New Economy Changing the Face of Chinese Marriage

Collection with 24 media items created by Phil Behan

China 11 Nov 2014 00:00

Over the past 7 to 10 years Chinese society has undergone rapid transformation socially, economically and politically. The face of this change is best seen in China’s youth. They are the people who are moving China forward. Many youth find themselves caught between tradition and modernity as they try to find their sense of identity and place in an ever changing society. 

Some of the changes in Chinese society can be seen in the weddings and marriage customs of young Chinese newlyweds. Zheng Ying met her husband through a mutual friend and they now live together in their new home in Guangzhou. Old Chinese traditions often saw newly married couples move directly into the groom's home, but now, with China's economic growth, couples are becoming wealthier and more independent and many are buying their own homes and abandoning old traditions.

Modern Chinese wedding ceremonies often infuse Western style opulence alongside ancient Chinese traditions. With a massive surge in the disposable income available to Chinese citizens, no expense is spared in making the ceremonies as lavish as possible. In a country where image and stature are of great importance, the typical Chinese family is spending great amounts of money on their child's wedding.

These photos explore the rapid cultural and economic changes taking place in China through the wedding ceremonies of young Chinese couples. 

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China Marriage Wedding Guangdong Pearl River Economy Change Growth Hong Kong Mao Communism Capitalism Change Growth Disposable I... Wealth Image Youth Culture South East Marry Couples Young Elders Games Initiation Luxury Cars $16 000 Zhongshan City Province Dongsheng Town Panyu District Migrant Workers Catering Food Banquet

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Chinese marriage 13
Guangdong
By Phil Behan
15 Dec 2013

Keeping with the traditions of old, Zheng Ying and her groom pay homage to the elder relatives in her family, in this case her Grandmother and Grandfather (Pa Pa and Gong Gong).

Chinese weddings are still steeped in ancient traditions. Paying respect or "taking tea" with elder family members is an essential part of the process. Although many young Chinese couples are living away from their parents home as the social structure of their country changes, many will return when their parents reach an age that require their children to care for them. It is also quite common for the parents to go and live in the house of the oldest child when they reach an elderly age.

Zhongshan City, Guangdong Province, China.

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Chinese marriage 14
Guangdong
By Phil Behan
28 Nov 2014

A chauffeur driven car awaits the arrival of the wedding party in Dongsheng Town. Luxury cars line old Chinese villages on wedding days to take guests from the couple's homes to the wedding dinner venue. 20 years ago it would have been a sight to even see a car in these parts of China, let alone a luxury Mercedes.

Dongsheng Town, Zhongshan City, Guangdong Province China.

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Chinese marriage 15
Guangdong
By Phil Behan
28 Nov 2014

Wu Yongyi getting her make up done for her wedding. The bride must rise early on the day of the wedding and can end up spending long periods of time in her bedroom until the groom arrives to take her to his house.

Young women in China face many pressures from their family, like finding a potential husband and also starting a family. These are very traditional values held within China and often put pressure on young women who wish to travel and explore life further before settling down.

Dongsheng Town. Zhongshan City. Guangdong Province China.

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Chinese marriage 16
Pear River Re
By Phil Behan
04 Nov 2014

Dinner is prepared for a wedding feast in Dongsheng Town. Often migrant workers from Northern Chinese Provinces cook food for wedding parties. Many things have changed in China for many people, but for others, such as migrants from the Northern Provinces, much remains the same.

Dongsheng Town, Zhongshan City, Guangdong Province, China.

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Chinese marriage 17
Guangdong
By Phil Behan
18 Jan 2014

Members of the groom's party participate in the initiation, or game phase of a wedding ceremony in Zhongshan City.

Games and initiations have always been a part of Chinese Wedding ceremonies, but now in modern China, younger people are becoming slightly more rumbustious in their approach. On the wedding day, the groom and his party have to do many different tasks to prove they are worthy of their waiting bride. When the tasks are completed the bride will come out from her bedroom and present herself to the groom. Some of the games or initiations include include eating Wasabi sauce or bird food from the floor while doing press ups; getting spayed from head to toe with colored foam; or even drinking coke laced with soy sauce.

Zhongshan City, Guangdong Province, China

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Chinese marriage 18
Guangdong
By Phil Behan
28 Nov 2014

The bridal party are attacked with silly string as the initiation ceremony begins in Dongsheng Town, Zhongshan City. Guangdong Province China.Games and initiations for the groom and his party make up a huge part of any Chinese Wedding ceremony. On the morning of the wedding the groom and his party must prove their worth before the bride will be presented to the groom from her bedroom. Examples of such initiations and games include eating Wasabi sauce or bird food from the floor while doing press ups, getting sprayed with silly string or drinking coke laced with soy sauce.. In modern Chinese society these games and initiations are becoming slightly more rumbustious as Chinese youths are now drawing some influence from Western Society and more traditional practices particularly in larger cities become less prevalent.

