The Chinese government has taken aim at the wedding industrial complex, calling for a “comprehensive reform” of the country’s increasingly expensive weddings.
The ministry of civil affairs has called for an end to “extravagant wedding practices” like expensive wedding gifts, lavish ceremonies, and demands for increasingly high bride prices — money paid by the groom’s family to the bride’s parents.
At a conference on wedding reform, officials from the ministry said weddings should “better reflect” the country’s values and goals and implement “Xi Jinping Thought,” the president’s much touted political ideology. Officials called current wedding practices a reflection of “rampant money worship.”
The statements appear aimed at rural areas, where wedding costs have skyrocketed over the last two decades. Officials said grassroots government bodies and local committees that manage weddings and funerals in rural areas would be asked to manage and come up with “suitable wedding etiquette”.
After decades of population control which left China with about 30 million more men than women, the result of a preference for boys, the lack of eligible women has pushed bride prices up.
The bride prices in rural areas are often dozens of times more than the annual incomes of those paying them. Families of the bride can demand not just cash but jewellery, cars, houses and more.
In Da’anliu, a farming village in Hubei province where most locals earn about 20,000 yuan ($2,800) a year growing pears, bride prices had reached more than 200,000 yuan (almost $30,000) before officials instituted a rule in August that anyone paying more than 20,000 yuan would face charges of human trafficking.
Bride prices, important for the status of both families, can be very specific. In Shandong province, families in 2016 require a set of gold earrings, and a gold necklace, one house, one car, and 150,050 yuan ($21,500), paid in 10,000 five-yuan notes and 1,000 one-hundred yuan notes, and one 50-yuan note, according to a CCTV report.
Local authorities have been trying for years to rein in bride prices and wedding costs. This year, starting in December, Huzhu county in Qinghai province, where bride prices can reach more than 100,000 yuan in rural areas, authorities issued a maximum limit of 60,000 yuan.
Last year, Taiqian county in Henan province released a set of restrictions, limiting the number of guests – no more than 10 tables, or 200 people – and the value of wedding gifts – no more than 60,000 yuan ($8,600). No houses or cars could be given as gifts, and families were not allowed to take on debt to pay for the wedding, The Guardian reports.
Researchers say changing wedding customs, especially in rural areas where such traditions are entrenched, will be difficult. Officials advised local authorities to encourage alternative events like group weddings that are “elegant and meaningful in content.”
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