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CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION

1.1 Background

Wedding is once-a-life event in people's life. For most of families, they are willing to spend a considerable amount of money to ensure the wedding is organized as perfect as possible. According to Howard (2006), wedding today is a $70 billion business in U.S., and the average cost of wedding is $26,000 per couples. As a spinoff the larger discipline of event management, the business of wedding planning will provide business to a broad array of supporting industries, such as hotels, retails, and catering service.

Comparing with the other personal events, such as birthday, anniversaries, wedding is more complicated, because it involves friends and families and a range of related service activities covering from catering to entertainments (Shone & Parry, 2004). In order to make sure everything goes smoothly in the wedding day, most of the prospective couples would like to plan the wedding in sometimes year in advance. Both brides and grooms put much effort into the wedding preparation including the venue selection, honeymoon booking and dress design etc. However, not all of them have enough time and energy and knowledge in wedding planning to arrange everything themselves. They need someone to assist them in wedding planning, budget preparation, planning detail checklists, venue arrangement as well as onsite supervision and coordination on the wedding day. Wedding planners, the professional dealing with all the details of wedding, provide a one-stop service to potential couples by charging some considerable consultant fee (Wikipedia org, 2009). The role of the wedding planners is to save time, look after details, make couples' dream come true, stay on the budget and save money. Wedding planners have become one of the outsourced labours in modern society (Blakely, 2007).

With the rapid development of the society in the last decade, more and more couples prefer to go to college and start their own careers after graduation. Marriage is happening later in brides and grooms' life (Mayling, 2002). This means couples have more disposable income to afford the wedding expenses; and they are more likely to look for some special unique wedding styles, such as theme wedding, green wedding etc., which probably involves different elements, such as ethic, religious custom, family tradition, class identity, regional practice and individual tastes and preference (Howard, 2006). As a result, wedding planners, who are providing professional advices and assistance to the couples from the moment of distributing the invitations, arranging the style of cake ceremony, table setting, and setting for banquet, are necessarily needed and developed dramatically (Markby, 2006).

1.2 Wedding in China

In traditional Chinese culture, marriage was creating alliances between families. Therefore, it was strictly arranged by parents or elder people in families. Wedding should be planned strictly according to the customs. For example, people should choose a good year, a good month, a good day as well as a good time for wedding ceremony; and use “red” in the declaration for everything with the purpose of auspicious. Wedding is also one of the ways for Chinese families to present their social classes therefore the families are willing to spend a large mount of money on wedding, and much of which were supported by parents or relatives.

Because of the reform and opening-up policy in the late 1970s, nowadays, the living standards in China have been dramatically increased. According to the China Statistic Yearbook - 2008 (2009), the GDP per capita in Mainland China is increasing steadily and has reached 18,934 RMB in 2007. At the mean time, the social culture is becoming diversified. More and more Chinese people, especially the younger generation who have better education, began to accept the western culture. Most of the prospective couples would like to experience different types of weddings that can make their special day more measurable. For example, some people choose “white” wedding instead of traditional Chinese “red” wedding; some may prefer destination wedding instead of having wedding at home, which may require more time and professional planning and organizing throughout the wedding preparation. Therefore, wedding planners, as a new business in China, has developed rapidly during the last decade. According to the ministry of commerce of the PRC (2008), wedding service today has become a big business in China covering about 76 industries, such as matchmaking business, wedding planning as well as banquets, tourism industries etc. where the photographer has the highest profit that is above 30% while the wedding planner is 15%. The average expenditure for more than 3.7 million new Chinese couples in 2006 was about 126,600 RMB. Based on the statistics of Ministry of Civil Affairs of the PRC (2009), about 11 million couples got married in 2008 with the growth of 10.8% than 2007. All the statistics above show that wedding business in China has a huge market and potential.

This research will focus on Pearl River Delta, the most economically dynamic region in southern part of China. PRD covers nine prefectures of Guangdong province including Guangzhou, Shenzhe, Zhuhai, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Foshan, Huizhou, Jiangmen and Zhaoqing; and has become one of the leading economic regions and a major manufacturing center of China, which accounted for 10.2% of China's GDP. People in PRD have more purchasing power than the other region. The per capita GDP in PRD ranges from 35,700 to 79,600 RMB which is much higher than the national per capita GDP (HKTDC, 2008). Because of the advantages of its location and open-door policy, PRD became the first region in China which allowed the foreign investments. Thus, apart from the economic strength, people in PRD were influenced by the western cultures earlier than the other places of China.

