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Full Access Wedding Culture in 1930s Shanghai: Consumerism, Ritual, and the Municipality

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Wedding Culture in 1930s Shanghai: Consumerism, Ritual, and the Municipality

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By the 1930s, a variety of forces were chipping away at the traditional Chinese wedding in urban centers like Shanghai. “New-style” weddings—with a bride in a white wedding dress—took place outside of the home and featured networks of friends, choice of one's spouse, autonomy from one's parents, and the promise of happiness and independence. With the publication of wedding portraits and detailed discussions of new-style wedding etiquette and its trappings, women's magazines further shaped the new-style bride as a consumer and an individual. Early reformers had envisioned the new-style ceremony as a streamlined and affordable alternative to traditional ceremonies, but for most city residents these weddings remained out of reach. After the Nationalist consolidation of power in 1928, Shanghai was deemed a crucial site for the promotion of ritual reform and economic restraint. Weddings were at the crux of this movement, which was buttressed by the Civil Code of 1931 allowing children to legally marry without parental consent. New Life Movement group weddings came next. These ceremonies co-opted urban wedding culture in an attempt to frame the new-style wedding as a ritual of politicized citizenship under the Nationalist government. The tension between the popular, commercial, new-style wedding and the Nationalists' Spartan political vision, as played out in the market, is examined below.


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