WEDDINGS, CUSTOMS, CEREMONIES AND GIFTS IN CHINA

CHINESE WEDDINGS

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Traditional clothes
The Chinese, like every group, have unique wedding traditions, ceremonies, and even superstitions. Because China is a large country, each clan has its own special tradition and customs. The ones mentioned here mostly originate from Fujian Province. The elements of ancestor worship and elder reverence, the lookout for omens, the use of professional matchmakers, the ornate gift-giving rituals and patrilineal kinship are similarly present, along with the primary objectives of enhancing families and perpetuation of lineage. The element of time likewise plays a major part in Chinese weddings. Compatibility between bride and groom, for one, is more often than not determined by their respective star signs and horoscopes, which are in turn determined by the date and time of their births. The time of the ceremony is carefully picked, again for purposes of adherence to what their horoscopes dictate. [Source: Jonathan Dionisio, July 13, 2009 /*/] kasal.com *^*]

Unlike their Western counterparts, Chinese weddings make extensive use of the color red, for it is believed that the color symbolizes joy and luck. On the other hand, the practice of showering the newlyweds with rice is remarkably present in both cultures. In a marriage, the dragon symbolizes the male role while the phoenix symbolizes the female role. Dragon and Phoenix designs symbolize male and female harmony and a balanced relationship. The motif is rooted in mythology where the dragon symbolizes the Emperor and at his side stands the magically powerful phoenix with her life-giving song. [Source: Jonathan Dionisio, July 13, 2009 /*/] kasal.com *^*]

Chinese elders usually play a major role in the Chinese wedding. This role traditionally starts even before the child to be wed is born, when parents arrange for the weddings of their children. Sometimes, couples seek the help of a professional matchmaker, usually an elderly local woman of reputable character. Children, for their part, customarily follow their parents, as dictated by the analects of Confucius. *^*

For the Chinese, the preferred partner is also Chinese. Chinese parents usually dislike non-Chinese for in-laws. This prejudice mainly stems from their values which are different from those of outsiders. Thus, inter-racial marriages are rare. In a culture where ancestral worship is practiced, it comes as no surprise that weddings are held in front of the family altar and ceremonies have traditionally been held before ancestral shrines in clan halls. *^*

Once the future bride has accepted the marriage proposal of the future groom, the couple consults a Feng Shui expert to assist them in choosing the date of their Kiu Tsin or Kiu Hun (asking of hand in marriage), engagement, and or wedding ceremony. The Feng Shui expert determines the most auspicious date and time for these three important occasions based on the Chinese Zodiac sign of the marrying couple, their parents, and grandparents. /*/

Good Websites and Sources: Chinese Wedding Traditions hudsonvalleyweddings.com ; Wedding Customs chinabridal.com ; Wedding Customs houseonahill.net ; Wedding Traditions Chinese historical and cultural project ; Wedding Photos Beifan.com ; Wedding Customs chinese-poems.com ; Northern Shaanxi Wedding Customs China Vista ; Links in this Website: MARRIAGE, LOVE AND DATING IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; CONCUBINES AND DIVORCE IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China

Auspicious Times for Chinese Weddings

Weddings are usually held in the spring and autumn. May and October are often the busiest months. Certain dates are regarded as inauspicious. The whole month of January, for example, is considered an unlucky month to get married in much of China because it falls before the Spring Festival, a time when the preparations are made to toss out the evil spirits associated with the previous year. The 5th, 14th and 23rd days of the lunar month are considered inauspicious days because of their links to unlucky numbers. Dates with eights are viewed as especially auspicious for weddings because eights, like knots, represent a successful union.

An auspicious date for a wedding is made after conferring with a fortuneteller who makes a decision based on shengcheng bazi---the year, month, day and time the bride and groom were born. Shengcheng bazi is also important in determining whether couples are compatible to begin with. Many engagements have been broken off because something is amiss with the couple’s shengcheng bazi.

In Beijing, weddings have been traditionally held before the Spring Festival because people there believe the Kitchen God, who oversees domestic matters, leaves the earth and nothing is forbidden. In 2006 there were a number of wedding at that time of the year because of an unusual quirk in which the lunar calendar included two days that marked the beginning of lunar spring.