1.3 Research problem statements

Due to the low entry cost in the wedding planning business, the number of wedding planners has increased rapidly in China in the last decade. Generally, two to three persons having relevant planning experience can establish a wedding planning company with around 100,000 RMB investments in China. They just need an office for meeting with clients and an official blog or website for promotion. Despite of the rapid development of the wedding business, the service/product offered by the wedding planners is similar. Comparing with the wedding photo service business, there is a lack of leading brand in the wedding planning business. With the growth of income level and education level, the couples in China are becoming more and more demanding towards the wedding service/products and face a problem that how to choose a suitable wedding planners who can provide excellent service/product. Thus, from the supply side, identifying and satisfying the important and unfulfilled needs of prospective couples is one of the ways for wedding planners to differentiate their products from the competitors, and make success in the competition.

However, there is few studies indentifying prospective couples' needs or attitudes toward products or service of wedding planner in Pearl River Delta even though in Chinese mainland, nor research about how well the wedding planners in China is meeting the needs of prospective couples.

Therefore, this study will focus on the following questions to find out the needs of prospective couples (demand side) towards the wedding planners in PRD

1) What's the reason for couples hiring wedding planners?

2) What's the factors affecting the selection of wedding planners? Reputation? Price? Or other?

3) Do the needs of prospective couples toward wedding planners in Pearl River Delta vary according to the different demographical characteristics?

1.4 Research objectives:

l To find out the needs of prospective couples' when hiring the wedding planners in the Pearl River Delta;

l To investigate the relationship between the needs for prospective couples and the choice of product/service offered by wedding planners in Pearl River Delta Region;

l To investigate how the needs of potential couples are influenced by their demographic profiles;

l To make recommendations to the wedding planners in Pearl River Delta.

CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW

In this chapter, the previous studies related to wedding, wedding planners as well as the consumer purchase behavior will be reviewed.

2.1 Nature of wedding

From the view of sociology, Edward (1987) defined that weddings are rites of passage, which belong to the class of rituals that everywhere mark the transition of a person or persons from one status to another. Wedding therefore becomes a private and highly-personalized event in people's life. Event is held for a purpose that brings people together to share an experience and produce a measurable outcome no matter public or private, commercial or charitable, celebratory or commemorative (Silvers, 2003). Shone and Parry (2004) defined the wedding, together with the other personal events (e.g. birthday or anniversaries), as a type of special events. Their phenomenon arise from leisure, cultural, personal or organizational objectives which are set apart from the normal activity of daily life and their purpose is to enlighten, celebrate, entertain or challenge the experience of a group of people. The characteristics of special events include personal interactions, ritual or ceremony, intangible, fixed timescale, labor intensive, ambience and service, perishability as well as uniqueness. Getz (2007) also defined wedding as a form of planned events because it is held in venues that cater to individual and small-group clients which may require professionals or be entirely arranged by the participants. From this point of view, Getz (2007) believed that the wedding is a multi-meaning experience in both personal and social aspects, and it is can be considered as celebrations in which a theme and emotional stimulation are essential.

Although, wedding is usually defined as a type of small or personal events, it is still an area lack of study and research compared with meeting, exhibition, incentives or other events. There is quite a few academic book or journal devoted to the planning and design of weddings, parties or other private functions.

2.2 Wedding planners
2.21 The nature of wedding planner

Arranging an event is complicated as it involves different elements such as the specialist sets, props, customers for participants or guests, and all the range of support requirements from special effects and lighting to music and entertainment. Event management companies are increasingly common in the events business in the last decades, which have specialized in providing of the complete event by careful planning and management. People can enjoy a number of benefits of having an EMC including the expertise, ideas and experience they can draw on (Shone & Parry, 2004). Shone and Parry (2004) found that although there are some major companies in the event business, there are a wide range of smaller organizations and individuals that are willing to provide events-related service particular for the personal event market, which include the organization of parties, celebrations, weddings, anniversaries and many of similar events. Professional party planners or event organizers are those professional who deal with the nitty-gritty details of planning, organizing, operating and managing an event to ensure everything goes smoothly.

