Hitch over wedding license photo in hanfu

A woman surnamed Tang from Wuxi City in east China’s Jiangsu Province was recently denied permission to register her marriage using a photo of her and her husband wearing hanfu, a traditional form of clothing, sparking debate online, The Paper reported on Wednesday.

Tang, a hanfu enthusiast, said she had seen online examples of couples in other cities who had successfully registered their marriage licenses using a similar type of photo, so she and her husband took a photo wearing the traditional garb; the size, and background of which were in line with the marriage registration regulations.

Tang said that although the civil affairs bureau staff kindly explained to her why she could not register, what she couldn’t accept was the reason: “The cloth was like an opera costume.”

The hanfu, the traditional clothing for Han Chinese, an ethnic group that makes up more than 90 percent of the population, has seen a resurgence in recent years. Mainly favored by young people, it isn’t only popular, but has also gained widespread acceptance as daily attire.

The civil affairs bureau staff said there was no precedent in Wuxi City before, so they could not agree with Tang’s request. The staff also explained that the previous expression of “opera costume” is not accurate, and it is understandable for her to bring personality to her photo. Whether hanfu photos will be recognized in the marriage register in the future still needs to be studied.

Netizens have had mixed reactions. According to some, the item is a traditional Chinese costume, and a well-sized photo of the newlyweds in hanfu can obviously be used for registration. But others believe the marriage certificate is mostly used for formal occasions as proof, and therefore the clothes should not be too distinctive. Some netizens also suggested Tang replace her hanfu with a simple and light colored one that stands out from the red background.

The Paper also consulted a lawyer about the issue. Xing Xin, a senior partner and lawyer at Hunan King Zone Lawyer Office, told The Paper that a marriage license is a legal document proving that a marriage is legal and valid, and the photos used on the marriage license should be rigorous, authentic, and not affect the identification process.

But he said, the regulations issued by the civil affairs department do not have specific provisions to explicitly reject hanfu photos. Under the condition of not violating the public order and good customs, the marriage registration authorities should not adopt a one-size-fits-all approach to the dress of registering photos.

Xing suggested that on the premise of not affecting the identification function of the photos, it can be considered to properly meet the individual needs of registrants.


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