AFP reported in November 2011, Chinese couples flocked to registry offices to marry on Friday in the belief that the '11/11/11' date is the most auspicious in a century.Nov 11 has been celebrated as an unofficial 'singles' day' in China since the 1990s - as the date is composed of the number one - and it is seen as a good day to marry and leave the single life behind. But this year is viewed as particularly special because the year also ends in the number 11. More than 200 couples packed into a marriage registration office in downtown Shanghai on Friday morning, some having queued for hours before its doors opened to ensure they were among the first to marry." [Source: AFP, November 12, 2011]

Marriage Compatibility According to the Chinese Zodiac

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wedding cards
The Chinese zodiac sign is based on a 12-year cycle, each year represented by an animal, associated with a specific type of personality. As such, those born under a certain Chinese zodiac also bear the same characteristics of their sign. As ritual to ensuring marital bliss, soon-to-wed couples, consult their Chinese zodiac sign to see if they are compatible with their soon-to-be partner for life. [Source: Jonathan Dionisio, July 13, 2009 /*/]

It is easier to identify incompatible signs of the Chinese zodiac. The main reason why certain zodiac signs are incompatible with one another is because of the clash of their personalities. For example those born under the year of the Dragon (1964, 1976, 1988) are said to have “quick, sometimes vengeful tempers”. They are also known to be aggressive and dominant. With this, they become incompatible with people born in the Year of the Dog (1958, 1970, 1982) since they have “a sharp tongue and a tendency to be a faultfinder”. /*/

Here is the complete list of incompatible signs: 1) Rat (1960, 1972, 1984, 1996) and Horse (1954, 1966, 1978, 1990); 2) Ox (961, 1973, 1985, 1997) and Sheep (1955, 1967, 1979, 1991); 3) Tiger (1962, 1974, 1986, 1998) and Monkey (1956, 1968, 1980, 1992); 4) Rabbit (1963, 1975, 1987, 1999) and Rooster (1957, 1969, 1981, 1993); 5) Dragon (1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000) and Dog (958, 1970, 1982, 1994); 6) Snake (1965, 1977, 1989, 2001) and 7) Pig (1959, 1971, 1983, 1995). /*/

On the other end, there are Chinese zodiac signs that are perfect for each other. They complement the personal traits of their partner’s signs. To establish compatibility, astrologers have grouped each of the twelve signs into four trines. By definition, a trine is a Ptolemaic aspect with an angle of 120̊ (1/3 of the 360̊ ecliptic), represented by the triangle. The trine indicates harmony, and ease of expression, with the two elements reinforcing each other. In Chinese astrology, each trine is evenly spaced at four years apart. People born under similar trines are said to have the same traits, mindset, and personality. This makes the couple with the same group of trine very compatible. /*/

1) First Trine: Rat, Dragon, and Monkey: These three signs are said to be the most powerful signs in the Chinese zodiac. People born under these signs are said to be capable of great good or great evil. When it comes to relationships, they are highly intelligent, charming, yet authoritative. Their relationships are usually intense and would like it to remain that way. 2) Second Trine: Ox, Snake, and Rooster: Members of the second trine are known to conquer life through endurance, application, and slow accumulation of energy. They are meticulous planners, and are very good at it. Also, they are loyal, philosophical, patient, good-hearted, and has high moral values. /*/

3) Third Trine: Tiger, Horse, and Dog: People born in the year of the Tiger, Horse, and Dog can simply be described as the 'true romantics'. They set relationships and personal contacts as their highest priorities. The third trine signs are also productive, engaging, independent, and loyal. They have the tendency be very protective. The three signs do not enjoy being told what to do, but will listen when comes from a person they love or trust whole-heartedly. 4) Fourth Trine: Rabbit, Sheep and Pig: The last trine is a seeker of beauty in life. They are capable of great sacrifices for the sake of their loved one. These three signs are compassionate, caring, sensible, emphatic, prudent, and are very affectionate. Off all the four, members of the fourth trine possess a calmer nature than the rest of the zodiacs. Incidentally, they are fine artists in their lovemaking. /*/

For couples who are neither in the compatible or incompatible group (example, Tiger and Rabbit), the degree of their compatibility may vary. This depends upon their personalities and the nature of their relationship. Whether compatible or not, the married life of a couple depends on themselves. Their love, respect, and understanding for each other should serve as the foundation of their relationship. Their ideals and characteristics may cause conflict at times, but surely, by the end of the day, their love for one another should transcend their differences. Best wishes! /*/

Marriage Physical in China

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In the Mao and Deng eras, couples were not allowed to get married until they had a a physical. Among other things the examination made sure that the couple was capable of fulfilling the physical duties required of newly married people. Those that passed were given a health certificate which which they submitted when they got married. The new October 2003 marriage laws also ended the need for the physical.