According to Wikipedia (2009), wedding planners are the professionals who deal with all the details of the wedding, which includes planning, organizing, operating and management, to ensure everything goes smoothly and correctly. Ellis-Christensen (2008) defined that wedding planner as an event professional whose responsibility is not only to plan a memorable wedding, but also to give some professional advices to the couples including the venue selection, equipments preparation etc. They usually act as a wedding advisor, coordinator, supervisor, financial planner and mediator during the wedding (Brush Creek Weddings, 2008). Peters (2007) also stated that the range of service offered by wedding planner is widely. Some may prefer to offer consulting service only while some may prefer to provide comprehensive wedding package. At the meantime, Peters (2007) also pointed out that the global trend of the wedding business has been toward offering total coordination of the entire blessed event from the beginning to the end, which includes identifying the needs of new couples, budget preparation, planning detailed checklist, venue arrangement, identifying the professionals (e.g. florists, photographers etc.) as well as on-site supervision and coordination on the wedding day. The consultant fee varies widely depending on different locations or different packages. The consultant fee may be higher in larger cities where disposable income of couples is higher than the other places.

2.22 The requirements of a wedding planner

Having a strong organizational skills as well as an eye for details are necessary and basic requirements for a successful professional meeting planner because meeting process is both comprehensive and meticulous. Moreover, meeting planners must have the ability to work successful under pressure, to react calmly to constant change, and to make quick decisions (O'Brien & Shaw, 2002).

Howard (2006) stressed that wedding planning is highly customer oriented as most of the couples are looking for special, unique and memorable wedding. Ethic and religious custom, family tradition, class identity, regional practice, and individual tastes and preferences certainly all played a role in shaping wedding consumption. Peters (2007) suggested that good communication skills, good organizational skills as well as good interpersonal skills are very essential for being a successful wedding planner, because wedding planners act as a middle person who deals with both clients and suppliers.

The appearance of the professional wedding organization was an important benchmark in the rise of wedding planner business, indicating that wedding planning service today are more and more professional. These professional organizations help wedding planners naturalize particular customs and practices on a potentially national scale by sharing etiquette and customs. They provide some training course for wedding planners. Getting a certificate from professional organization has became one of the evidences for professional and made the customer confident with the service quality. Additionally, the organization also centralized and rationalized a consultants' business, providing important resources and information regarding the markets as well as the trend (Howard, 2006).

2.23 Demand of wedding planners

Wedding is an important event in people's life that many people are willing to organize by themselves on the small and more intimate scale. However, not all of them have the time and wish to expend the effort on doing so and happier to pay a professional to come along and deal with all the details of planning, organizing, operating and managing to ensure everything goes smoothly (Shone & Parry, 2006).

According to Blakely (2007), the supply of commercial service increases dramatically along with the growth of demands for family jobs. Wedding planners are a form of outsourced labor in the modern society. These jobs which are transported from home to the public marketplace are responding to the time crunch produced by work-family conflict. From this point of view, Blakely defined wedding planners as commercial substitutes.

Besides, Edwards (1987) conducted a research to examine the relationship between the wedding's commercial development and its nature as a rite of passage. He found that the reason of the success of the wedding business was the convenience offered by the wedding planners and the demand from consumers for larger and more sumptuous celebrations. Consumers were looking for a wide range of wedding-related service (one-stop service) through a single organization.

2.4 The trend

Firstly, the wedding today tends to be more customized than before. According to Hensdill (1996), because of the cultural exchange among the global village, traditional wedding customs are giving way to the trends of Western societies. Some new styles of wedding exist, such as theme wedding, destination wedding and green wedding, because more and more couples are looking for unique wedding.

Destination wedding is a new wedding style that a couple decides to hold their wedding in a location where neither one of them resides (Daniels & Loveless, 2007). There are several top destinations for wedding in the world, such as Caribbean, Las Vegas, Hawaii as well as Maldives. Generally, some special theme may be adopted into the destination wedding. For example, hotel in Las Vegas has organized Italian-style wedding for wedding couples (Stratton, 2001). Moreover, the destination wedding often merges into the honeymoon (Daniels & Loveless, 2007).

Secondly, the internet and e-commerce has shaped the modern wedding consumption and gave it a new immediacy and flexibility. As a result, the wedding planners can target different segments of the bridal markets through developing website that advertised their goods and services and allowed consumers to make agreement or shop directly through their online site (Howard, 2006).

