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August 14, 2013

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Bringing star-crossed lovers down to earth

For 27-year-old Guo Tingting, who has worked as a marriage registrar in the city for six years, Qixi — Chinese Valentine’s Day — is among her busiest days of the year.

But Guo’s not always sure it’s a good idea for lovebirds to pick a special date to tie the knot.

“Some are impulsive couples who say ‘I do’ before thinking clearly, which is risky,” Guo said yesterday, eyeing the queue outside the Yangpu District Marriage Registration Center just before the afternoon session started.

A total of 1,007 couples tied the knot across the city yesterday, fewer than previous Qixi and Valentine’s Day or dates with auspicious meanings.

However, the figure was two and a half times the figure on an average day in Shanghai, when around 400 couples wed.

Some couples who picked the date despite the summer heat joked that it is pronounced like bu yao san in Chinese, meaning “never apart.”

Guo offered advice to couples tempted to take their vows on an auspicious or popular date.

“If there is love, then every day is Valentine’s Day,” she said. ”Promises should only be made when the relationship is mature and stable.” 

She recalled a young couple who obtained their marriage certificate on January 4 this year, but after a month the groom’s parents returned to discuss a divorce.

The young couple was dazzled by the auspicious date — in Chinese, 201314 sounds like “love you for life” — and decided on impulse to wed, Guo said. 

But afterwards, the husband asked for a divorce, saying they hadn’t known enough about each other before they wed. His wife refused, leading to a standoff that may come to court, Guo said.

Guo, who herself said “I do” at the center last October, said she likes the job.

“The work is sort of mechanical, but I’m still passionate about it as I meet different people every day,” she said.

She recalled a middle-aged couple, one a divorcee, the other widowed, who hosted a small ceremony after drawing their marriage certificate at the center.

“They exchanged vows solemnly, and the woman was in tears, which left a deep impression on me,” she said.

Guo said couples were very casual in the past, some even wearing slippers and pajamas when visiting the center at its previous location.

Now they dress more formally for the occasion, she said.

While the job has many happy and touching moments, there are difficult moments too.

Guo said some people behave rudely, even throwing things when told that they cannot get a certificate.

And sometimes, couples are unhappy with the computer-generated number on their marriage certificates — such as 444, which means “die” in Chinese — Guo said. 

“At first, I felt sad, but now I’m used to it,” she said.

Guo’s colleague, 25-year-old Xu Renfei, is the only man in marriage registration at the center.  “Sometimes, I don’t even want to talk after work because I talk the whole day,” he said.

The center received 62 couples yesterday, about double its normal figure.

“We first thought about applying for our marriage certificate just a few days ago and chose today because it’s Qixi,” said newlywed groom Zhang Haotian who was with his bride Huang Zhaofang dressed in red for the occasion.

“We hope we can live a steady life together,” added Zhang.



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