Old Version

Wedding Bills

In recent years some bridesmaids have even been seen wearing QR codes around their necks for wedding guests to scan to transfer their wedding gift money

By Mina Yan Updated Feb.1

Growing up, little girls are brainwashed into believing that their wedding is the most important day of their lives. Your “big day” as they called it. You’re supposed to dream about it since childhood and when that day finally arrives, walk down the aisle like a princess with all your friends and family dressed to the nines, watching adoringly in the audience. But real life isn’t directed by Disney and in reality, weddings are anything but the fairy tale day that we were taught to believe. In China, weddings are exhausting and more often than not, it’s a money-making event not just for the wedding planner, but also for the bride and groom. It’s all a transaction packaged in a white veil.  

So how’s a typical wedding in China different? First of all, in China, the groom’s family is expected to pay for the wedding. Weddings in China tend to be massive events, and the gifting culture and local belief that the more people come to celebrate the more luck the couple will have plays a huge part in that. In the US, it’s common for the couple to have a gift registry. But in China, you bring cash in red envelopes. In recent years some bridesmaids have even been seen wearing QR codes around their necks for wedding guests to scan to transfer their wedding gift money. Online, some have praised this trend as embracing the modern age and providing safety and convenience for the couple, because who wants to lug around a giant bag of cash after a long day of entertaining? Others call it tacky, comparing it to charging an admission fee to watch a spectacle. An average wedding can have 10-20 tables. That’s up to 200 guests. One bride admitted to me that her guest list for 40 tables consisted of friends, family and acquaintances she knew would be generous. It’s also an unspoken custom in China that even if you can’t physically attend someone’s wedding, your money is expected to make an appearance. Recently AsiaOne shared a story of a bridezilla tracking down an ex-colleague for her wedding money because she gave one to him when he got married and now he owes her one back, even though he didn’t attend the party. Crazy, right? Weddings are all about that cha-ching!  

Moving on to the wedding photos. In China when you arrive at the venue, you’ll most likely see a giant poster of the couple in their wedding attire before you even make your way to the hall. Here, there’s no such thing as bad luck for the groom to see the bride in her wedding dress before the big day so most couples would take their wedding photos in a studio in advance. To be frank, I find this the most reasonable way to do it. There’s already enough stress on the wedding day, so why add to it by throwing a photo shoot in there too?  

While guests are seated around their round tables, the couple makes their grand entrance on the stage with a professional MC hosting the event and literally putting on a show for their audience. When the vows and rings have been exchanged, speeches made, and dances performed, it’s time to make the rounds around the room and toast every single guest. With possibly more than 100 people to toast, you’d better hope that the newlyweds can handle their liquor. If they can’t, nowadays it’s become socially acceptable for the couple to make the round with a designated drinker. It’s exactly what it sounds like. This person’s role at the wedding is to take shots on the couple’s behalf. Other couples have admitted to having a designated bottle of seriously watered-down liquor just for themselves when they make their rounds so that they can toast everyone without passing out.  

While I personally opted out of putting on a lavish party mainly for the enjoyment of others, most couples choose to go big. The bigger, the better. For many, the wedding is a big day of celebration for the couple, but for the realists, putting on a wedding and inviting a ton of guests is a business transaction to make back the money you’ve had to give to others over the years for their weddings.