2.2 Consumer purchase behaviors toward wedding

“Consumer behavior is defined as the behavior that consumers display in searching form, purchasing, using, evaluating, and disposing of products and services that they expect will satisfy their needs. It focuses on how individuals make decisions to spend their available resources” (Schiffman & Kanuk, 2007).

2.32 Factors affecting consumer purchases

As people are willing to devote time and effort to the ritual occasions like Christmas and Thanksgiving, some researches regarding the types of purchases associated with ritual occasions have been conducted by researchers in consumer behavior (Lowery, 1994). According to some market analysis, consumer purchase behavior is strongly influenced by social, cultural and individual characteristics.

a) Social factors

According to Schiffman and Kanuk (2007), consumer behavior is influenced by two major groups, namely the reference group and families.

“A reference group that is perceived as credible, attractive, or powerful can induce consumer attitude and behavior change” (Schiffman and Kanuk, 2007)

Based on the traditional family life cycle, the prospective couples belong to the stage II, honeymooners, who have available a combined income that often permits a lifestyle that provides them with the opportunities of more indulgent purchasing of professions, which means that the honeymooners are happy to accept the professional products and service and willing to pay more money for them as they pursuit high quality of life. The reason hidden behind may be because they have more disposable income and more free time for themselves before the born of young children. Additionally, for the newlyweds, the advice and experience of other married couples (e.g. parents or friends) are likely to be important when they start-up their expenses to establish a new home (Schiffman & Kanuk, 2007).

“For many consumers their family is their primary reference group for many attitudes and behaviors. The members of a family assume specific roles in their everyday functioning; such roles or tasks extend to the realm of consumer purchase decisions. Key consumer-related roles of family members include influencers, gatekeepers, deciders, buyers, preparers, users, maintainers, and disposers. A family's decision-making style is influenced by its lifestyle, roles, and cultural factors.” (Schiffman & Kanuk, 2007).

Different social classes have different preferences in clothing, home decoration and leisure activities as well as saving, spending and credit habits. Based on the market study by Bride's magazine, 20% of the buyers of the wedding products identified themselves as buyers of Bride's magazine who were mainly middle class women employed in white-collar, professional and technical fields and had higher medium annual income, when combined with their future husband's. This means that the bride had more control over future consumer decisions that the couple would make (Howard, 2006).

Another research about the division of wedding labor and its meaning for couples by Sniezek (2005) indicated that women complete the a disproportionate amount of wedding work just as women do more of kin-work, housework, childcare and managerial family work. He also pointed out that couples were not likely to label the unequal division of labor as unfair which may potentially put the relationship in a state of conflict. From this point of view, his statement highly support Blakely's study (2007) which stated that the wedding planning business's targeted market is modern career women. Blakely also used the case study of wedding planning to confirm Hochschild's thesis (2003) that feminism plays and important ideological role in the expansion of the commodity frontier.

However, after comparison of the emphases that brides and grooms place on artifacts selected for use in their weddings and reception, Lowery (1994) found out that the brides participating in the focus group had no difficulty describing artifacts that were important to them; while grooms had greater difficulty. They also suggest that the emergence of traditional or modern gender roles in wedding planning is partially determined by the attitudes of the bride and groom toward these roles. This is also proved by Schiffman & Kanuk (2007) that wedding purchase is a joint-decision in the family where the couples may play different roles in the decision making procedure.

b) Cultural factors

“Culture is the sum total of learned beliefs, values, and customs that serve to regulate the consumer behavior of member of a particular society.” (Schiffman & Kanuk, 2007)

When explaining how culture affects the consumer behavior, Schiffman and Kanuk (2007) indicated that all phases of human problem solving are directed and guided by culture, which includes various ritualized experiences and behaviors. For instance, in practice, rituals accompany with people throughout the human life cycle form birth to death, including a host of intermediate events such as confirmation, graduations and marriage. Besides the culture, subculture also plays an important in consumer's behavior which includes nationality, religion, geographic, location, race, age and sex. For example, when comparing the husband-wife decision making between United States and China, Schiffman and Kanuk (2007) found out that there were substantially fewer “joint” decisions and more “husband-dominated” decisions for many household purchases in China. Even in the same country, another research showed that in larger city like Beijing, couples were more likely than rural couples to share equally in purchase decisions.

