SHENYANG — Zhang, who runs a wedding planning service, was doing her best to convince me over the phone to come in to visit what she describes as a “giant reception showroom.”
It has been a week since my future mother-in-law put down the deposit for our wedding venue, a newly opened five-star hotel in the northeastern city of Shenyang. But for my future husband and I, who both work in Beijing, if we want something a bit special rather than just a standard banquet with the usual food and beverages provided by the hotel, we need the help of a professional wedding planner.
So we decided in the end to cross the city, only to find out that Zhang has the stereotypical northeastern gift of exaggeration. Her “giant” showroom turned out to be a modest three-bedroom apartment filled up with sparkling curtains of various colors and shapes. On top of the kitschy props were some bunches of fake flowers piled up in the corner of the room.
“Couples with a small budget usually go for these plastic flowers,” she said, handing me a red rose after brushing the dust off it. “It doesn’t matter at all! Don’t frown, Miss! When the light shines on them they’ll look just like the real ones in the photos. It’s really fantastic!”
It’s said that in China wedding preparations and the décor of the couple’s new home are the two greatest reality tests for the to-be-wed. Many are those who don’t even pass these pre-nuptial tests.
Zhang boasted of her company’s cosmopolitan credentials, and how their most recent designs are based on the “2012 Dutch Wedding Expo’s trend indicators.” They respectively use swan and peacocks as the ceremonial themes.
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Photo: Mulligan Stu via Flickr
The whole set of deco does not come cheap — 29,999 RMB ($5,000)! Zhang showed me the one with the peacocks. She opened a room. On the main stage stood two peacocks with their tail feathers in full glory. To match, each table is also to be adorned with flowers and feathers. Even the napkins are printed with the same pattern. All I could think was that these two supposedly proud peacocks looked more like two silly geese.
Before visiting Zhang, I had in fact consulted another wedding planner designated by our wedding venue hotel, and located in an upscale office building. Unlike Zhang’s showroom, no previous wedding photos were displayed. “No wedding is ever exactly the same. We do only customized affairs,” said the young lady at the reception with languorous snobbishness.
I don’t doubt their professional level. Thanks to the Internet, the wedding of any royal family or Hollywood star can be found, down to the very last detail. As long as one knows what they like, and is willing to pay, anyone can copy anyone else's wedding.
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Entertaining the guests. Photo: triplefivechina via Flickr
These days the favorite Chinese wedding model is that of Jang Dong-Gun, the most beloved South Korean actor. Chinese people’s wedding venues and their home deco share an aesthetic commonality — go Korean!
If the Asian style is not your cup of tea, there's always the higher-end Western style — the British Royal family's most recent grandiose event, for example. Naturally it requires more full range support to achieve this level of pomp, including a made-to-measure replica of Kate’s wedding-dress.
“You can also have something different if you wish," the young lady said, sensing that British royal style wasn’t exactly what I was yearning for. Then she told me about some of their most successful recent weddings, including one in which the bride glided down from the ceiling on a trapeze. When she was halfway down the bridegroom, waiting on the main stage dressed as Cupid, had to “shoot” her down with an arrow.
Spotlight and showmen
“In the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes,” Andy Warhol once said. It’s a perfect saying to describe the current spirit of urban weddings in China.
What is important is that every appearance and performance on the special day will be forever seared in the memories of the newlyweds and their guests. Obviously spotlights are used, making sure that no one forgets the couple is the center of attention and worthy of bona fide stardom. Using special effects such as changing colors and displaying various ideograms or logos with the beam makes it even better. Of course two teams, the high-definition video cameramen and the still photographers, are not to be forgotten.
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Photo: strudelt via Flickr
All these services have very different prices – and soon add up quickly. At the end of our visit Zhang recommended a discount master of ceremonies to us who can also sing. Price tag: around 1500 RMB ($250). A local radio or television presenter would be twice the price.
Finally she asked us our total budget. We told her we wanted an understated and simple wedding and that we’d have only 100 guests. Barely hiding her contempt, Zhang told me she could help us: “If you set the date and pay the deposit this week, I can offer you the two peacocks for free.”