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    What’s Wrong With Traditional Weddings? Everything, Say Young Chinese.

    Young couples are increasingly rejecting every aspect of traditional Chinese weddings — from lavish ceremonies to bridal hazing rituals.

    When A Kang and his partner decided to get married in February, they quickly realized they didn’t want a traditional wedding. The elaborate rituals that have become common in China — the fleet of limousines, diamond rings, lavish banquet, and professional emcee — felt wasteful and meaningless.

    So the couple decided to go in a radically different direction. They hired a simple banquet hall, got their families to help with catering, and hosted the ceremony themselves. A Kang rolled up to the venue in a rented minivan.

    The couple are far from alone in doing this. Young Chinese are increasingly ditching the trappings of conventional weddings and embracing more minimalist, personalized ceremonies — a practice that appears to be driven by both changing social values and a desire to save money.

    There has been a growing feeling in China for years that weddings are getting out of control. As the country’s economy has boomed, families have begun spending extraordinary amounts to host ever more extravagant ceremonies — often competing with each other to see who can spend the most.

    The average cost of a Chinese wedding now exceeds 330,000 yuan ($45,600), which is more than eight times the average household’s annual disposable income. Weddings tend to be particularly elaborate in wealthy cities like Beijing and Shanghai, as well as in southern coastal regions with strong clan traditions such as Fujian province.

    But young couples often hate these over-the-top events. In a survey of young Chinese published by China Youth Daily on Thursday, nearly 80% of the 1,500 respondents said they would prefer to have a simple wedding.

    In the past, most couples went along with their parents’ wishes, even if they weren’t happy about it. But today’s young Chinese are more headstrong than previous generations. A growing number — like A Kang and his partner — are insisting on organizing the wedding they want, rather than the one they’re expected to hold.

    When A Kang uploaded a video documenting his minimalist wedding to the video platform Bilibili in April, it generated a huge reaction from the platform’s mostly Gen-Z user base. Titled “Which Parts of a Wedding Can Be Skipped? My Answer: All of Them,” the video quickly racked up over 2.6 million views and 3,600 comments.

    Users heaped praise on A Kang and his partner for their approach, with many agreeing that traditional weddings place too much pressure on couples and their families. In addition, a number of commenters shared their own do-it-yourself wedding stories.

    One user recounted how she had hosted her wedding banquet at a restaurant near her home, inviting only 20 people. She purchased a dress for 200 yuan, while her husband bought a black suit for 1,000 yuan. She did her makeup at home herself.

    “No ceremony, no emcee, no bowing, no tea ceremony, no vows, no professional video recording or photography, just dinner and a taxi home,” she wrote. “Since childhood, I’ve always dreamed of getting married without wasting money on these unnecessary things during the banquet. Fortunately, I met someone who understands and respects me.”

    It’s not just the financial expense of conventional weddings that young Chinese object to, but also the hassle and stress associated with them. In many parts of the country, it’s normal for professional stylists to arrive at the bride’s house as early as 5:30 a.m. on the morning of the wedding.

    The groom and groomsmen usually arrive in a fleet of cars at around 8:30 a.m. Upon arriving, the groom must pass a series of challenges set by the bridesmaids to gain entry to the bride’s room, such as doing push-ups or finding the bride’s shoes.

    The groom and bride then serve tea to their parents as a show of filial piety, before heading out for an outdoor photoshoot. After that, they rush to the wedding venue and rehearse for the ceremony with the bridal party and groomsmen before the guests start to arrive.

    The wedding ceremony itself involves the exchanging of rings, speeches, toasts, and tossing the bouquet. In many cases, it also features pranks by the groomsmen and guests — a practice that has become increasingly controversial in recent years, as on occasion it has descended into booze-fueled sexual harassment.

    All of these rituals can be exhausting for the newlyweds. Bridal hazing especially is becoming highly unpopular — nearly 65% of young people told China Youth Daily they were opposed to the practice.

    Huang Xiaojiang, director of the Beijing College of Social Administration’s Department of Wedding Services and Management, told domestic media that today’s young Chinese tend to prioritize simplicity and personalization when organizing weddings. Excessive bride prices and rowdy wedding games are also becoming less common.

    On this issue, young couples actually appear to be in sync with the government, which has also been campaigning against excessive bride prices and wasteful spending on weddings in recent years.

    Chen Siyu, a 29-year-old who lives in Shanghai, told Sixth Tone that when he organized his wedding, he was determined to do something unique.

    “I hoped the wedding could truly reflect my own wishes and style, rather than simply satisfy the traditional expectations of family or society,” he said.

    Chen held a wedding banquet in April at a restaurant on the Bund in Shanghai, inviting just 18 friends and relatives. There were no elaborate decorations, but each guest delivered a minute-long blessing to the newlyweds and shared some interesting anecdotes.

    That allowed the couple to spend lavishly on the thing they were really looking forward to: the honeymoon. “We flew first-class, stayed in luxury hotels, took our own wedding photos by the sea … These were the things we wanted to do,” said Chen. “To us, that was the best kind of celebration.”

    (Header image: VCG)