The doctors who performed the physicals were supposed to be on the look out for “unmarriageable illnesses,” which were not defined but were thought to have including schizophrenia, cancer, mental retardation, muteness and genital deformity. The intent of the examination was to prevent marriages that could cause trouble between the couple or be a burden to the state. Although most Westerners find the idea of such an examination to be an egregious invasion of privacy, many Chinese viewed it as routine inconvenience.

One woman sued the doctor who conducted her physical after her fiancé broke off their engagement because the doctor determined that lines on her abdomen were stretch marks caused by a pregnancy. The woman insisted the lines were caused by weight loss and won a $900 judgment from the doctor but was unable to reconcile with her fiancé. In another case, a construction worker received a “too small” diagnosis from the doctor who conducted his physical. He got the opinion of six other doctors who rated him as “normal” and was able to get married but his wife left him three months later.

Civil Ceremony in China

Marriages officially take place at the Bureau of Civil Affairs office or some such place in a city hall or local government office. During the procedure the couple present their identification cards and some other documents, fill out some forms and answer a few routine questions. The whole process takes about 15 minutes.

Article 7 of the Marriage Law of the People's Republic of China (1986) states: "Both the man and the woman desiring to contract a marriage shall register in person with the marriage registration office." The Chinese equivalent to "Will you marry me?" is "Shall we register?"

The climax of the civil ceremony is often when the couple signs the registry and has their wedding pictures taken, holding up their identification cards, in front of a wall of velvet roses with an emblem for the Chinese government positioned prominently at the top.

Many couples get married in their street clothes. Others don a wedding dress and tuxedo or traditional Chinese wedding clothes. Some offices even have wedding clothes that the couple can rent. The Dongchang office in Beijing has an in-house stylist. Wigs, wine, silly string, confetti and candy are available if needed.

Communist Wedding Ceremonies

>left Mao era weddings were generally spartan and bureaucratic. The bride and groom did not exchange vows or rings; they performed the civil ceremony in a government office, where they were given a lecture and declared married, and that was often it. Perhaps at a reception afterwards the wedding the bride served tea to some guests and received gifts of money in return.

In the Maoist era, elaborate weddings with frilly wedding gowns, tuxedos and lavish banquets were condemned as selfish and bourgeois. Wedding photos looked more like high school photographs or even mug shots than reminders of the happiest day of one’s life.

One man who was married during the Cultural Revolution in 1973 told the Los Angeles Times he was discouraged from even telling his closest relatives and friends about his marriage. "The neighborhood committee would come to ask us what kind of marriage we would have. If they thought it was too luxurious, they would educate us to make it simple. One of my best friends gave me 40 renminbi [about $5]. That was all her salary for one month."

After the Deng reforms, wedding became happier occasions. Families that could afford it dressed the bride in a Western-style white wedding dress with a long train.

Modern Weddings in China

Economic prosperity and the decline of Communist asceticism has brought about an increase in lavish weddings. Businesses cashing in on the profitable marriage industry include photo studios, limousine services, banquet halls and furniture stores. Some party officials have even cashed in by renting their fancy imported cars to wedding parties.

In a typical modern wedding, a couple rents pink and green Western-style wedding gowns and suits from a photographic studio and goes to the government office to sign the papers and listen to the lecture. The bride often carries a red umbrella and a bouquet of red roses.

Afterwards there is lavish banquet at a fancy restaurant with 12 courses, often including spicy chicken, seafood, suckling pig and long noodles symbolizing long life. The walls are decorated with cardboard cutouts of the Chinese symbols for “double happiness.” Everyone eats and drinks and has a good time. Toasts and speeches are made. There is usually little in the way of formal entertainment other than karaoke singing. Middle class couples typically spend between $250 and $2,500 for the wedding and banquet.

