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Fusion of traditional and Western weddings in China


A new era for China's wedding industry come as many younger individuals in the rising middle and wealthy classes opt for fusion weddings. The most popular option is to mix traditional Chinese elements with Western trends, complete with fat budgets, choreographed photo sessions and lavish banquet dinners. 



"Every bride in China wants to walk down an aisle in a white dress," said Raul Vasquez, president of Weddings Beautiful China, a wedding-planning business based in Beijing. "Brides are inspired by what they see in the West."



"Getting married is a big deal, so it's OK to spend a little money."



According to analysis from China Wedding Industry Development Report, couples now spend an average of 76,141 yuan ($12,000) per wedding in China. Putting that into perspective, the national average annual wage for urban employees was 56,339 yuan ($8,900) in 2014, according to China's National Bureau of Statistics.



Experts estimate the wedding industry brings in annual revenues of $80bn, up from $57bn in 2011, a staggering 40% increase over four years.



Research firm IBIS World estimates that half of couples who marry in China now use some kind of wedding service.



What's more, China has put its own mark on some Western traditions, such as the photo shoot. Unlike Western weddings, where brides and grooms take pictures on the day of the wedding, it's popular for couples in China to pay for day-long photo sessions — sometimes in different countries — prior to the ceremony. 



Weddings Beautiful China, which started in 2011, now has 350 wedding planners in its network across 39 cities in China, and Vasquez said the average wedding budget for their clients is 200,000 yuan ($31,600). Their clients are typically in their twenties, wealthy couples who are white collar workers and often based in major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai.



Its Chinese partner, boutique wedding planning company Weddings by Ling, which started in 2009, has planned lavish affairs for Chinese celebrities including actress Chen Shu's 200-guest affair at the Hong Kong Jockey Club in Beijing plus a 20-person wedding in Bali.



The average budget for Ling's weddings total 350,000 to 400,000 yuan (about $55,000 to $63,000).



"I realised many brides were not content with the style and service many of the wedding planning agencies in Chinese cities were providing to them, said Ling Ying, who studied wedding planning in the US. "This is one of the most important days for a woman in her life, so they should have access to quality wedding planners that can plan a wedding they will remember for a lifetime."



While Western wedding traditions are working their way into Chinese ceremonies, there are still traditions that remain decidedly Chinese.



Instead of a gift list, Chinese couples prefer hongbao and venue availability doesn't dictate wedding dates. Rather, Chinese couples will still choose an auspicious date — often by enlisting the help of a fortune-teller.



Other up-and-coming trends in Chinese weddings include small, destination ceremonies, with Bali and Thailand being most popular, and cruise-ship weddings. Last year, Weddings Beautiful partnered with Royal Caribbean to design a Greco-Roman wedding chapel aboard luxury liner Mariner of the Seas, for couples to tie the knot while cruising. 



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