding ceremony. We help them to make their dreams come true," said Ba Si, chief wedding planner with Summer-Vision Wedding Planning Studio in Shanghai.
Summer-Vision has generated high ratings for its services and product quality on www.dianping.com, a website for people to review and comment on the service quality they have received in China.
"Normally, young couples will provide outlines and ideas and we will help them to make it into a full story with certain scenes," said Ba Si. "We believe the film will present the life of the young couple in a true and alive manner."
The average price for an ordinary short film ranges from 6,000 yuan ($963) to 8,000 yuan. The more requests, the higher the price is charged. The length of shooting time also affects the price. Ba Si says his company receives about eight orders a month for short films.
The demand from young people for personalized products is not limited to bringing new concepts and services to their wedding ceremony. Changes can also be seen in traditional products, for instance, wedding candy and its packaging.
In the 1990s, White Rabbit-branded candy produced in Shanghai was popular as a gift for wedding guests in China. In the earlier 2000s, imported Dove and Ferrero chocolate gained in popularity. These days, industry experts say people still like Ferrero and Dove but are also looking for something unique.
"Other imported candy such as Italian-made Baci chocolate have been well received by the Chinese in recent years because young people want their guests to try something with a different taste," said Wu Chaohui, the founder of Zhenpinxuan in Shanghai. Zhenpinxuan is a retailing company specializing in wedding candy and liquor.
To make sure wedding candy can catch guests' attention straightaway, Wu formed an innovation team to design its packaging. The five-member team travels overseas every year to see what is new in the market and bring new ideas to the Chinese market.
"The cost of wedding candy packaging is a little high but the design is unique and you cannot find it elsewhere in the market," said a buyer surnamed Yang, who declined to reveal his full name. Yang ordered 500 packages in the shape of fish in 2012. "The feedback I received from guests was that it was unique," he said.
The increasing demand for personalized products might also help boost demand on e-commerce platforms. Many customers in smaller cities outside Beijing and Shanghai might visit online platforms to find new designs.
"The online platform can offer a much wider range of choice for us at better prices," said Li Dong, a resident of Ma'anshan in Anhui province.