If you were born in China post the 1979 One-Child-Policy, you’d better hope you’re a karaoke crooner or have a lot of cash. Getting a wife in China is becoming increasingly difficult.
If you’re one of those boys who does find your Chinese bride and grows old with her talking about sunsets on the Nile River, you’re one of the lucky ones. Tens of millions will be without. Yep, for every 100 boys born in China these days, there’re only 81 Chinese girls to woo. And with those ratios, it just pushes the stakes up.
Once You’ve Found the Bride, You Need to Find the Cash
The cost of a typical Chinese wedding doesn’t stop at venue hire, food and grog for the guests, rings, flowers and outfits. It’s a Chinese custom that you don’t get married until your family can foot the bill for the celebration, honeymoon, apartment and furnishings and a Hyundai run-around. A recent Hubei Daily report has calculated that the average cost of getting married has topped 2 million yuan (US$314K) in three Chinese cities.
The Chinese Marriage Affordability Index (in USD)
|Chinese City||Average Cost to get Married||Average Annual income (2010)||Years of Average Annual Salary||Subsequent Divorce Rate|
Although it’s Chinese custom for the male’s family to fund the nuptials, that kind of dough can be hard to find in cities where many people still pay well under $1 for their lunchtime noodles. In many cases, it’s holding back scores of loved-up couples from tying the knot.
The Naked Wedding for as Little as 9 Kuai ($1.40)
With skyrocketing wedding costs, more and more Chinese urbanites are opting for a Naked Marriage. That’s not stripping down to say your vowels and then honeymooning to naturalist camp and playing nude volleyball; it’s getting married without the must-have apartment, car, honeymoon and flashy banquet that Chinese customs say you need. A cool 9 RMB ($1.40) will see you through the registration office and officially married. A Naked Marriage is usually against a family’s wishes and can bring significant loss of face, however the young Chinese are becoming increasingly supportive. A China Youth Daily surveyed 3,216 Chinese last month and found that 48% approved of a Naked Marriage while just 23% opposed it.
‘Arranged’ Marriage Customs in China & the Marriage Market
The majority of Chinese still have the marriage with all the trimmings, many of those in relationships arranged by their parents. Parental meddling has been a marriage tradition since ancient Chinese times, with the exception of a period early in Communist China when marriages were usually arranged by The Party. In this age of Internet dating, Chinese parents are still using traditional methods to find their kids a spouse.
Every weekend, Shanghai’s People’s Park is filled with an army of hopeful Chinese parents and matchmakers looking to play cupid. A large tract of the central city park is decorated with A4-sized posters advertising to perspective courters, usually sharing their child’s age, height, job, salary and assets. Occasionally there’s a photo as well. For those who appeal, the parents will often meet there in the park to devise a plan. Even those who don’t find success look like they’re having a great time.
Gay Marriage in China
Something that most Chinese parents don’t approve of is gay romance. Homosexuality has been legal in China since 1997 – 6 years before every sodomy was allowed in every state in the USA. And although Chinese laws don’t specifically state that gay marriage is illegal, proposals to the Government to legalise gay unions have failed, implying that same-sex marriage aren’t allowed in China. Given 70% of Chinese considered homosexuality “a little” or “completely” wrong in a 2007 Li Yinhe survey, and just 7.5% claimed to know a gay person, things are unlikely to change in a hurry.
By 2020 China will have 30-40 million more men than women. That’s the population of Canada dancing with themselves. It’s anyone’s guess whether this imbalance will have the ‘prison-effect’ on Chinese males, but with the tightening of laws for Asian brides from Thailand and Vietnam, something has to give. Many expect it will be the poor who miss out. It could be a boon for gay circles. In the meantime, there’s a fake marriage market in Shanghai where Gay Chinese can meet a gay person of the opposite sex to ‘marry’ to please the family and integrate easier into everyday Chinese culture.
Differences in Chinese Wedding Customs and Traditions from Western Countries
As someone who got married just last year, I’m forever curious how weddings differ in cultures not my own. In addition to the expense of weddings in the Middle Kingdom, there are many Chinese marriage customs and traditions different to those in the west. Here are a few:
- The legal Marriage age in China is 22 for men and 20 for women
- Chinese brides often wear a number of different dresses on their wedding day
- Although a white gown is often one of the outfits, Chinese weddings are generally bursting with red; the traditional Chinese festive colour bringing good luck and good fortune
- The wedding photos are taken before the wedding day with hired frocks, as much as 3-months before the wedding
- The Chinese marriage certificate is issued at the ceremony and is generally a small affair with close relatives. The big bang is the banquet that follows, and although there are no official vowels as we know them, there is the tradition of lighting the Dragon & Phoenix candles to drive away evil spirits, followed by linking arms and drinking wine from goblets tied together with red string. The bride is then offered half-raw dumplings, as the word for raw, 生, is the same as giving birth.
- Now the bit most western brides wouldn’t like – the bride gets up early in the morning after the wedding to make a meal for the groom’s family to demonstrate how well raised she is.
Let’s hope many Chinese men do find their beautiful Chinese bride, get married and live happily ever; even if their families can’t afford all of the trimmings.