Pearl River Wedding

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. This short photo essay looks at Chinese wedding ceremonies in Guangdong Province and how they’re are evolving to meet the cultural changes in China’s modern society.

Chinese Weddings

Wu Yongyi and her groom depart from their wedding ceremony in Dongshen Town, Zhongshan City. Guangdong Province China.

Chinese Weddings

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.

Chinese Weddings

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.

Chinese Weddings

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.

Chinese Wedding

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.

Chinese Weddings

An entrance to a wedding party in Guangzhou City. Guangdong Province. China. Thousands of dollars are 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).

Chinese Weddings

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 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.

Chinese Wedding

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 todays 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.

Chinese Wedding

Yang Yi from the Chinese mainland city of Zhongshan and her husband Kingsley Ho getting tea from Yang’s 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.

Chinese Weddings

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.

Chinese Wedding

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

Chinese Wedding

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.

Chinese Wedding

Members of the groom’s party at wedding ceremony in Zhongshan City.

Chinese wedding

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.

Chinese Wedding

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