Migration from rural areas to cities and an imbalance between the sexes has left the cost of marriage unaffordable for some country families, China Youth Daily (CYD) reported.
Betrothal gifts are a tradition deeply rooted in Chinese culture and have long existed in the country, especially in rural areas.
The Social Survey Center of CYD recently questioned 2,000 people on bride price. About 50.6 percent of them were male while the majority were born in 1980-1989, accounting for 52.2 percent.
Most parts of China hold the tradition of the bridegroom giving betrothal gifts to the bride's family. The average starting price is 69,416 yuan ($10,044) across the country.
Shanxi province tops the provincial ranking with 103,466 yuan, followed by Zhejiang province with 98,511 yuan and Tianjin municipality with 97,162 yuan.
Besides betrothal gifts, more than half of women think men should buy a house, car and pay for house decorations on their own. Only 35 percent of women are willing to share the cost of household appliances, furniture and house decorations.
The investigation showed that 88.3 percent of interviewees think the cost of marriage is too high to afford in rural areas across China. Among which, 70.8 percent believe it is necessary to change customs surrounding weddings and funerals.
"In the marriage market, men from poor families are in disadvantageous positions and have a weaker ability to bargain with bridal families," said Niu Yang, a rural government researcher in Shanxi Province.
The survey said that 92.8 percent of respondents thought the cost of weddings in rural areas is higher than in cities. Whilst, 91.5 percent of male interviewees thought betrothal gifts are too expensive in countrysides, where the per capita income is much lower than in big cities.
In addition, 79.3 percent of interviewees thought the reason for the high cost of marriage in rural areas is the demographic imbalance that results in expensive dowries and an extravagant spending atmosphere.
According to Chinese custom, after engagement, a man or his family usually offers the woman's parents a moderate amount of money or gifts as a tribute for bringing up their daughter.
Bride price, as such, is a token of appreciation to the woman's parents for gifting their daughter in marriage, and there never was a threshold for the amount to be paid. It basically depended on the would-be bridegroom's or his family's social and economic status.
But this tradition has changed and bride price has become more like a commercial transaction, as some would-be brides' parents ask for exorbitant amounts of money and such precious gifts as Caili.
The survey indicated that most people are actually reluctant to spend large sums of money on weddings. They throw large parties only because they don't want other villagers to look down on them.
Indeed, 70.8 percent of respondents said they are willing to start this change from themselves and their own families as long as the government also helps, and 12.9 percent said the government has not previously done a satisfactory job addressing the problem.
A county in Henan Province issued a guideline in 2016 on arranging weddings and funerals, in which it stated that the total amount of money a man gives his fiancee's family should not exceed 60,000 yuan ($8,645).
The guideline also said that a wedding banquet should serve no more than 10 tables of guests and the total number of vehicles used should be six or fewer. Those who don't follow the rules will be punished, according to the guideline.
Touching on the guideline, over half of respondents thought a uniform standard helps to form a healthier marriage custom, break through traditional boundaries and relieve rural families' burden to some extent.
The families of fiancees generally ask for larger betrothal gifts as a way of showing off among fellow villagers and partly because of the unbalanced sex ratio, which has brought placed a lot of pressure on families of bridegrooms-to-be.
Setting a guideline will promote a new attitude toward weddings by simplifying premarital proceedings and marriage ceremonies in the country.
Expectations for betrothal gifts should be based on public opinion. The local government should advocate a new way of planning weddings that includes simple engagements, more modest betrothal gifts and less peer pressure between neighbors, investigators said.
(Source: China Women's News/Translated and edited by Women of China)