Weddings are highly valued in the traditional Chinese mind-set. However, they also put lots of pressure on children, especially those of us who were born in the 1980s. More and more people from this generation are seeking greater independence when it comes to planning their weddings. As a member of that generation, I can say that this reflects the change in our views about love and lifestyle.
Recently I was the maid of honor at the wedding of one of my oldest friends. By the time the celebration ended, my friend and her new husband were drunk and exhausted and I felt like my legs belonged to someone else.
My friend told me a couple of months ago that her wedding was more for her parents than her fiancé and herself. “The wedding doesn’t matter to us at all. We just wanted to have a honeymoon and take some really nice pictures on the road,” she said.
Her parents, like most Shanghainese, insisted on an extravagant wedding. For them, marriage is once-in-a-lifetime affair.
I once told my parents that I was not fond of Chinese weddings. They take too much time and money. I would prefer to just get a marriage license and move on with my life. My parents were a bit angry about my “immature” decision.
My future wedding seems more important to them than it is to me. They expect a grand event where they will have a chance to get together all of their old friends and relatives. They believe a decent wedding for me would give them face and give me a happier married life from the numerous blessing I would receive from relatives and friends. My dad told me that he intends to make a speech at my wedding and I should give him a chance to do so if I truly love him.
I do love him. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that I must accede to his wishes. Most of my married friends felt the same as I do before they got married, but they all changed their minds in the end about having a wedding. One of my friends, also a Shanghainese girl, told me that decided to go through with a large wedding reception, even though it wasn’t her style. “Our parents have worked hard their whole lives for us,” she said. “We could at least consider their feelings and make them happy.”
There is, however, the cost. My married friends spent about 150,000 yuan ($23,101) on average on their weddings, much of it paid by their parents, who also bought them a home or at least paid for a down payment for a house.
Some of us have taken it for granted that paying for weddings and houses is our parents’ duty. However, others have chosen to be independent. That’s how the concept of the “naked” wedding came about, which suggests shaking off the supposition that a man’s family must win a bride with financial trappings. It suggests a new approach: no car, no house, no big wedding day – just a simple ceremony that won’t strip parents of their life savings.
I’m not saying I want a completely “naked” wedding. Maybe a “half-naked” wedding would suit me. I would love to hear my dad’s speech, just not in front of 300 guests. I understand that as parents of an only child, the older generation wants their children’s weddings to be perfect. But deep down inside, marriage is between two people. As long as we are happy, nothing else matters.