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By David W. Chen Oct. The S Mercedes-Benz escort. The banquet for friends, relatives and business associates at the best seafood restaurant -- and, as an unexpected bonus, the splashy backdrop of a nearby skyscraper crowned by a miniature rooftop replica of the Eiffel Tower.
Instead, she was talking about a popular new phenomenon for middle-class newlyweds here: a one-stop wedding shopping center that takes care of the photos, the makeup, the flowers, the catering and just about everything else. Less than a generation ago, most weddings in China were private and low-key, more city hall than banquet hall. Most couples wore everyday clothes, dined modestly in their own homes and resisted any flair, fretful that the authorities could accuse them of being ostentatious, wasteful or politically bankrupt.
These days, though, more people in China dream of spectacular and highly personal ceremonies. But because so few people have any experience with events of this kind, thousands of families have gladly ceded personal control over the biggest day in their lives to one-stop wedding centers.
Such centers first popped up a few years ago in Beijing and Shanghai. Less than two years ago, the idea also took root here in Guizhou Province, the country's poorest, creating even more of an obvious status divide between the privileged and the masses. Spanning three floors, the business is the brainchild of Wang Jun, a year-old entrepreneur. He grew up here, then got the idea after living in Shanghai for a few years, and founding a successful cosmetics business.
The place has the feel of a small indoor bazaar. In one room, a couple could be talking about making a personalized video. In the next, a bride could be trying on gowns. Elsewhere, a groom might try on some suits, or get a haircut, or simply absorb some friendly advice on wedding style. Wang is a dynamo. He is always on the phone, always cutting deals with hotels and other businesses. Soon, he says, he will add honeymoon planning to the options. But Mr. Wang says that his business has also accommodated older couples who want to ''make up for the ceremony they never had.