BEIJING, China: In a country where weddings are traditionally grand and expensive events, China's wedding industry, estimated at some US$500 billion, now faces a more serious threat than the recent COVID-19 pandemic, which is the significant decline in the number of couples willing to get married.
Amid a weakening national economy and falling consumer confidence, the trend is also worrying officials keen to increase marriage and birth rates, which dropped to record lows last year, causing the first decline in China's population in 60 years.
Yuan Jialiang, who switched her full-scale wedding planning business in Shanghai to wedding photography almost a decade said, "The number of marriages is falling, and few are willing to spend a lot on weddings. The future of this industry does not look promising."
There were 6.8 million marriages across China last year, 800,000 fewer than in 2021 and the lowest since the government began publishing the data in 1986.
China now has one of the world's fastest-aging societies, and many cities deny child-raising or healthcare subsidies to unmarried mothers.
Having children out of wedlock is also traditionally frowned upon.
Ben Cavender, managing director and head of strategy at China Market Research Group, said, "You have a lot of consumers that are just saying, 'well, you know, marriage is not the right thing for me' and a lot of younger adults in China feel that raising kids is just too expensive."
"The traditional Chinese wedding industry is probably in for tough times," he added.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, weddings were big business in the country, with Daxue Consulting estimating the industry to be worth $487 billion in 2020.
While traditional weddings normally feature expensive jewelry, elaborate decorations, and luxury venues, Frank Chen, from Chen Feng Wedding Planning in Shanghai, said that this year, few weddings will have a budget of more than $13,736.
"People are more inclined to go for a simple and niche wedding," said Chen, adding that a decade ago, it was common for couples to spend millions of yuan.