Newlyweds sometimes have several weddings. Ross Terrill wrote in National Geographic that he met a couple that had four different marriages celebrations. The first was a party with university friends (the guest of honor was the classmate who introduced the couple). The groom's parents were divorced and this meant that the couple had to get married in front of each parent separately. The bride's parents, who had not been invited to any of the other three events, insisted the couple couldn't have sex until they were married in the bride's hometown, with her family present.

Gardenside weddings and weddings beside rivers, lakes and the sea have become become popular in recent years. Wacky wedding also occur. After one couple got married in scuba gear in fish tank filled with sharks the aquarium that hosted the wedding received so many inquiries it now offers fixed wedding packages. Poor families have small wedding ceremonies and offer sweets, cigarettes and cheap locally-made liquor to their guests.

Hotel Weddings in China

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Wedding toasts
Wealthy families have their wedding banquets at Western-style hotels with free flowing champagne. It is not unusual for the bride to go through four or five dress changes, beginning with a Western-style wedding dress and then chaning into a Chinese qipao and then a Western-style evening gown.

A wedding at a nice hotel, including lunch for 150, costs around $4,000. The Purple House Wedding Celebration Co. in Beijing markets wedding packages for $5000 with music, decorations and a videotape of the ceremony. A lavish weddings featuring an escort by S-class Mercedes, flowers, gifts, a multi-course banquet for 300 in the best seafood restaurant in town and a photo shoot in front of a replica of the Eiffel Tower costs around $12,000.

Japanese wedding companies have set up shop in Shanghai and other places. They offer package deals for Japanese hotel-style weddings with a decorated aisle for the bride to walk down, dress changes during the reception, an exchange of rings, the lighting of candles at guests’s tables during the meal and a presentation of flowers by the newlywed couple to their parents.

Weddings and Photos in China

Most weddings feature a photo shoot in which the couple, dressed in their wedding clothes, pose at well-known monuments or in a local park. In large cities during the peak wedding season it is not unusual for couples to be lined up at particular landmarks waiting their turn to have their photograph taken. The sessions often take all day. In the morning, the couple is dressed up and made up and their hair is styled. In the afternoon they are driven around, often in a fancy car, to where the photographs are taken.

Many photography studios have sets and a variety of costumes. The Paris Marriage Plaza in Beijing makes huge profits photographing young grooms in tuxedos and young brides in Gone with Wind outfits, sexy evening gowns or traditional silk brocade dresses in front of "library" or "Garden of Eden" sets.

A wedding shoot by the Miracle Love Marriage photography studio in Beijing cost between $375 and $750 and last nine hours, with five costume changes and pictures in front of the Roman Catholic church, several well known landmarks and parks, plus studio pictures with the couple in angel wings in front of a French salon, a jungle or a Roman monument. For an extra fee teeth can be digitally brightened. [Source: Washington Post]

Many of the wedding studios are owned by Taiwanese. The owner of the Paris Marriage Plaza, a former fighter pilot from Taiwan, told the Los Angeles Times that an average of 1,000 couples, paying between $200 and $800 for each photo session, come to his studio every month.

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Brook Larmer, New York Times, “In the poster-size wedding photographs that cover the walls of their home in rural Sichuan Province, the couple frolic in a field of green clover. They nuzzle against a backdrop of autumn leaves. They cuddle on a beach under an azure sky. In each soft-focus image, the bride---a 25-year-old former clothing vendor named Xue Ying---appears in a strapless white gown and a glittering tiara. The groom---Yang Chun, a 37-year-old shuttle-bus driver---wears a white tux and a bow tie; his crooked, nicotine-stained teeth appear straight and white.” [Source: Brook Larmer, New York Times, May 3, 2010]

“The image set against the fall foliage is captioned Romandic Story, in garbled English. On the tropical beach, Xue leans back into Yang’s arms, her veil blowing in a breeze; a smile sparkles on Yang’s face. The caption, again in English, a language neither understands: I Make a Wish With U.” [Ibid]

“Yang and Xue invited me into their home one afternoon last fall. They married in July and were pleased to show off the trappings of connubial bliss. The dreamscapes were an artifice, a confection of false memories manufactured by a local photo studio. Digital enhancement brightened their smiles, erased their blemishes and slathered their marriage in a gooey layer of romanticism. It hardly seemed to matter that Yang and Xue lived in the mountains of landlocked Sichuan Province in southwestern China and had never been to a beach.” [Ibid]

Some elderly couples that were married in cold Communist ceremonies and had their wedding pictures taken wearing drab Mao jackets are turning up at the wedding studios in large numbers to have their pictures taken in cheerful Western-style wedding outfits.

