How many newlywed couples did you see in Santorini today? And if you had to guess how many weddings take place on the island annually, what would the number be? A few thousand, surely? Yet, figures show that just 900 marriages were registered in 2015, bringing in revenues of €76,350 to the municipal authority. In fact, in the four-year period from 2011, there were no more than 4,000 nuptials. Another interesting fact is that 80 percent of the couples who exchanges vows in 2015 were British, with the remainder being mainly Russians and Greeks. So, how do we account for so many reports suggesting a Chinese wedding boom?
Santorini has a reputation as the perfect romantic setting for a wedding and the overwhelming majority of Chinese wedding visitors come here mainly for the show: to take photographs and shoot a video (which may include as many as three cameras and drones, depending on budget) that they can show guests at the wedding proper back home. Having already traveled halfway around the world, they usually continue on their “wedding” trip to London, Paris or Milan.
Most of these “weddings” are arranged by Chinese agencies that offer – for a fee in the €1,000 range – a photographer and make-up artist, as well as a choice between four or five bridal gowns and suits, which are usually reused. They also touch up the photographs so that the bride appears with a more oval face and rounder eyes – a new fad, apparently. The poses are rehearsed and the usual three- or four-day visit is stretched out to include a stay at as many as three different hotels. The photo shoots invariably include a caldera view, but may also be in more unusual spots such as a field, a beach or even a cemetery.
Some Chinese firms have opened shop on Santorini, but resistance is growing from local photographers who claim the Chinese crews are not licensed to work in Greece.
The “wedding industry” has certainly brought in money and helped extend the tourism season, but the prevailing feeling is that it has not been to the full benefit of the island. There is plenty of room for the municipal registry office to bring in more revenue, for local professionals to become more competitive in their services and for wedding celebrations with hundreds of guests to become a more regular occurrence.
“The “wedding industry” has certainly brought in money and helped extend the tourism season, but the prevailing feeling is that it has not been to the full benefit of the island.”