Wedding ceremonies turn a new page for China's brick-and-mortar bookstores

Updated 2018-03-28 17:22:03 Xinhua

Chinese brick-and-mortar bookstores are resorting to holding weddings to try to win back business increasingly taken away by e-commerce.

On Sunday, a wedding was held in Gogol Bookshop in Harbin, capital of northeast China's Heilongjiang Province.

"We did not plan to hold a wedding ceremony at first," said the newly-wed Li Xiaoyu. "But we have always loved reading books and visiting bookstores, and we thought a wedding in a bookstore would be a cool idea."

In contrast to traditional hotel weddings with a variety of dishes for large groups of people, bookstore weddings are more intimate and provide guests with books and other related products.

"We usually prepare a red carpet with love poems printed on it," said Yu Bing, executive general manager of Gogol Bookshop. "We also prepare gifts for the guests, like books, bookmarks, and postcards, all specially designed with a specific theme for each wedding."

On Sunday, the bookshop was decorated with chandeliers and flowers in front of the shelves. Pictures of the couple were hung on the walls.

The couple also wrote their stories about love and life experiences in a book, and copies were handed out to the guests.

"In the middle of the ceremony, each of our guests was asked to take out the bookmark out of the book, and read the famous poem on the back of it," Li said. "They then shared their understanding of the lines and gave their blessings to us."

The ceremony was "the most unforgettable and unique wedding ever," according to the couple's friends and relatives.

Since 2014, 35 couples have held their wedding ceremonies in the bookshop, Yu said.

Similar bookstore weddings have been held in cities like Guangzhou, Foshan, and Chongqing.

"Unlike big hotels, the bookshop is quite small, so the number of guests is limited," Yu said. "Only the couple's closest relatives and friends can be invited."

The state-owned Gogol Bookshop has been battling to win back customers in the digital age, when many customers choose to read e-books instead of going to brick-and-mortar bookstores, according to Yu.

Brick-and-mortar bookstores across China are all struggling. In 2010, Disanji Bookstore, one of the country's biggest, closed due to heavy losses. A year later, O2 Sun Bookstore, China's biggest private chain of bookstores at the time, also shut down.

According to a survey by the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce, from 2004 to 2014, about half of private bookstores in China closed.

"A lot of people say that the rise of e-commerce means the demise of bookstores like ours, but we have been trying to find ways to revive our business," Yu said. "I think hosting weddings is a great idea, because it caters to young people, who pursue simplicity and personality in life."

Yu said that each time she sees a couple tying the knot in the bookshop, she feels "very, very happy for them."

"Seeing them getting married gives me a sense of achievement," Yu said. "It feels like I am doing something for the society."

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