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Main Topic: The Business of a Chinese Wedding

Hosts: James Stanworth , Clyde Warden

Guest: Joe Cooperman

The Newlyweds
One of Joe's Wedding Photos
The Chinese marriage industry is a big part of life in Taiwan. Once you break through much of the glitz then it is very much transaction. Weddings are about opportunities for connection. Even more importantly it demonstrates face. More tables gives the host more face. So often after a wedding people will ask how many tables were at the wedding. This gives people a sense of face through the connection that is implied through the scale of the wedding. For a Westerner a big mind shift is to see the wedding less as a time to get friends and family together for a celebration party but more as a time to get family connections in the same space. The just married Joe Cooperman, from Canada, is a project lecturer at National Chung Hsing University. In this show he talks about his experience of his wedding in Taiwan.

A B&W nostalgia shot
Nostalgia and tradition
Westerns commonly attend Chinese wedding banquets, which not only give outsiders an inside view, but brings some face to the marriage couple--look we have foreigners here. Unless the couple has some religious membership, the banquet is the wedding. Banquets are all about face in a Chinese cultural settings. Connections are reinforced and circles of exchange are completed. As Joe points out, his in-laws thought it was about time they had others pay the red envelopes after having paid out for so long. Almost every part of the process includes outside businesses, such as the photo studios, the clothes, the hair. Joe describes his experience and the business context as a consumer, as well as his observation that the actual event doesn't center on the couple's "special moment." Chinese weddings, although very colorful, tend to be very bland, with the bride and groom walking about, the bride changing clothes a number of times, guests eating until they burst along with some drinking. Speakers can talk about things that seem totally unrelated to the couple being married, but they always emphasize their own importance, such as politicians, businesspeople, etc. The romantic side is almost completely replaced by a more business oriented approach, and when it is over, the meal is done, everyone just leaves! Sit too long and you will get kicked out as the room is cleaned up around you.

Chinese SMB retailers tend to group together, even when selling the exact same product. The last group of photos below show how the wedding shops are not ony near each other, but right next to each other. This seems crazy from the perspective of differentiation, but it is great for consumer convenience!

The wedding is really about face and connection. It is a transaction.

The Show:

Length: 1 hour 22 minutes. Download MP3 38.77MB (Right click->Save As).


Consumer CamConsumerCam:

Vid. 1) Cars.
Vid. 2) Ending.

Show Links:

Bottom Line:

  • Weddings are often judged as profitable business opportunities--the cash in the red envelopes.
  • Numbers mean a lot--number of tables, number of cash, number of clothes changes, etc.
  • Outdoor weddings are very rare (although eating can be under a tent, normally at night).
  • There is little excess consumption of alcohol so open drunkenness is not normal.
  • Wedding photos even go on business cards for distribution during the wedding.
  • Auspicious days mean that many weddings all happen on the same day.
  • Chinese weddings are more of a formal show, a show of face, or a show of pageantry, but not very much a show of fun.
  • The brides make-up is heavy and has an over-the-top feeling.
  • When the show is over and eating almost done, everyone moves out quickly.
Category: Podcasts

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