Out of China: A marriage of East and West
Monday 30 May 1994
On 18 May ('I will get wealthy') there was a similar run on the services of The Purple House wedding centre, situated in a small lane off the busy Wangfujing shopping street in Peking. 'Eleven couples wanted that day. From 9am to 6pm, it was just one after another. We had to have a strict time limit on each ceremony,' said Zhang Fuyi, the general manager.
The Purple House is where romantic myth is turned into reality for hundreds of Peking's better-off young couples. The original wedding-service company of the same name was opened in 1934 - and closed 19 years later, when extravagant weddings were deemed un-socialist. Now that changing socialist mores have made it acceptable again, the lavish marriages are a booming industry. Since the Purple House was reborn four years ago, more than 1,500 couples have taken their vows in its first-floor ceremony room.
Before a couple can get married in China, they must first obtain permission from their work units. The legal registration of the marriage is then carried out at a government office, leaving complete freedom to decide how to celebrate the union. Some young couples who are living away from their home towns opt for a holiday and exchange their chosen marriage vows and rings alone in some scenic spot. Others arrange an informal gathering or picnic with their friends. For many families, however, the wedding celebrations concentrate on a banquet for large numbers of people. So far, pleas by the central government for families to limit the amount spent on lavish weddings have fallen on deaf ears.
The Purple House, owned by the Peking Textile Bureau, whose other business ventures these days include coal transportation and car spare parts, has evolved into a one-stop wedding shop for those who want a quasi-Western ceremony with Chinese characteristics. The ground-floor shop sells the outfits, rings, flowers, 'double happiness' decorations, and an array of wedding presents.
Upstairs, the modern Chinese wedding these days features a bride got up in a fairytale fantasy of white satin, organza and netting. 'I think wearing the Western-style dress has become very fashionable in Peking. The old-style traditional costume is not comfortable; it does not comply with current society now,' said Mr Zhang. The dress is usually rented; the Purple House has more than 100 to choose from, including imported models from Taiwan, Japan and Hong Kong.
Instead of a vicar or government cadre, the ceremony is conducted by a master of ceremonies.
All up, the affair costs on average around 6,000 yuan (pounds 500), about twice the average annual urban income, if you believe the official statistics.
For those young couples who cannot afford such a spread, or who are not from Peking, the Purple House provides a 'photos-only' wedding ceremony.
Collective weddings also remain popular. In February 1991, Mr Zhang arranged a wedding for 100 couples in the Great Hall of the People. Other mass ceremonies have taken place at Tiananmen, the Summer Palace, and at the Great Wall.
While weddings become more theatrical again, the past two years in China has also seen the number of divorces soar: last year more than 900,000 couples went their separate ways.
- 1 Tourist films plane's descent just metres above packed Caribbean beach
- 2 Kate Moss: Previously unpublished nude photo revealed by Mert and Marcus
- 3 Indian woman creates 'Marriage CV' after parents put her on dating site: 'Definitely not marriage material. Won’t grow long hair, ever'
- 4 World Book Day: Boy 'excluded' from school after dressing up as Fifty Shades' Christian Grey
- 5 Bad Jews poster 'censored' on London Tube
Tourist films plane's descent just metres above packed Caribbean beach
Indian woman creates 'Marriage CV' after parents put her on dating site: 'Definitely not marriage material. Won’t grow long hair, ever'
Becky Watts: Four appear in court charged with hiding body parts after teenager's death
Isis 'bulldozes' Nimrud: UNESCO condemns destruction of ancient Assyrian site as a 'war crime'
Professor Brian Cox brands astrology-believing Tory MP David Tredinnick an 'outlier on the spectrum of reason'
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Elif Shafak: Turkish author warns against rise of British nationalism
Ex-head of MI6: 'We shouldn't kid ourselves that Russia is on a path to democracy'
Most people think legal tax avoidance is just as wrong as illegal tax evasion, poll suggests
£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...
£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...
£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...
£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...