The Westernization of weddings is becoming a "pop" phenomenon. With Chinese Valentine's Day on Aug. 19, it seems that more and more Chinese people are giving their wedding ceremonies a Western face, literally, by hiring expats to perform Western-style wedding ceremonies.
"It all comes down to appearances," says American Anthony Ford, who performed nearly 50 wedding ceremonies last year. Expat "ministers" do not require licenses; their role is simply to be part of the performance. "Without an expat for a minister, the image of authenticity would be severely compromised. And to fulfill your dream in the most convincing manner, it's vital that you make it look like the real thing."
Performance is key in a city whose love of pop culture and thirst for "wo ai ni" ballads permeates everyday life. "Western weddings are, theoretically, based on love. They're seen as more romantic," says Ford. "Couples feel that, by doing something different, they make their weddings more memorable." However, acceptance is not guaranteed. According to Ford, there are still many people who feel it's ridiculous and refuse to attend these ceremonies on account of differences in beliefs. Gong Yin, who has been working in the wedding business for five years, adds, "It may seem [to some] as an unnecessary act of disloyalty to [one's] native customs."
Is the Westernization of weddings inevitable? Sun Jie, manager of Shanghai Bride Wedding, thinks so. As Shanghai becomes increasingly international, "People are just going with the flow. If you see your friend saying vows before a white priest, you'll be inclined to follow suit." But cross-cultural exchange works both ways. As weddings become more secular, "many Westerners choose to hold Chinese-style wedding ceremonies. Some come explicitly to China for this purpose," says Gong.
With one of the highest disposable incomes in the nation, Shanghainese lovebirds are increasingly willing to spend large amounts of money on their weddings, and Western jet-setters are constantly looking for unique ways to celebrate their unions. "There will always be businessmen ready to take advantage of [this]," says Gong. "In the end, it doesn't matter how you commemorate it, as long as you enjoy yourself."
（英语点津 Linda 编辑）