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'Appy Ever After

With the bespoke and novel a priority for betrothed couples on the Chinese mainland, smartphone wedding apps, drone photography and 3D-printed trinkets have become regular features of weddings there. Much of this innovation is driven by the growth of celebrity culture in the country, and young couples keen to follow the matrimonial example of music and TV stars.

The range of new wedding products and services on the market is immense. Brides and grooms now have the option of enhancing their big day not only with items made by printers or aerial images – but also gimmicks such as holographic projection, creative video production, personalised wedding gifts and themed weddings, which many companies now offer.

According to the China Wedding Industry Development Report, which analysed four components of the matrimonial process – planning, photography, clothing and wedding banquets – total spending on mainland weddings exceeded Rmb480.2 billion in 2015, with couples typically forking out an average of Rmb76,141.

Hi-tech Nuptials

Mini-matrimony: a 3D-printed bride
Mini-matrimony: a 3D-printed bride model

In an example of taking wedding novelty to the extreme, one 3D-printed wedding in Zhejiang became a huge Internet hit. The event used 3D printing to create wedding decorations, including artificial flowers, wedding candies, rings and even a life-size replica of the bride.

The popularity of 3D printing is highlighted by the number of 3D printing vendors on Taobao, the mainland's largest e-commerce platform, which hosts 5,701 virtual 3D printing providers. The monthly sales volume of the highest-ranking 3D printing services supplier is Rmb441,000, with sales for the majority of such providers exceeding Rmb300,000. By 2020, the global 3D printing sector is forecast to be worth more than Rmb200 billion.

3D printing, however, doesn’t come cheap. According to one 3D modeling and design specialist, the most expensive part of the process is the modeling and design component. In particular, an extremely high degree of precision is required when creating a 3D model of an individual. At present, the design fee for rendering a 3D 10-centimetre figure is somewhere between Rmb2,000 and Rmb5,000. The design fee for other projects depends on the degree of complexity involved. The design fee for a lipstick, for example, is about Rmb500, while a heart-shaped candy can be delivered for Rmb100.

Another innovation rapidly gaining popularity is drone photography, which allows camera operators to capture an aerial view of an entire wedding. One mainland wedding planner now offers drone photography as a standard option for wedding couples. A Beijing electronics retailer says the number of drone-related inquiries he handles has never been higher, and he sells about five units each day.

The high-street price for a drone is between Rmb3,000 to Rmb9,000. Online, there are now at least 8,000 mainland vendors, with several specialist outlets offering bespoke drones said to be uniquely suited to wedding photography.

Customised Wedding

Groom at the top: aerial drone photography
Groom at the top: aerial drone photography

Many wedding-related products and services, including event planning and gift provision, are taking an increasingly personalised and customised approach. Football-mad couples, for instance, may opt for a wedding theme that celebrates the sport.

Other popular themes on the mainland include Hello Kitty, The Legend of Miyue, “jungle style” and a piano motif. In each case, all of the related products and services would be custom-designed to fit an overall theme.

The production of creative videos is another area where clear business opportunities are emerging. One production company, for instance, offers custom-made sand painting videos to recreate a look back at a couple’s courtship history that can be played at the wedding and shared online.

Smartphone-facilitated wedding planning
Smartphone-facilitated wedding planning

Hand-drawn animated videos are also in high demand, with options including animated movie stars offering best wishes to the newlyweds, or cute animated Korean characters and hand-drawn messages thanking the parents of the bride and groom.

Many relatives and friends also favour giving personalised wedding gifts. One post-1990s generation professional ordered a pair of custom-made clay figurines for a friend who was getting married. Based on her friend's wedding photography, the realistic-looking figurines ordered online cost just Rmb300 to Rmb500. Other custom-made art works available include wood carvings, sand paintings, coloured pencil sketches and puzzles.

DIY wedding gifts are also popular, allowing wedding guests to create homemade porcelain tableware, as well as cookie moulds featuring hand-drawn cartoon representations of the bride and groom. Red-wine bottles and glasses engraved with the couple's names are another widely adopted alternative.

Wedding Apps

We invite WeChat-style
Wedding invitation WeChat-style

Electronic messages have become the most popular form of wedding invitation. Unlike traditional cards, e-wedding invitations are sent out by simply clicking on a mobile device, while guests can use the same process to reply. The engaged couple can monitor the number of attendees, while avoiding the hassle of having to deliver individual card invitations to each guest.

A number of dedicated smartphone apps can streamline the production of e-wedding invitation cards. Unsurprisingly, an increasing number of such apps are downloaded every day.

There are now at least 10 dedicated wedding apps – most notably daoxila and hunliji – that offer a one-stop wedding service. These apps allow users to instantly compare the capabilities and prices among suppliers. They also offer to place direct orders for a range of wedding services, including wedding cars, hotels, wedding planning, photography, honeymoon travel, emceeing and make-up artists.

Many of the apps come with built-in wedding assistant functions, such as for budget management and other nuptial arrangements, allowing for easy budget management and tracking of wedding preparations. Several also offer more advanced facilities, such as a “WeChat wall” for guests to sign in, advice on the most auspicious wedding dates, and to track of the amount of cash received as gifts. As with zhihu, the mainland's largest online Q&A forum, several wedding apps are also home to consultant communities specialising in wedding-related issues. These allow users to share their wedding preparation tips and preparation status in real time.

For more China market opportunities, please visit: http://research.hktdc.com.

Content provided by Hong Kong Trade Development Council
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