c) Individual factors

Apart from the social and cultural factors which affecting the consumer behavior, individual factors play an important role when people make decision (Dholakia, 1979). Schiffman & Kanuk (2005) explained the influences of the individual factors through several categories: motivation, personality, perception, learning as well as attitudes. As a driving force within individuals that force them to take actions, motivation is produced by a state of uncomfortable tension - unsatisfied needs. Liking to our topic, hiring the wedding planner may be motivated by the needs of couples, such as lack of time for preparation, looking for professional service etc. Personality determines and reflects how a person responds to his or her environment. Generally, people are looking for the balance between the perceived self-image and their behavior including the purchasing products or service. Some may prefer innovative wedding style (e.g. destination wedding, green wedding) while the other may choose traditional wedding. Moreover, each individual has its own process when he or she selects, organizes and interprets stimuli into a meaningful and coherent picture of the world. This process is highly subjective and is based on what the consumer expect to see. There are several factors that can influence the perception including physical appearance, stereotypes, halo effects, irrelevant cues, first impressions, and the tendency to jump to conclusions.

2.3 Theoretical foundation- Consumer decision making process

This research is based on consumer decision making process, which is one of the theories of consumer behavior. Decisions are about the selection of an option from two or more alternative choices. According to Kotler, Bowen and Makens (2006), consumer decision process consists of five essential stages:

2.31 Need recognition

From the moment that the consumer recognizes a problem or need, the consumer buying process starts. The consumers' needs can be stimulated by both internal and external factors. Advertisements, word-of-mouth, social cues from families, friends and anyone within the families can influence the customers' need recognition. In the case of wedding planner, potential couples, their internal stimuli probably is lacking of time for preparation, looking for some unique and special wedding while the external stimuli may be the advertisement in the internet, the promotional events held by wedding planners, especially by the friends or families who have previous experience.

2.32 Information search

Searching information about their needs or problems is the second step of buying process. How much information a consumer looks for will depend on the strength of the drive, and the amount of initial information, the value placed on additional information. Linking to the wedding planners, couples will take some time for information searching. This is a stage that couples can decide if they would like to hire a wedding planners or if the products/service offered by wedding planner can satisfy their needs.

2.33 Evaluation of alternatives

After searching the relevant information, customers will use the information to arrive at a set of final brand choices. At this stage, potential couples may set up a personal comparison system through different attributes such as reputation, price, theme etc., in order to identify which would be the most ideal brand.

2.34 Purchase decision

Subsequently, consumer will buy the most preferred brand based on their evaluation in the previous stage. This is the stage that potential couples choose which brand, what kind of services and check if the product/service is available. This is also the stage that potential couples decide if they would like to hire a wedding planner or not.

2.35 Post-purchase behavior

Based on the performance of the service/products, the final stage determines whether the consumer satisfy the service/products or not.

2.4 Summary

After reviewing the previous studies related to wedding and wedding planners, we can find out that most of the studies were conducted in the developed countries such as U.S or United Kingdom, while there is a blank area regarding this field in China. Moreover, there is little study regarding the consumer purchase behavior towards the wedding planners conducted before. This research will based on the theories of consumer behavior to conduct three in-depth interviews to find out the reasons for potential couples hiring wedding planners; and the factors affecting their decision. Then, a quantitative research will be conducted to express the findings in statistical terms.

CHAPTER 3 METHODOLOGY

This research will be designed as an exploratory, quantitative, cross-sectional investigation of prospective couples' needs towards the service/products offered by wedding planners in Pearl River Delta.

3.1 Research Design

The advantage of semi-structure interviews is that it can allow issues to be explored deeply while questionnaire survey is that it can collect information from a large number of people and express the findings in statistical terms (Jennings, 2001). As limited study regarding the needs of potential couples towards the wedding service has been conduced in China so far, for this research, the important variables are not clear and still need to be defined. In order to develop a more reliable questionnaire to conduct quantitative research at the second stage, the first stage is to explore the important variables through a qualitative research. In-depth interviews with three potential couples will be conducted, which will facilitate the identifying the different requirements made by potential couples when selecting the wedding planners. These in-depth interviews are critical for the whole research because the finding of these interviews will be used to develop the questionnaire.

