China’s Affluent Look To Luxury Wedding Planners For Extravagant Nuptials

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Model Shu Pei in an ad for Vera Wang, a favorite gown designer among Chinese brides. (Vera Wang)

Rare vintage Champagne, couture gowns, and gold-plated cellphones for guests are just a few of the luxurious touches that are becoming increasingly common at weddings in China, and a growing number of affluent couples are turning to wedding planners to arrange an extravagant day.

From jewelers and photographers to luxury hotels, many industries are seeing big profits from China’s rapidly growing wedding industry—especially the wedding planners themselves. The overall number of Chinese couples getting married is on the rise every year, and climbing incomes give young Chinese couples the opportunity to go all out for their nuptials.

“We have seen a steady increase since late 2012 for wedding planning,” said Mark Byrne, the CEO of luxury concierge and lifestyle management company Highlife Asia, which just launched its new wedding planning division on February 14. “One in every four enquiries is now about weddings or wedding-related events, such as engagement parties where as a couple of years ago for us it was perhaps every one in 10.”

China’s wedding industry has an estimated value of US$82.4 billion, and is expected to top $132 billion this year, according to figures from the Ministry of Civil Affairs. As part of its new service, Highlife Asia partners with many luxury hoteliers and fashion designers hoping to gain the approval of China’s booming number of brides- and grooms-to-be (and their growing spending on the ceremonies). Partnerships with hotels such as Shangri-La and designers including Gucci, Vera Wang, Jenny Packham, and Caroline Castigliano help the agency to entice customers who are discerning about brand choices for the ceremony.

A wedding banquet space at Shangri-La in Guilin. (Shangri-La)

A wedding banquet space at Shangri-La in Guilin. (Shangri-La)

“Our clients are demanding the ultimate weddings,” said Byrne. In addition to throwing themed weddings, such as “Colors of India,” “Pink Fairytale,” or “Winter Wonderland,” many Chinese couples wish for personalized touches such as “handwritten notes of good luck from Presidents of fashion houses” and special gifts for guests such as silk scarves, said Byrne.

Increased demand for wedding planners in recent years has seen a spike in the number of new companies entering the market. In 2011, American wedding planning company Weddings Beautiful Worldwide set up a joint venture in China to train wedding planners with boutique firm Weddings by Ling, which caters to wealthy clients and celebrities.

While rented Mercedes-Benz limousines and five-star hotel venues are common features for wealthy Chinese newlyweds, Byrne says his firm’s packages range from RMB188,888 to RMB888,888 in order to appeal to growing middle-class demand. “Based on our previous requests and the current consumer base we have, our clients are on the higher end of the income scale,” he says, “but we are hoping to break the belief that wedding planning is only for the rich and famous.”

 

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