Chinese Love Music Videos

Youth Image Studio is a professional studio in Shanghai that specializes in recording personal love stories, dubbed "love Mvs"---basically a short music video on how the couple met and fell in love, such videos are becoming popular in some metropolises. The studio offers tailormade MVs, with the screenplay based on the couple's romance, for 8,800 yuan ($1,320). This price entitles the newlyweds to 10 sets of DVDs packaged exactly like an original movie DVD, complete with poster and still pictures. [Source: Xu Lin, China Daily, October 10, 2010]

Making a "love MV" follows much the same path as a full-length feature film. Yang first gets to know the couple and their romantic history, and then comes up with a screenplay with inputs from his freelancers such as Dong Liqian. "Most want to recount their campus romances. But I have just written a screenplay about love in this life and a past one," Dong says. [Ibid]

Youth Image Studio is owned by Yang Dan. Yang's customers are all newlyweds belonging to the post-80s generation, who are open to new ideas. They want the video both to show at their wedding banquet and to keep as a memento of their youth. Like many others, Ni Bin and Hu Qi were instantly attracted to the idea of a "love MV" when first introduced to it at a wedding expo in Shanghai. "We wanted a record of our 11-year romance," Ni says. Their MV shows how they met in high school, separated after being forbidden to be together by a teacher, and eventually reunited. Ni wrote the screenplay himself, in accordance with Yang's advice. [Ibid]

The couple waited until August, when the weather is perfect for outdoor shooting. Choosing a weekend when students are off school, the couple, both 27, gathered several old classmates for bit parts in the MV. To give the video an authentic look, Ni even bought school uniform-style white shirts and black ties for everyone. Even his high school teacher, who was responsible for separating them in school, agreed to play himself for the video.The MV shows how they walked to class and took bike rides together. So touched were some of their classmates that they burst into tears after watching it. "Wedding photos all look the same. I wanted to try something new," Ni says. [Ibid]

Dowries, Bride Prices and Wedding Expenses in China

Most traditional marriages involve the paying of a bride price (money paid by the groom’s family to the bride’s family or to the bride). These days a bride price is paid in cash or presents and can total several thousand dollars.

In many cases the groom's family is expected to provide newlyweds with a new house and bridal purse filled with gold jewelry. This custom began in the 1980s, ironically, not long after the government passed laws prohibiting the giving of gifts in connection with marriage.

Before a man from the countryside can get married he needs at least $5,000 for a house, furniture, and tractor. Many young rural men migrate to the cities to find jobs so they can make enough money to get married.

Wedding expenses are usually shared by the groom and the bride's family or are paid by the groom's family. The groom and bride are expected to save their wages for their future. In Hong Kong the groom's family sends presents to the family of the bride and the groom provides a monetary gift to the bride’s family that may cover the cost of the wedding and pay for a certain number of tables at the wedding reception. Sometimes the bride's family provides a monetary gift for the cost of the banquet.

Wedding Presents in China

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The happiest moment of one’s wedding day it is said is not when the couple make their vow or share their first kiss as husband and wife or even have sex but rather is when they finally retire to their wedding chambers and count all the money they receive as gifts.

Wedding guests are expected to give hongbao (red packets of money) as gifts not presents as is the custom in the West, with the amounts of money given ranging from 200 yuan ($26) to several thousand yuan depending the closeness of the guest to the bride or groom. A cousin to the bride or groom typically gives 2,880 yuan (about $400), which is a month’s salary for a middle class resident of Beijing.

Some Chinese dread getting wedding invitations because of the amount of money involved. The wedding dinner is often not what the guests expect because the bride and groom try to invite as many guests as possible to get as much gift money as possible but then don’t provide enough food for all the guests.

Newlywed couples are often given a house full of furniture for a wedding gift. A modest gift with "36 legs" includes a bed, sofa, armories, chairs while one with "72 legs" also contains a television, washing machine, refrigerator and microwave oven. Some lucky couples even get a house or an apartment. Friends and relatives that can not provide furniture or appliances are expected to give envelopes containing the equivalent of $30 or $40. Traditionally the groom and his family was expected to provide a place to live while the woman’s family provided furniture and kitchenware.