3.2 Questionnaire design

There will be four main parts in the questionnaire. The first part will be the screening questions with the purpose of screening the invalid sample through some questions. Then, the second part will include some questions regarding the prospective couple's attitudes towards the service/products offered by wedding planners in Pearl River Delta. Respondents' are required to indicate their personal opinions on each statement on a five-point Likert type scale: 1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree. In the third part, open-end questions will be included in order to examine the personal experience and intention of hiring a wedding planner. Finally, there will be a set of questions regarding the demographic characteristics of the respondents, which will include gender, age, income level, marriage status, and education level.

In order to explain the purpose of the research to the respondents, a covering letter will be attached to the questionnaire. The covering letter will include the information that how the sample was selected, the time will take to complete the survey, contact person for questions and assuring the response would be kept confidential and only used for statistical purposes.

3.3 Sampling method

The survey will use a convenience sampling method. Total 200 questionnaires will be distributed in 5 major cities in PRD, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Dongguan and Zhongshan. Both non-married and married couples will be the target respondents in this survey. In order to ensure that the relevance of information collected can reflect the population's opinion, females under 20-year-old (Minimum age of legal marriage for female in China) or males under 22 (Minimum age of legal marriage for male in China) will not be counted as a valid sample.

3.4 Data Collection

The data will be collected from 5 major cities in Pear River Delta including Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Dongguan and Zhongshan, through different ways including face-to-face interviews and self-completion questionnaires.

3.41 Face-to-face interviews

In order to have higher response rate, in the first phase, the face-to-face interviews with potential couples will be conducted at the wedding service companies when they are waiting for the service or outside the Marriage Registries in those cities.

3.42 Self-completion questionnaires

At the second phase, self-completion questionnaires will be sent out through e-mail or online survey link, which allows the participants to complete the questionnaires at their own space and at a time convenient for them. In order to secure respondent rate, 2 weeks later, a follow-up letter will be sent out.

3.5 Pilot tests

Before the distributing the questionnaires to the targeted respondents, a pilot test conducting 10% of sample size would be held, which can detect any errors and check the meaning of questionnaires. Total 20 questionnaires will be distributed to my friends, families and classmates to test if the questions are valid and reliable, the terms are understandable or the measures for analysis are suitable (Jennings, 2001).

3.6 Data Analysis

The finding of the in-depth interviews with 3 potential couples will be summarized and grouped into a conceptual chart which will show the needs of potential couples, the selection process and factors affecting the purchase of service/products. This finding will be used to design the questionnaires for the survey.

After receiving and examining the questionnaires, the statistical package for the social science (SPSS 17.0) will be used to analyze the collected data. There will be some initial analysis including the mean score, mode, frequency, standard deviation etc. We can come up with the mean score of importance of each attributes of hiring wedding planners. The standard deviation reveals a dispersion of score around mean. On-way Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) will be sued to examine the relationship between the demographic factors and the weighing of each factor in nominal scale.

Chapter 4: Findings and Analysis:

Data screening revealed that 74 responses were invalid. Subjects with missing values on any of the variable were excluded from the data, leaving 113 responses for further analysis. Of the valid responses, 74 were collected from on-site face to face interview while the others - total 39 were completed through online survey system. The data will be analyzed through five parts as below:

1) Descriptive analysis of respondents' demographic:

Table 1: Profile of respondents (N=130)

Demographic information

Frequency

Percent

Gender

Male

54

47.8

Female

59

52.2

Age

Under 20 years old

0

0

20-25 years old

21

18.6

26-30 years old

60

53.1

31-35 years old

28

24.8

36-40 years old

2

1.8

>40 years old

2

1.8

Income level (RMB)

<2,000

1

.9

2,000-3,999

2

1.8

4,000-5,999

22

19.5

6,000-7,999

30

26.5

8,000-9,999

32

28.3

>10,000

26

23.0

Educational level

Primary or below

0

0

Secondary

7

6.2

Undergraduate

79

69.9

Post-graduate

27

23.9

- Gender

As showed in Table 1, total 59 (52.2%) questionnaires were answered by female and 54 (47.8%) were completed by male respondents. It revealed that both brides and grooms participant in the wedding planning. This was supported by the previous study regarding the purchase behavior of new couples that the wedding purchase is a join-decision made by couples; and urban couples were more likely than rural couples to share equally in purchase decisions (Schiffman & Kanuk, 2007). This is also different from the Blakey's (2007) study which stated that wedding planning business is targeting modern career women.

