Opinion / Blog

Unload the 'sweet burden' of marriage costs

By leixiangping ( Updated: 2015-05-12 17:07

A wedding should be the happiest moment in a person’s life. However, the skyrocketing expenses of married life have forced many young Chinese to shy away from marriage, which is increasingly becoming a “sweet burden.”

Recently, a sarcastic saying went viral on the Internet, which says that “it took grandpa’s generation half bucket of rice to marry our grandmas and father’s generation half a pig to marry our mothers, but for those born after 1980, getting married nearly means taking everything a family has.” The saying shows a cruel reality: the cost of being married has become too high to bear.

Nowadays, if a young man wants to get married, there are many purchases that people consider indispensable: an apartment and a car, a wedding ceremony and banquet, jewelry and rings, a honeymoon and giving red envelopes to parents-in-law. Thanks to young people’s humble incomes and limited savings, most of them feel stressed when it comes to marriage.

A Shenzhen-based consulting firm recently published a list of marriage costs in China’s first-tier cities, which shows people in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen pay at least 3.1 million yuan (US$499,000), 2.6 million yuan, and 2.5 million yuan, respectively, to get married — or 20 years’ average annual income in these cities. Meanwhile, marriage costs in smaller cities are also high relative to lower incomes.

In tackling the marriage cost, young people usually have three options: depend on their parents, get married “naked” without incurring most of these expenditures or not get married.

Few young people can get married without their parents’ help, and because traditional Chinese value setting up a family as one of the most important things young people can achieve, parents are willing to give all that they have to help their children. According to an online survey, nearly 50 percent of newly married people had their parents pay 20-60 percent of the marriage expenditures, and 14 percent of newlyweds had their parents pay 80-100 percent of the expenditures.

Early this month, two of my friends got married “naked,” paying only 9 yuan to get a marriage license. Both were born in rural areas, and the newly married couple said that the burden of saving for a down payment to buy a house in Beijing and supporting their ageing parents was so heavy that they would rather simplify their marriage. Their choice reflects a common phenomenon: more people are accepting “naked” marriages. According to a 2014 survey by a leading career platform, 55.3 percent of people aged between 26 and 30 would accept a “naked” marriage without a home.

One hyperbolic saying says that Chinese people’s marriage costs have increased 1,000 fold. The skyrocketing cost has diluted the sweetness of marriage, overburdened young people, so some of them are choosing not to marry. Let’s imagine what the country would be like if millions of single people remain unmarried.

As one psychologist suggested, marriage today has been “kidnapped” by outside conditions like money and possessions, and many people have forgotten what the essence of a marriage is. Society should give more support to young people — marriage eligibility should not rely on economic success. Also, young people should have a reasonable view of marriage — not every married couple needs a car and house. Everyone should get married in the fashion that fits his or her lifestyle.

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