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Registry office weddings may become common

By Fan Feifei | China Daily | Updated: 2013-08-15 08:11

Registry office weddings may become common

A couple has a ceremony and receives marriage licenses at a local registration office in Xi'an during Qixi Festival. [Hou Zhi / for China Daily]

Couples a bit jittery about planning their wedding ceremony need not worry: The government can arrange it for you.

Couples in Beijing and Shanghai as well as Shandong and Hubei provinces have had the option of having a free marriage ceremony courtesy of their local civil affairs bureaus immediately after they register their marriage.

The procedure has been deemed successful enough that the Ministry of Civil Affairs is considering spreading the free and voluntary ceremony to other regions of China. One of the hopes is that the process will instill a sense of responsibility for marriage in the new couple.

In the bureau-led ceremony, couples fill out the requisite marriage license forms, receive stamps on their certificates and yes, they have a ceremony, complete with a certified presenter at the bureau who acts as the witness.

Registry office weddings may become common

Bridge and groom are first asked about their willingness to get married and are informed of their rights and obligations as man and wife. The bureau then offers to lead them through wedding vows. Finally, the marriage certificates are issued.

According to Xinhua News Agency, an official from the Ministry of Civil Affairs said earlier this week that the free ceremony is completely voluntary and is held in a special ritual hall at the bureau. The ceremony will teach the new couple about their responsibilities together and make a deeper commitment to love, the official said.

Zheng Jinli, 27, and An Yali, 20, came to the Beijing Chaoyang district marriage registration office on Tuesday in honor of Qixi Festival, also known as Chinese Valentine's Day.

"We have never heard about this ceremony. It is not very important to have a ceremony, but living a good life is more significant," Zheng said.

An employee at the registry office under the Beijing Civil Affairs Bureau said the ceremony will be held only if the couple wants it. The ceremony, the staff member said, lasts only seven minutes.

Chen Ru, director of the Beijing Haidian district marriage registration office, said: "We have had the ceremony for more than 10 years. The newlyweds reveal their true feelings at the ceremony."

Chen said the registrars will give a couple the option of having a ceremony after the registration. All of the presenters are apparently trained in holding wedding ceremonies.

The director said many new couples welcome the wedding registration ceremony and invite their parents to attend, Chen added.

Jiang Yongping, a researcher from the Women's Studies Institute of China, said the ceremony is a frugal option for couples.

"It can replace the traditional Chinese wedding ceremony, which is very expensive and extravagant," said Jiang, who added that new couples can better understand their responsibilities and commitments to marriage with the ceremony.

He Dan and Liu Yiran contributed to this story.

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