Chinese College Graduates Wear Wedding Dresses To Celebrate

July 2, 2014 | Sophie Weiner

In a post which includes a clip of the classic “Graduation Song” by Vitamin C (shout out 1999), the Wall Street Journal discusses a new trend of Chinese women wearing wedding dresses to their college graduation. “The wedding dress makes things feel more meaningful,” one student the WSJ talked to explained. A knee jerk reaction would assume that these girls have been drawn in by the wedding industrial complex of burgeoning middle class Chinese culture (and that might be true, to a degree), but it seems that these women are more into the way these dresses make them look and feel than their traditional meaning. Some girls even have photo shoots called “guimi” with only other female friends in wedding dresses, as a sign of their friendship.

The dresses are also rented, unlike “real” wedding dresses, so the financial commitment is minimal. And unlike American graduation ceremonies, these celebrations have been pretty low key in China thus far. “Graduation ceremonies here don’t typically line up big-name speakers, and parents rarely attend.” the Wall Street Journal wrote, “In the absence of ingrained customs, new, individualized rituals are being grafted onto drier, more perfunctory Chinese graduation festivities.” Or, there’s this depressing explanation:

The photo shoot has become one of those rituals, as graduates compete to express themselves playfully. Some have dressed up as pirates, while others have taken graduation photos dressed in Qing dynasty attire, or wearing hard hats and carrying tools. With stiff competition awaiting grads in the job market, Lu Xiaowen, deputy director of the Institute of Sociology at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, says they are enjoying a last burst of freedom and creativity.

The wedding dress “represents that our youth is fading,” said Zhang Xuehui, a 24-year-old senior at Northeast Forestry University in the city of Harbin.

Marriage is on the rise in China, up 1.6% in 2013 from the year before, although many are getting married later. But divorce is also on the rise, up 8% in 2012. But these statistics don’t seem to explain much about this trend. Despite our desire to make this into a larger social lesson, it seems like these women just want to wear a goddamn wedding dress. (Photo: Hou Qing)