Wedding means big business in this Asian powerhouse

In late September, Sheng Zuxing and her fiance Zhang Ping married in front of about 60 guests in Tianjin, a port city southeast of Beijing.

Like many Western weddings, Sheng wore a flowing white gown, had a ring bearer and a bridesmaid, and hired a wedding planner - traditions that a decade ago, were mostly unseen in the Middle Kingdom.

The couple also incorporated traditional Chinese elements, such as receiving hongbao (red envelopes filled with money) from guests, setting off firecrackers as they arrived at the wedding venue. They kept another very popular traditional element - not allowing the groom to see his bride until he gave "bribes" to the bride's relatives, and answered questions from her such as where they first met and where they ate their first meal together.

"Life is only once and everybody wants to have a good memory," Sheng, 28, said. "Getting married is a big deal, so it's OK to spend a little money and take many photos."

Sheng and Zhang represent a new era for China's wedding industry as many younger individuals in the rising middle and wealthy classes opt for these fusion weddings. The most popular option is to mix traditional Chinese elements with Western trends, complete with fat budgets, choreographed photo sessions and lavish banquet dinners.

"Every bride in China wants to walk down an aisle in a white dress," said Raul Vasquez, president of Weddings Beautiful China, a wedding-planning business based in Beijing. "Brides are inspired by what they see in the West."

According to analysis from China Wedding Industry Development Report, couples now spend an average of 76,141 yuan (S$16,575) per wedding in China.

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