Getting Hitched in Beijing? Try to Look the Part, Please


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A couple kissing at a marriage registry office in Beijing on Valentine’s Day.

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Rolex Dela Pena/European Pressphoto Agency

Beijing can be a pretty informal place. People walk outside in their pajamas, and when it’s hot some men lift up their shirts to expose their bellies. Even President Xi Jinping dresses down, usually in his trademark dark windbreaker.

The authorities have determined that one place in China’s capital has gotten far too casual: the marriage registration office.

“Some people wear sleeveless shirts and shorts, or slippers, to register their marriages,” Han Mingxi, head of the wedding registry office for the Beijing Civil Affairs Bureau, told Beijing Daily, the official newspaper of the city’s Communist Party committee. “You see them and can immediately tell their attitude toward the marriage registry is too casual. This can easily create all sorts of problems.”

China has seen an increasing divorce rate in recent years, a phenomenon that has been especially pronounced in Beijing. While the number of couples marrying each year from 2011 to 2014 remained constant around 170,000, the number divorcing over those years climbed to 56,000 from 33,000, according to the Beijing Civil Affairs Bureau.

As part of new rules going into effect on July 1, wedding registry officials will elevate the sense of ceremonial formality, Mr. Han told Beijing Daily. But unlike bouncers at an exclusive nightclub, registry officials won’t be able to turn away slovenly dressed couples. The new rules will not allow people to be blocked from having their marriages registered, Mr. Han said, but rather will call for officials to make suggestions about appropriate attire.

A column on Nanfangwang, an online news outlet affiliated with the government of Guangdong Province, expressed support for the new rules. Although it acknowledged that some people might consider suggestions on wedding registration attire an example of regulatory overreach, it predicted that the proposal would have a positive effect on marriages.

“Of course, strengthening and advancing newlyweds’ understanding of marriage isn’t something that must be done,” the column said. “But if all newlyweds would treat the marriage registry with importance and pay attention to ceremony, then it would definitely help these newlyweds have a sense of the value and importance of marriage.”

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