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Chinese marriage 19
Pear River Re
By Phil Behan
04 Nov 2014

The bride and groom leave after being adequately protected from the rain from their personal chauffeur and valet in Panyu District, Guangzhou. Guangdong Province China. This type of personal service and elegant touch is now provided by many different companies in China. The wedding business is a booming industry after being non existent in previously poorer generations. Most parents of newly weds could never have imagined such services like the ones provided in todayÕs modern weddings. Many have memories of being transported to their venue by 3 wheel cart and having a dress previously handed down by another family member or another girl who may have married recently living in their village.

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Chinese marriage 20
Guangdong
By Phil Behan
23 May 2014

Yang Yi from the Chinese mainland city of Zhongshan and her husband Kingsley Ho getting tea from YangÕs parents at their wedding party in Hong Kong. Yang Yi met her Hong Kong husband Kingsley on-line and after a three year relationship they were engaged to be married. Increasing numbers of Chinese youths are taking to using on-line websites to meet future potential partners. As China becomes modernized the stigma of meeting a partner on-line becomes less of an issue. An increasing number of young Chinese women are taking things one step further by using on-line sites to meet foreign men.

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Chinese marriage 21
Pear River Re
By Phil Behan
04 Nov 2014

A chauffeur driven car departs for a the wedding party in Zhongshan City. Guangdong Province China. Luxury cars line old Chinese villages on the wedding day to take guests from the couples homes to the wedding dinner venue. 20 years ago it would have been a sight to even see a car in these parts of China, notwithstanding a luxury Mercedes.

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Chinese marriage 22
Guangdong
By Phil Behan
15 Dec 2013

Members of the grooms party participating in the initiation or game phase of a wedding ceremony in Zhongshan City. Guangzhou Province. China. Games and initiations have always been a part of Chinese Wedding ceremonies, but now in modern China younger people are becoming slightly more rumbustious in their approach. On the wedding day the groom and his party have to do many different tasks to prove they are worthy of their waiting bride. When the tasks are completed the bride will come out from her bedroom and present herself to the groom. Some of the games or initiations include include eating Wasabi sauce or bird food from the floor while doing press ups, getting spayed from head to toe with coloured foam or even drinking coke laced with soy sauce.

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Chinese marriage 23
Guangdong
By Phil Behan
15 Dec 2013

A portrait of Zheng Ying in her traditional Chinese Wedding dress and a golden pig hanging below her neck in her home in Guangzhou City. Guangdong Province. China. The dress Ying is wearing is a traditional Chinese dress known as a Qungua and mostly worn at the ceremonial stage of the wedding process. Most brides will then change into a Western style gown for the evening wedding dinner. The gold pig displayed on Ying's neck is given to the bride by the relatives usually older than the bride herself. The golden pig around YingÕs neck depicts that the bride will be blessed with children after her marriage. The more gold that the bride displays the more her family will be seen to have wealth and therefore their stature in the community may be elevated. Gold has always played an important role in Chinese weddings but now in modern day China families are spending far more money on what previous generations would have spent on gold.

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Chinese marriage 24
Guangdong
By Phil Behan
18 Jan 2014

Luo Jiahui's father lights incense as an offering to Buddhist gods in her home in Zhongshan City.

Parents of couples getting married follow traditional practices and beliefs much more rigidly than young Chinese couples on the day of the wedding. These ancient religious practices seem to be losing grip on Chinese youth, as many do not follow any organized belief system or religion. Buddhism is still generally accepted as the biggest faith, but itÕs beliefs and practices are slowly disappearing with ChinaÕs aging population.

Zhongshan City, Guangdong Province, China.

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Chinese marriage 1
Guangdong
By Phil Behan
15 Dec 2013

Zheng Ying takes a moment before her ceremony begins in Panyu District of Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China.

Zheng met her husband through a mutual friend and they now live together in their new home in Guangzhou. Old Chinese traditions often saw newly married couples move directly into the grooms home, but now, with China's economic boom, couples are becoming wealthier and more independent and many are buying their own homes and abandoning old traditions.

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Chinese marriage 2
Pear River Re
By Phil Behan
04 Nov 2014

The Happy couple depart ! Zheng Ying and her husband are taken to their ceremonial dinner in a chauffeur driven Porsche with their own personal paparazzi in tow.

Chinese couples can spend upwards of 100,000 RMB ($16,000) on their wedding. Items such as gold jewelry, luxury car rentals, plush hotel venues and fine foods and wines are among some of the purchased items. The Wedding ceremony is often seen as an important day for families to show off their wealth and stature to friends and others in their community.

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Chinese marriage 3
Pear River Re
By Phil Behan
03 Apr 2017

The groom's party participating in the customary ''initiation ceremony'' before his wedding in Dongsheng Town, Zhongshan City. Games and initiations for the groom and his party make up a huge part of any Chinese Wedding ceremony. On the morning of the wedding the groom and his party must prove their worth before the bride will be presented to the groom from her bedroom. Examples of such initiations and games include eating Wasabi sauce or bird food from the floor while doing press ups; getting sprayed with silly string; or drinking coke laced with soy sauce.In modern Chinese society these games and initiations are becoming slightly more rumbustious as Chinese youths are now drawing influence from the West, while traditional practices are becoming less prevalent, particularly in larger cities.Dongsheng Town, Zhongshan City, Guangdong Province, China.

