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May 21, 2014

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Couples pin marriage hopes on special date

LOCAL lovebirds lined up in long queues to get married yesterday because the date — May 20, 2014, or 5-2-0-1-4 — sounds like the words “I will love you for a lifetime” in Chinese.

Some 4,698 couples tied the knot across the city, 10 times the usual daily figure, according to the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau.

It was the second biggest registration day this year, after February 14, when Valentine’s Day coincided with the Lantern Festival, leading couples to believe the date would bring them double happiness.

It’s all a bit superstitious, of course, but why not dress up one of life’s most auspicious days with a bit of added significance?

The Pudong New Area and the districts of Changning, Putuo and Yangpu recorded the highest number of marriage registrations, with Pudong taking top honors as 852 couples said “I do.” In contrast, 231 couples got divorced in Shanghai yesterday.

The Huangpu District marriage registration office opened more than an hour early to handle the larger-than-expected crowds. The elevator was on the fritz, so the happy couples had to hike up four stories to register. Nothing took the smiles off their faces.

“There were already several couples waiting outside when we opened at 7am,” said Xu Jing, a marriage registrar at the center. “We were busy all day.”

Although registration officially means a couple is legally married, most marriages don’t being in earnest until a banquet for friends and family is held, usually months later.

He Liang, a bridegroom who came to the center in the afternoon, said his wife picked the date for their registration more than half a year ago.

“I listened to her because she has the final say all the time,” he said, with a jesting grin. “And today greeted us with the first nice weather in days.”

His wife smiled shyly beside him, looking tenderly at her new husband.

“We originally wanted to make a reservation for the morning, but the morning slots were fully booked,” He said.

Without a booking and after an hour’s Metro ride to the registration office, they had to wait their turn. But when you are in love, time stops anyway.

“We hope the date will bring us a lasting marriage,” He said.

Dressing down

Angela Zheng, a bride of the day, said she and her husband-to-be came to the center in the afternoon, hoping to avoid most of the crowds.

“I thought there would be a lot of people here today,” said Zheng, accompanied by her mother who was wearing a traditional cheongsam.

In fact, the few parents in evidence were generally better dressed than their offspring. Hardly any of the new brides were wearing anything red, the traditional wedding color in China. Most couples came dressed casually in jeans, with matching his and hers shirts.

“I think it is more comfortable to wear causal clothing, but that won’t be the case at our big wedding banquet,” Zheng said.

The big gap between registration and wedding banquets is common in China. Couples have to get an apartment before starting life together and then do all the interior decorating. Also, hotels and other venues for big banquets are often booked out a year in advance.

Many couples at the center yesterday had to move their registration a day earlier because all marriage centers in Shanghai will be closed today because of the regional Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia held in Shanghai.

“We originally picked May 21 because we wanted to avoid the more popular but crowded May 20, but we had to change our plans,” explained newlywed Chen Xihan.

“But, really, our happiness is the same no matter what day it is.”

At a marriage center in Pudong, nearly 100 couples were lined up outside when the doors opened at 9am.

One groom-to-be said he arrived at 4:15am to ensure a spot at the front of the queue.

“Every May 20 is a big wedding day," said Chen Zhanbiao, director of the marriage registration division of the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau.

The record number for marriage registrations was on October 10, 2010, when 10,150 couples tied the knot in Shanghai. The number 10-10-10 symbolizes perfection in everything in Chinese.


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