In the Mao era, newlyweds received presents like thermoses and towels. A woman married in 1982 told the Los Angles Times she received pillows, a dress and a spittoon as wedding gifts. "But what I wanted to get was quilts," she said, "because in 1982, the more quilts you had, the more limelight you got." Silk quilts are traditional gifts given to the bride.

These days couples often expect more. Describing her wedding plans, one young single woman told the Los Angles Times, "I will make a list of everything I need, such as cosmetics and a hair dryer, and ask my close friends to buy them for me. I hope other people will give me money. I like to travel abroad. A honeymoon in Hong Kong or even Australia would be nice."

Wedding Night and Honeymoons in China

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Wedding night bed
When the couple finally retires to their bedroom on their wedding night they often find red sheets on the bed and a young boy laying on the covers. The boy, usually around six- or seven-years-old, often stays with the couple all night in an attempt to help the couple produce a son.

Most couples can't afford a honeymoon. Usually the groom gets a few days off from work and the newlyweds stay at the home of the groom's parents. The couple usually gets the best room in the house, which unfortunately also happens to be the television room. This means that the couple has share their love nest with other members of the family when their favorite program is on. Couples that do get the opportunity to go on a honeymoon often make love for the first time in a train compartment shared with three or four strangers.

Some newlyweds in Shanghai cruise around in new car with life-size Micky and Minnie Mouse sitting in the backseat.

Chinese Newlyweds Seek Gangnam-Style Romance South Korea

Elizabeth Shim of Associated Press wrote: “Standing by a French chateau's window, the young bride-to-be glows in the afternoon sun as she gazes into her fiancé's eyes. This Chinese couple's fairytale moment, however, isn't unfolding at a Bordeaux estate. The 20-something Beijing lawyers and fans of South Korean pop idol Rain are part of a small but growing number of affluent Chinese for whom the craze for all things South Korean means flying to Seoul for the weekend to have wedding pictures taken.[Source: Elizabeth Shim, Associated Press, August 14, 2013 ***]

“China is the source of one quarter of all tourists to South Korea, and a handful of companies in South Korea's $15 billion wedding industry are wooing an image-conscious slice of the Chinese jet set happy to drop several thousand dollars on a wedding album with a South Korean touch. The draw for many of the well-heeled Chinese isn't Seoul's ancient palaces or the fiery cuisine. It's an elegant urban style exemplified by Gangnam, the tony Seoul district made globally famous by South Korean rapper PSY's "Gangnam Style." Helping shape that image is the popularity of South Korean cosmetics and fashion and the many South Korean stars whose looks are widely copied in China. “The style in South Korea is more sophisticated and cuter than what we have in China. We came here because South Korea is the leader in fashion and makeup," said the bride-to-be, Yang Candi, as two stylists fussed over her hair with a curling iron and giant hair clips during a recent photo shoot. ***

“Every month for more than a year, iWedding has done business with 50 to 60 Chinese couples, the company said, including the Beijing attorneys whose love of South Korean TV shows and music brought them to Seoul. A South Korean competitor, Design Wedding, recently partnered with a Chinese company in Shanghai and has photographed more than 50 Chinese couples since May. Chuka Club, another South Korean wedding planner, said it gets Chinese clients even though it doesn't advertise on Chinese websites like rivals iWedding and Design Wedding. ***

"I always wanted to come here, especially after watching South Korean TV shows," said the groom-to-be, Chen Jingjing, his face gleaming with liquid foundation, his eyebrows carefully contoured. The couple said they had high expectations for their trip and were excited about the prospect of glamorous photos mimicking the pampered lifestyles of their favorite South Korean celebrities. The trip, they said, would also give them bragging rights at home with their friends and family. ***

“After nearly three hours of hair, makeup and frequent amorous glances, Chen and Yang, dressed in wedding white, are chauffeured to a nearby photo studio where they spend the next eight hours striking poses before facades resembling cobblestoned streets or Loire Valley estates. The continental European backdrop is a favorite of Chinese visitors and South Koreans. That likely stems from the popularity of Western-style bridal gowns and tuxedos; many wedding planners began thinking that those European outfits looked better when photographed in front of a European set. ***

“The heart of the day for Yang and Chen was overseen by a nimble South Korean photographer who orchestrates the eight-hour photo session with an air of Gangnam cool, cooing enthusiastically to get the couple's poses just right. Other helpers rushed to adjust Yang's hair or dust off Chen's lapel as mellow South Korean pop tunes wafted from speakers embedded in the ceiling. The photographs are arranged in a leather-bound album, part of a South Korean package for couples that includes transportation, doting assistants and a hotel option, according to Yu Mi-ra, a Chinese-speaking South Korean coordinator at iWedding. The service costs $2,000 to $4,000.

