Please introduce yourself and Chariot.
My name is Jon Santangelo, and my partner and I launched The Chariot Company (Chariot) last year. We’re based out of Shenzhen and have an onsite presence in the Philippines. Our business model combines local expertise with Chinese and international professionalism. We aim to be a forerunner in this emerging industry, arranging elegant, tropical destination weddings for Chinese and other overseas travelers.
Why do Chinese customers want an overseas wedding?
A destination wedding overseas is a convenient option couples can choose to escape the usual pressures of holding a wedding in their hometown. By choosing a destination wedding, brides and grooms can avoid inviting extraneous guests, incurring over-the-top expenditures, and keep their special day close and intimate. I suppose the mentality is: not many can afford a lavish wedding overseas, so if you're able, why not enjoy and splurge? One prevalent reason is the concept of “face”, or the desire to better or uphold one's reputation. Along with a perceived higher level of status, having a destination wedding is novel, and photos of the beautiful event will stand out on newsfeeds.
How do Chinese customers choose an overseas wedding company (factors that
influence their decision)?
After the initial, more obvious factors such as safety, reputation, and attitudes towards the destination - time, feasibility, and costs are the secondary deciding factors. Clients have to consider the ease of transit (length of flight and how many layovers) for their invited guests to attend, as well as whether time permits for such lengthy travel. This is why the Chinese holidays are an ideal time for many weddings.
The total cost for accommodation is also a deciding factor. Customers then seek out a wedding specialist with overseas wedding capability. Generally for wedding planners, having an online presence is imperative for visibility, but building a good reputation via word of mouth is essential as well.
Destination wedding seekers sometimes begin with a general destination in mind. Initially, they decide which region, country, or city they want to have the wedding in, and then they hone in on an exact destination or venue within that area. Others know exactly where they want their wedding and are ready to hire a wedding company to take care of all the details.
If a smaller group, some may ask travel agents with backgrounds in a specific area for referrals, but rarely will larger or more extravagant parties rely on a travel agent for such advice.
How much are they willing to spend on overseas photography / wedding?
The preliminary cost of an overseas destination wedding and prenuptial
photography package is roughly 40,000RMB, depending on the location and size of
the party. This price reflects a two-person party (the marrying couple) only.
This is excluding flights, accommodation, and additional travel expenditures.
On the higher end, we’ve had inquiries with a budget of 1 million RMB to rent
out an entire private island. Ultimately, the largest wedding spenders will have
no set budget limit.
What makes a perfect overseas wedding for Chinese customers?
Aside from a smoothly executed wedding, it's the picturesque and heartfelt
moments captured on video and in pictures that carry the most value. Chinese
customers are particular about the results of their wedding photography,
focusing on the quality and editing. The videography has to reflect the high
standards of any Western/internationally produced wedding video.
Could you share with us some secret tips to pleasantly surprise Chinese
Above all, the best way to pleasantly surprise a client is by providing exceptional services, surpassing expectations, and going above and beyond to ensure the wedding experience is a success. For example, a recent client had a Chinese New Year wedding in Boracay. Before the ceremony, we changed the setup and ceremony colors so that all decor perfectly complimented each other. During the ceremony, we tended to every guest, not just the couple. After, we made certain that the work of the photographer and videographer didn’t just meet expectations but wowed the couple.
Most people splurge on only one wedding ceremony, so we have to be sure our partners are just as invested as we are in successfully planning and executing the wedding and every aspect of the couple’s experience. In the events business,
your reputation for delivering the best experience is everything. We look for
partners who understand this and will go the extra mile for every destination
wedding we plan.
What are the popular wedding destinations for Chinese customers (Boracay,Bohol is and what else)?
Bohol is not so recognized yet, but we hope to change that. In the Philippines, Boracay is the most popular due to its reputation and familiarity. The Philippines’ Boracay, Bohol, and Palawan islands have potential to serve as alternatives to nearby competing destinations Bali and Thailand, which are considered the pinnacle of destinations for tropical weddings. The Maldives has a small but consistent market share in weddings and honeymoons, and Hawaii is a highly regarded honeymoon destination.
Although islands like Boracay and Palawan may not differentiate themselves much in terms of air travel expense, they lead in overall value when you consider the cost of accommodation, sightseeing, and activities as one collective purchase when compared to Bali and Thailand. Outside of the Philippines, we are considering adding programs in Hawaii and possibly a few other destinations in Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
What changes / trends do you observe in overseas wedding?
Intimate, two to ten person wedding groups are on the rise. Special events, like travel adventure prenuptial photography, are popular. Most notably, combining the photography and wedding in one trip is preferred amongst couples. Recently, a client of ours arranged an impeccable marriage proposal, complete with thousands of lights, fireworks, and a live band. The trend of millennial and overall consumer spending on travel experiences rather than goods is worldwide and correlates with Chinese consumers. Most of our Chinese clients and inquiries are coming from millennials.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with us?
Thailand leads the industry in destination weddings and its tourism department is actively investing in marketing themselves as a wedding destination. This has proven to be positively influential, especially with Indian consumers. (source)
Hopefully, other countries suited for destination weddings will do the same and direct special attention to the Chinese market.