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MASKLESS MARRIAGES. Attendees take photos as bride Chen Yaxuan and groom Dou Di walk onto the stage during their wedding banquet held in Beijing on December 12, 2020. While Zoom weddings may have become a new trend elsewhere, couples in China are feeling some, if not a total, sense of normalcy nearly a year into the pandemic. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

From The Asian Reporter, V31, #1 (January 4, 2021), page 2.

Tying the knot without a face mask in China

By Ng Han Guan

The Associated Press

BEIJING — Lovebirds in China are embracing a sense of normalcy as the COVID pandemic appears to be under control in the country where it was first detected.

Chen Yaxuan and Dou Di exchanged vows in front of more than 500 guests in an unmasked wedding on December 12 — a day called "double twelve" and considered auspicious timing.

Servers wore masks, but guests were not required to. They just had to show a green health code, showing they had only been in low-risk areas and not tested positive in the previous 14 days.

Nearly a year into the pandemic, most people feel the situation is under control if not back to normal. The National Health Commission reported just 27 new cases on December 28, a dramatic decrease from China’s peak.

The first half of 2020 was a nightmare for the multibillion-dollar wedding industry. Many couples were forced to postpone their nuptials after large gatherings and events were banned.

It wasn’t until late April that a turning point appeared.

Those who had to push back their weddings helped revitalize the industry when restrictions were lifted, keeping the shrinkage of the market below 6% in 2020, according to Zhang Yi, CEO and chief analyst of iiMedia Research, an industry analysis firm in Guangzhou in southern China.

Ning Jingyu, the wedding planner for Chen and Dou, believes the future is bright. Her studio has organized 33 weddings in the second half of 2020, down 50% from the same period the previous year.

"The business is not as good as it was the same time last year, but I think it’s on an uptrend, considering the amount of consultancy and clients’ demand for weddings," she said.

On a recent morning, at least seven couples showed up for photo shoots near the Forbidden City, a historic area in Beijing popular for wedding photos, even in freezing temperatures.

They included Dong Yangfeng and Wang Sai, both 27 years old. The computer science professionals had to cancel their original wedding plans because of the pandemic.

Worried that the pandemic might return, they decided to hold their nuptials as soon as possible. Dong said though, that what their wedding will look like depends on the frequently changing virus rules.

"If the national policies allow, we surely want to have a nice wedding," he said. "But if the policies don’t allow or if there’s a reemergence of the pandemic, we’ll make it simple."

Associated Press news assistant Caroline Chen contributed to this report.

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