Every year in China millions of couples walk down the aisle. Weddings are a multi-billion-dollar business and expenses for the big day can quickly rise through the roof. It is not uncommon for young men to start saving all their earnings after graduation in order to finance the most special day of their lives. China is already the world´s largest wedding market and it is not giving any signs of fatigue.
With salaries rising considerably in China and young Chinese becoming wealthier than ever before, there has been an amazing growth in sectors which didn´t even exist twenty years ago. Ten or fifteen years ago, if you asked a Chinese what diamonds were for they would tell you they were used in power tools. Nowadays China is one of the biggest markets for diamonds – especially for engagement rings. Talking about engagement rings, the average price that a Chinese man will pay for a diamond ring is something along the lines of $1,500, which is pretty impressive for a country, which just fifteen years ago, didn´t even know what a diamond was for.
The engagement ring is just the beginning of the game. Photos, entertainment, gowns and decorations all have to be paid for and it is the groom’s parents who usually have to roll out the bills. This contrasts with Western culture, where it is usually the bride’s family who pays the bill. The wedding dinner is the biggest expense and in big cities like Shanghai the sky is literally the limit for wedding banquets. According to figures provided by luxury wedding planning agency, the average cost of a wedding in China is now around 100,000 yuan ($16,000), although the company has handled weddings that have cost a staggering 10 million yuan.
Although the average cost is 100,000 yuan, many couples exceed that figure and while 10 million yuan might be an extreme example, 1 million yuan is not uncommon for luxury weddings. The biggest cost items tend to be hotel accommodation and a banquet, which costs 75,000 yuan for a typical wedding where there are 15 tables. Liquor and cigarettes for the guests come in at 20,000 yuan, as do the wedding rings for both the bride and the groom. The next biggest item is the bride’s dress at 13,000 yuan.
Anyone marrying a younger woman must be prepared to demonstrate his love with his wallet. The more luxurious the wedding and the bigger the expenditure, the older the man tends to be. The greater the gap in age, the more the price goes up.
The truth is that wedding banquets are about much more than just the couple themselves. They are also very important for their parents. It is the one opportunity that they have to invite all their friends, and business associates. A wedding celebration is mostly about ‘face’ or in other words, family’s prestige.
For those of you who are on a tight budget and are worried about the high costs of marriage in China, here comes the good news: China is a culture of gift giving. Presenting others with gifts of cash is a very popular tradition commonly known as Hongbao, or red envelope. You will be at ease to know that most (if not all) the guests at your wedding will be making a “donation” in cash, which in most cases is enough to cover a great deal of the costs of the celebration. Be aware that you will also be expected to contribute back in case you ever attend one of your guest`s weddings.