Chinese Wedding Photo
A Beijing couple poses for wedding photos. Reuters

There’s no doubt that weddings have created a multimillion dollar industry in most Western nations. In China, traditional wedding ceremonies costs paled in comparison to wedding in the West, but as the expectations of the middle class rise, so have the prices.

Increasingly exorbitant pre-wedding gifts, similar to dowries, have become a concern for Chinese men, who could be getting priced out of marriage.

According to a report in the China Youth Daily, the expectation for men to buy their prospective brides a luxurious gift has risen. Average pre-wedding gift costs can range anywhere from 100,000 yuan, or about $16,140, to 300,000 yuan ($48, 173), in wealthier cities.

However, even gifts at the lower end of the spectrum are still far too expensive for many Chinese, particularly those who live in poorer cities. A report by China News Service found that by accepted standards, most men in Pingliang and Qingyang, two cities located in northwestern Gansu province, can’t afford to get married. Official data shows that the average net annual income of local rural residents in 2012 was just 4,210 yuan or just $676.

This means that the average villager would have to save up for more than 23 years without making any other purchases in order to afford a gift in that price range.

A highly imbalanced gender ratio in China’s population has also contributed to the issue. It is estimated that 24 million Chinese men will be left without potential mates in China by 2020, and this is why gifts have become an increaslingly important part of attracting women.

With an increasing importance placed on pre-wedding gifts, men who cannot afford to woo brides with money of their own resort to taking out loans, digging themselves further into debt and poverty. Other families, the report says, just resign themselves to the fact that their sons will never be able to afford to marry.

See below for the kinds of things grooms are expected to buy in different areas of China:

Depending on where her family is from, anywhere from a million yuan, 8,888 yuan and nine cows, to absolutely nothing. Lisa Mahapatra