Doing without a ring, apartment and car, is becoming more acceptable to young people who want to get married sooner rather than later. Gan Tian reports
Zhang Yi, a 28-year-old editor at the fashion magazine Sunshine, imagined her boyfriend's proposal like this: In a nice restaurant, he gets down on his knees, flourishes a diamond ring and asks: "Will you marry me?"
She would then scream, and with tears of joy in her eyes, throw herself into his arms.
But the reality was totally different. One night at the end of 2008, her boyfriend simply said: "My mother has asked us to register for the marriage certificate as soon as possible."
Zhang agreed - and that was it.
"My husband is two years younger than me. I understand he has little money. Besides, I love things to be simple. So I agreed," Zhang says.
On Jan 6, 2009, the couple took a day off and registered their marriage. Instead of a banquet, their wedding ceremony was a 100-yuan ($15) dinner at a small restaurant where they first met. When Zhang's parents asked them for wedding photos, she said they had no time for that, as the pair had to work the next day.
Zhang was amused when her friends said she had a "naked marriage" (luo hun), which is now one of the hottest topics among young people in big cities.
A witty poem on major BBS and SNS websites defines naked marriages as: "No apartment, no car, nor diamond ring; no wedding ceremony, nor honeymoon; each of us pays 4.50 yuan ($0.66), and we get a wedding certificate to start a new life."
"I'm a naked-marriage lady in the true sense - I didn't even take wedding leave," Zhang says cheerfully, adding that her marriage saved time and money.
Though the wedding was simple, Zhang doesn't think it will affect her marriage. Her husband works as a program writer in an IT company, and they live comfortably in a rented apartment.
"As long as we are hardworking and love each other deeply, we'll live a happy life," Zhang says.
Naked marriage is one answer to the problem of soaring real estate prices and the increasing costs of living in the big cities.
Zhang says she has no plans to buy an apartment in the near future, and she has told her husband to save money instead of buying a diamond ring.
But not everyone embraces the idea of a naked marriage. A survey conducted by sohu.com last month shows 43 percent of 3,413 people preferred a naked marriage. They said it is wrong to base a marriage on material goods, like an apartment or car.
Opponents of this idea respond: "Don't talk about love when you don't have a material base."
About 80 percent of men support naked marriages, while 70 percent of women thought they were not reliable. Of these women, 44 percent thought half-naked marriages were acceptable.
"If a man does not give you the wedding you want, will he take care of you whole-heartedly in the future?" wonders one anonymous netizen on sohu.com.
There are two types of naked marriage, the totally nude kind and the half-naked marriage, which means the man should at least provide a ring or something else for his beloved when they get hitched.
Chu Huang, a secretary in Shanghai, says she thinks marriage is the most important thing in life. She says her boyfriend does not need to provide an apartment or a car, but a ring is indispensable.
"I will doubt a man's sincerity if he asks for a girl's hand in marriage without a ring or a wedding ceremony. If he really wants to marry her, he should get ready for this. Saving money is not an excuse," she says.
Wang Zhiguo, chief marriage consultant at China's largest matchmaking website baihe.com, says that most people go for a half-naked marriage as they still pay attention to tradition.
Traditionally, a couple are expected to have a stable material base before getting married. While the man is expected to pay for the house, the woman brings furniture and kitchenware as part of her dowry.
Young couples find it hard to follow this tradition as their overheads are much higher than their parents, especially in big cities. That explains why naked marriages take place in metropolises like Beijing and Shanghai.
Wang believes naked marriages benefit society. "It teaches young people the core spirit of marriage - love each other deeply, no matter rich or poor," Wang says, adding that some newlyweds save marriage costs for other expenses like their children's education, traveling or charity.
Wang thinks, however, that naked marriages may affect a relationship's stability.
"If we see a marriage as a contract, it includes three items: love, responsibility and a material base. Any missing link will lead to some problems in the relationship between husband and wife."
Wang suggests that if a couple's financial situation does not permit them to build a solid material base, an exchange of tokens is necessary for a long-lasting relationship.