How the one-child policy changed Chinese nuptials
Falling in love
OVERSIZE cupids in pink, furry outfits hand out heart-shaped balloons with “I Do“ written on them (in English) at a wedding-themed trade fair in Beijing. Vendors offer romantic photo-shoots of couples under water or at a racetrack, personalised wedding cigarettes, and biscuits with names such as “Date & Fate“. An emphasis on love is a new addition to Chinese weddings—and shines a pink-filtered spotlight on social change.
在北京的主题婚礼展上，粉色的超大丘比特身穿毛茸茸的衣服，手持心形气球，气球上写着“I Do“（“我愿意“的英文）。婚礼代理商们向新人们提供浪漫的水下或赛道婚纱照拍摄，个性化的婚礼香烟，以及刻字饼干，如“Date & Fate（巧遇）“饼干。把重点放在爱情上是中式婚礼上的一个新现象，闪耀的粉红滤光灯下聚焦的是社会的变革。
For centuries, marriage in China was about ensuring heirs for the groom's family. Ceremonies centred on the groom's kin: couples kowtowed to the man's parents but the woman's relatives were absent. Unusually, both the groom's and the bride's family exchanged money or goods. The more money changed hands, the more opulent the wedding.
After it came to power in 1949, the Communist Party imposed frugality. Dowries consisted of necessities like bed linen or a bicycle; guests brought their own food coupons. But since the 1980s the extravagance of nuptials has matched the country's rise. Celebrations moved out of homes into hotels. Brides swapped traditional red dresses for white, flouncy meringue-like ones (some now wear both, in sequence).
A large industry has emerged to serve the 13m couples who marry each year. Wedding planners are increasingly common, particularly in cities. A decade ago Cosmo Bride, an American-owned lifestyle magazine, launched a Chinese-language edition in China. An average wedding cost $12,000 in 2011 (the latest year for which such data exist)—the equivalent of more than two years' income for the average urban household. An increase in the average marriage age by 2.5 years since 1990 has given parents (who still usually pay for weddings, despite the earning power of their children) more time to save up.
为了服务于每年1,300万的新婚夫妇，一个大型产业已然崛起。婚礼策划越来越普遍，尤其是在城市。十年前，美国婚尚生活杂志Cosmo Bride在中国推出其中文版《时尚新娘》。2011 年，平均婚礼花费达到12,000美元（最新年度数据）——相当于城镇居民家庭两年多的人均收入。1990年起，平均结婚年龄增加2.5年，这给父母留下了更多攒钱的时间（尽管他们的孩子也能挣钱，他们仍然会支付婚礼花销）。
The change in wedding frippery also reflects a fundamental shift in society. For the first time in the history of Chinese family life, the child—rather than ancestors or parents—is regarded as the centre of the family, says Yan Yunxiang of the University of California, Los Angeles. Most newly-weds now are single children, born since the one-child policy was introduced more than 30 years ago. Parents have more to spend if they only have to fork out for one wedding (they usually share costs with the spouse-to-be's family).
William Jankowiak of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, who has documented relationships in China for 30 years, says love plays a larger part in young people's lives—both in choice of partner and in their relationships with parents. Love is far more often spoken about. The result is evident in weddings, which now focus on the couple. Both sets of parents are represented, but their position is peripheral. Weddings often feature a day of wedding photos, shot before the event, with the couple in a range of outfits against romantic backgrounds, but with no family members.