Chinese Wedding Tourism Isn’t About Weddings

Editor’s note: Chinese weddings are typically lavish affairs, featuring a parade of luxury cars, designer gowns, luxury hotels, and expensive jewelry. So why, our partners at Jing Travel ask, are some opting to take part in a Sri Lankan mass wedding?


Chinese wedding tourism has been on the rise for the past few years. For Chinese millennials, overseas weddings provide a sense of individuality and freedom that is often unavailable at home. Unsurprisingly, this drive for unique wedding experiences results in a wide array of forms of wedding tourism, many of which diverge significantly from Western, wedding tourism trends.

Perhaps the most recent dramatic example was Sri Lanka’s efforts to develop its wedding tourism industry. Over the weekend, several outlets reported on Chinese nuptials in Sri Lanka, with some brides and grooms wearing traditional Sri Lankan clothing. Unlike other more traditional destination weddings, this was a mass wedding with 50 couples in Colombo. The couples were even provided local girls to serve as flower girls.

It’s certainly an unusual choice for a destination wedding. Mass weddings are often undertaken to save participants money on decorations and catering or as part of specific religious practices, like with the Unification Church in South Korea.

Of course many Chinese seek to have personalized weddings abroad in dream destinations more in line with standard concepts of wedding tourism, with elaborate ceremonies for a single couple. Such ceremonies are often seen as face-gaining.

Jon Santangelo, the cofounder of destination wedding boutique Chariot, noted that “…an overseas wedding is still novel and perceived to be more expensive. Hence, exotic wedding photos will stand out on WeChat newsfeeds and win the envy of friends.”

The online, face-oriented aspect of such weddings is one reason why perhaps taking part in a mass-wedding in Sri Lanka doesn’t represent much of a compromise for these Chinese couples. While they may not have had a unique, customized ceremony just for them, they still had an experience that helped their wedding ceremony stand out compared to peers. The remembrance of the event online and in photos afterward is more important than the ceremony itself.

The high priority of social media for wedding ceremonies for young Chinese couples also helps to explain the wedding photo tourism. Some couples may not have their ceremonies abroad, but traveling abroad for the pre-wedding photos isn’t out of the question. This trend has led to the development of firms that sell packages, mostly founded by Chinese, in the destinations like London or in Greek seaside towns that not only take the photos but also arrange transport and provide wedding dresses and tuxedos.

Such practices have drawn resistance from local photographers in some destinations who resent the competition from foreign agencies in the local photography industry.

Of course, language barriers are a factor here. Smart Chinese language marketing and promotion of photography services in various far-flung and unique locations may help make destinations competitive in the Chinese wedding tourism market. It’s clear that while the thrill of a destination wedding is a draw for many, but being able to show friends and family back home is even more important.

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