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Chinese marriage 4
Guangdong
By Phil Behan
18 Jan 2014

Luo Jiahui nervously awaits the arrival of her groom and his party in her bedroom in her mothers house in Zhongshan City.

The process on the morning of the wedding is for the bride to put on her dress at a very specific time, according to a Chinese calendar called Huangli. The Huangli calendar depicts not only the right time the bride should put on her wedding clothes, but also the right day the wedding should be held on. This tradition has not changed after centuries of practice and is still very prevalent in modern Chinese weddings.

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Chinese marriage 5
Pear River Re
By Phil Behan
04 Nov 2014

An entrance to a wedding party in Guangzhou City. Guangdong Province. China.

Thousands of dollars is spent by couples on putting on a lavish after party or wedding dinner . The more opulent the better, with no expense being spared. Couples can often recuperate the money spent on the dinner as guests are expected to give the couple a red envelope with some cash or gifts. A typical Chinese wedding can cost a couple upwards of 100,000 RMB ($16,000), depending on the extravagance or wealth of the families. It is customary that the groom's party should foot the wedding bill, but in modern China this custom has become dependent on whether the bride's party are interested in halving the costs. Over the past 20 years, the amount of cash that can now be allocated to couples on their wedding day has risen at an extraordinary level. 20 years ago an average Chinese wedding may have only cost around 10,000 RMB ($1,600).

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Chinese marriage 6
Pear River Re
By Phil Behan
04 Nov 2014

Weiyan Lan and her grandson Shen Jiliang watch the departure of the a wedding party in Dongsheng Town. Zhongshan City, Guangdong Province, China

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Chinese marriage 7
Guangdong
By Phil Behan
15 Feb 2014

More games and more initiations for the groom and his groom's men. Zhongshan City, Guangdong Province, China.

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Chinese marriage 8
Guangdong
By Phil Behan
28 Nov 2014

Wu Yongyi follows the instructions of the women on the right, who is known in China as a Meiren. Her father holds a red lucky umbrella over their heads in a wedding ceremony in Dongshen Town, Zhongshan City. Guangdong Province China.

The Meiren or Medium goes to the bride's house on the morning of the wedding and officially starts the ceremony. The Meiren is considered the link between the bride, the wedding party, and the spiritual world. On the wedding day, the Meiren will ask the gods and ancestors of the family for their blessing. She will also instruct the bride to follow the processes that are considered good luck, directing the bride and holding her hand throughout the ceremony.

In modern day China, weddings are becoming much more extravagant and Westernized. Many families will not use or require a Meiren as the idea of a spiritual connection becomes forgotten. However, in small villages the traditions of old are still deeply rooted in each ceremony.

Dongshen Town, Zhongshan City, Guangdong Province, China.

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Chinese marriage 9
Pear River Re
By Phil Behan
04 Nov 2014

Local men and young distant relatives loiter outside the bridal party's home in Zhongshan City. Like the economy, Chinese youth culture is changing fast, both in fashion and in mindset.

The man on the right wears the early Mao influenced three piece business suit, which is symbolic of the early communist era. While the young man standing slightly to the left opts to go for a more modern punk / rebellious garb.

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Chinese marriage 10
Guangdong
By Phil Behan
15 Dec 2013

Zheng Ying and her groom do a toast or a "Ganbei" at each table of their wedding party in Guangzhou City.

There are many issues faced by daughters seeking to get married in China. The main pressures are usually financially based. Some families put a lot of pressure on daughters to seek a husband who comes from a well off family so he can adequately take care of their daughter without being a financial burden to her family. It is not uncommon for a family to oppose a daughter marrying a man who they consider financially unstable. In a country which has seen an unprecedented increase in disposable income, many pressures facing Chinese youths are related to money.

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Chinese marriage 11
Guangdong
By Phil Behan
18 Jan 2014

In her mother's bedroom in her home town of Zhongshan City, Luo Jiahui displays a banner of instructions that her groom must adhere too throughout the course of their marriage. The groom must read out these instructions in front of the entire wedding party.

The banner contains simple sentiments like "I will be a faithful Husband" or "I will work hard"or "I will treat you well" etc. These instructions are considered a humorous side to the wedding ceremony, but also a gentle reminder to the groom to stay in-line and pull his weight. Many young Chinese husbands are faced with enormous pressure from the wife's family to earn a high salary or to get a stable career. It is also not uncommon for families to require a husband to buy their daughter a home.

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Chinese marriage 12
Guangdong
By Phil Behan
23 May 2014

Yang Yi's mother and step father on the stage at her wedding ceremony in Causeway Bay in Hong Kong. Hong Kong weddings differ considerably from their neighbors in mainland China. The processes of a wedding in Hong Kong are far more simplistic and less reserved. Many couples in Hong Kong have children before they are married, a practice virtually unheard of on the Chinese mainland.