A Chinese county will restrict extravagant spending on wedding gifts, highlighting the transactional nature of marriage in a country where a scarcity of brides is intensifying traditional dowry practices.
Communist party officials in Taiqian, in central China’s Henan province, have issued an action plan on “transforming social traditions” and “building a virtuous Taiqian”.
Draft rules aim to cap the value of a single wedding gift at Rmb60,000 ($8,600) and forbid the gifting of houses and cars. Wedding banquets will be limited to fewer than 10 tables.
Li Hongwei, vice-director of Taiqian’s Office of the Spirit of Civilised Culture Committee, told the Henan Business Daily that some elderly families of modest means had “lost the family fortune” on weddings.
“Some families of means want to give their child a nicer wedding. They give expensive gifts and it gives face to their family,” he said. “Many families don’t have these resources, so they fall into poverty. Those of modest means actually need to borrow money to take a daughter-in-law.”
Officials say the draft rules are aimed at protecting poor, elderly residents from depleting their savings and taking on debt to pay for betrothal gifts for their children. They specifically forbid “using weddings to demand property”. Taiqian’s per-capita gross domestic product was Rmb26,146 in 2014, according to the latest official figures, well below the national figure of Rmb47,203.
The rules call for party officials to restrict ceremonies that do not obey the gifting guidelines. Punishments can include public shaming and collective boycotts of extravagant events.
The county is also establishing a Joy and Grief Board of Supervisors — which already exist in other rural villages — to enforce the measures.