“Yu said the reason cosmopolitan Chinese come all the way to South Korea for wedding pictures is a higher quality photography and makeup service than they'd get in China. But that doesn't mean expectations are always met. While Chen and Yang seemed at ease with the attention - smiling at the photographer's attempts to speak Chinese and generally operating like celebrities accustomed to paparazzi and the staged glamour of red carpet events - six hours into the photo session, Yang's smile disappears. She is unhappy with the photographs. "My cheekbones are sticking out," said Yang after looking at the pictures through a camera viewer. "We came all the way to Korea to look our best. But these pictures are plain. I'm a little disappointed." Yang's South Korean translator and assistant eventually persuade her to go on with the photo shoot. And Yang again bats her fake eyelashes and smiles for the camera. At the close of the day, she seems generally pleased. "Everyone is nice. They must be tired too," she said.” ***

Chinese Tailors Rush to Copy Kate Middleton's Dress

Malcolm Moore wrote in The Telegraph, “In the eastern Chinese city of Suzhou, teams of tailors have already whirred into action to copy the Duchess of Cambridge's elegant wedding dress. Many of the 700 wedding dress factories and shops that cluster around Tiger hill, in the city's old town, confirmed that they are planning to offer their customers a cut-price version of the design by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen. "We have copied lots of dresses in the past, and our tailors copied Princess Diana's dress to around 90 percent accuracy," said Xu Xiang, the 24-year-old production manager of the Bo En Qiao wedding dress factory. [Source: Malcolm Moore, The Telegraph, April 30, 2011 =\=]

“Behind her, one of her 20 workers was busy draping a ruched and embroidered skirt onto a mannequin, using an image of Kate Middleton on a flat-screen monitor as a guide. "It will now take us 15 to 20 days to make up a version of the latest royal wedding dress. Our dresses go for around £70 to £90," she added. At that price, of course, the Chinese copy of the bridal gown will not come with three petticoats of lace, hand-stitched using the Carrickmacross lace-making technique, and nor will be made with the same quality of ivory satin. "Of course we will have to use something cheaper," said Mrs Xu, fingering the polyester bodice of one of her studio's creations. As for the Duchess' 9ft-long train, Mrs Xu said she would include it if a customer asked for it."We were prepared to do a train as long as Princess Diana's," she said. "We made one that was 60ft-long once." =\=

“The romantic city of Suzhou, studded with carefully-cultivated traditional Chinese gardens, has become one of China's wedding dress capitals. Many brides-to-be pop down from nearby Shanghai to pick up a gown for as little as £20. There are so many wedding dress makers crammed into the Tiger hill district that large piles of discarded satin and organza are strewn in the street. Mrs Xu's factory sells around 1,000 dresses each month over its website, all to foreign clients including ten percent in the UK. =\=

“However, it also sells dresses to dealers, such as Fu Xuxian in the southern trading hub of Yiwu. Mr Fu, 30, said that he had already had interests from his clients in copies of the dress. "We are just negotiating on the price now. "If I sell them for around £110 each, after shipping the buyers will need to charge at least £180," he said. "Otherwise they might think that the margins are too tight." If a deal is struck, Mr Fu said he could deliver the dresses in a week. Already he has managed to sell 20 of the engagement dresses. Mr Fu also complained that, unlike the Hollywood blockbusters that are available in China before their release, it was frustrating that the design of the dress had not leaked in advance. Mr Fu said his version of the dress would be ready within a week.” =\=

Image Sources: Beifan.com http://www.beifan.com/except 1890s phot0, University of Washington, wedding procession, Xinhua, and studio and park photos, Nolls China website http://www.paulnoll.com/China/index.html

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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