When I say Chinese weddings are a topic dear to my heart, I write these words with a certain authority. As you read this, I will be putting the final touches on a ceremony to be held in Zhejiang Province early July.
All the romance aside, let’s face it — weddings are big business. According to Rebecca Mead, it’s a $161 billion industry in the US. I don’t have the numbers on China. But if the wedding photography stands near the Metro stops in Shanghai are any indicator, there’s big bucks behind those white veils and banquets in the Middle Kingdom. People in China really do pay top dollar for their ceremonies.
That means potential for enterprising foreign companies who can fill a need.
So let’s talk weddings — the business side and the opportunities.
How much do people in China spend on weddings? This article (Chinese) claims about 10,000 RMB or about $1,200. Another article puts the tab at 100,000 RMB or $12,000. Whatever end of the spectrum you’re at, it’s still an imposing chunk of cash. Remember that average Chinese earn anywhere from 1,500 to 3,500 RMB (~$200 – $450) a month — some more, some less. Anything beyond that range is already within the realm of “upper class”.
What about the timing? We’re busy tieing the knot in the summer, while our Chinese counterparts just can’t take the heat (except in the far Northeast and cooler areas). The big wedding rush seasons are the New Year (both Western and Chinese), the Labor Day Holiday in May, and the National Day Holiday in October. If you want to book your facilities or services during either of these times, take a number and line up.
Let’s talk services…some warrant more attention than others. Perhaps the most lucrative of all is the wedding photography.
Ah, wedding photography. Chinese routinely spend upwards of 5,000 RMB (~$600), sometimes even more, for a Hollywood rendering of the happy couple. That’s right — this is all studio work, not a shred of it goes on during the actual wedding ceremony. Think GlamorShots for weddings. And many couples choose not to have professional photographers at their weddings, instead taking the studio photography work as a monument to their big day. Currently most of the companies doing this work are based in Mainland China, Taiwan or Hong Kong — but there is a growing demand for high-end ultra artistic work. The phrase “picture perfect” comes to mind because people are willing to pay top dollar. Even those couples who eschew having the whole formal wedding party still get the wedding photography done to show they’re official.
There’s another must-have in China — wedding candy. I remember finding the little twin boxes on my desk on a Monday morning, a sweet reminder that some unknown individual in the workplace tied the knot just that weekend. Wrapped in packaging evocative of traditional China, often with red and gold, wedding candy is distributed during the wedding and, as I mentioned above, afterwards to work colleagues. A number of foreign companies are already on board in this industry, including Dove.
Western bridal gowns are very de rigeur in China. Most brides, on average, wear three gowns and one most certainly is the traditional white we’ve come to know and love.
And then there are countless other products and services in demand for weddings in China, including:
- Chauffeurs/rented luxury cars
- Catering/banquet facilities (including lavish multiple-course dinners)
- Emcees for the wedding
- Videorecording of the wedding
- Makeup and hairstyling on the wedding premises (since brides change their dresses)
- Hotel rooms reserved for guests and the couple
- Wedding rings
The popularity of Western bridal gowns may suggest room for more Western traditions in the whole ceremony. Things such as having DJs or doing the whole church ceremony (there are more Christians in China than communist party members).
On the other hand, if your product/service could fill a distinctly Chinese need (such as the overembellished wedding photography), your mission is to stand out from the crowd. Take a look at the Shanghai wedding photography market, for example. Two leading photography providers have alluring foreign cities in their names: Paris Bride and Milan Wedding, suggesting that the experience of Western-style romance is attractive. What’s your twist?