- Age

The majority of the respondents were in the age range between 26 and 30 (53.1%), whereas about a quarter (24.8%) of respondents were belong to age group between 31 and 35. Only 4 (3.6%) respondents were above thirty-six-years old. Compared with the official age of marriage in China (20 years old for female and 22 years old for male), this statistic revealed that people in the Pearl River Delta now get married later. Instead of getting married immediately after graduation from college, the younger may pursue higher education and better career opportunities before establishing a family. From this point of view, the new couples may have more savings and disposal income that can be spent on their once-life event. By parity of reasoning, they have higher expectation when hiring wedding planner.

Table 2: Age and Gender Cross-Table (N=113)

Gender

Total

Male

Female

Age

20 - 25 years old

9

12

21

26 - 30 years old

24

36

60

31 - 35 years old

18

10

28

36- 40 years old

2

0

2

> 40 years old

1

1

2

Total

54

59

113

Table 2 showed that the majority of the female respondents were in the age group of 20-30 while most of the male respondents were in the age range between 26 and 35. It is assumed that females get married earlier than males in China.

- Income level

In terms of monthly income level, the majority of respondents had a personal monthly income over RMB 4,000. As presented in Table 1, about 28% of respondents had monthly income between RMB 8,000 and RMB 9,999, around one quarter of respondents had monthly income between RMB 6,000 and RMB 7,999, and over 20% of respondents had monthly income over RMB 10,000. According to latest statistic published by Guangdong government (2010), in 2009, the GDP per capita in Pearl River Delta is around RMB 67,000 (around RMB 5,600 per month). This illustrated that, in China, in general, the couples who prefer to hire wedding planner had higher monthly income. It is nature that most of people with high income level have a high-level occupation which may require high pressure work. Wedding planning thus became a outsource labor because of family-work conflict in modern society. (Barley, 2007)

- Educational level

Regarding to the educational level of respondents, about 70% were university graduates and over 20% were having master degree or above. It is assumed that the couples who hired wedding planner had higher educational level.

2) Descriptive analyses of reasons of hiring wedding planners

Table 3: Reasons of hiring wedding planners

Ranking

Reasons of hiring wedding planners

Frequency

Percent

1

Looking for the creative products/service

74

65.5

2

Looking for the professional advices from the wedding planner

60

53.1

3

Complicated procedures involved in planning and organizing

55

47.8

4

Lack of time for preparation

47

41.6

5

Lack of experience in wedding planning

45

39.8

6

Lack of knowledge in wedding planning

32

28.5

7

Lack of assistance in wedding planning

30

26.5

8

Looking for one-step-service

28

24.8

Table 3 showed the ranking of 8 reasons of hiring wedding planners. About two-third of the respondents looked for “creative products/service” (65.5%) when hiring wedding planner in Pearl River Delta. Over 50% of respondents looked for “professional advices” (53.1%) and about 48% of respondents hired wedding planner due to the complicated procedures involved in planning and organizing. About 40% of the respondents thought lack of time (41.6%) and related experience (39.8%) were the main reasons. This results can be supported by the previous demographic analysis that majority of respondents had high income level and educational level. Thus, they are looking for assistance and are willing to pay for the professionals to ensure their once life event perfect and unique (Shone & Parry, 2006).

Comparatively, only around one-quarter (24.8%) of the respondents hired wedding planners because of one-step-service. One possible reason might be the new couples would like to involve in the wedding planning to ensure everything goes smoothly.

3) The amount of expenditure:

Table 4: How much did they spend on wedding?

Amount

Frequency

Percent

10,000 - 39,999

9

8.0

40,000 - 6,999

50

44.2

70,000 - 99,999

32

28.3

100,000 - 129,999

18

15.9

> 130,000

4

3.5

Total:

113

100.0

For 44% of respondents, the amount of wedding expenditure was between RMB 40,000 to 69,999 while for 28% of respondents, the amount rang is between 70,000 - 99,999. About 20% of respondents spent over RMB 100,000 on their wedding. Compared with the average expenditure (RMB 126,600) of more than 3.7 million new Chinese couples reported by the Ministry of Civil Affairs of PRC in 2006, it is interesting that the expenditure of respondents in Pearl River Delta is lower. One possible reason might be the trend of the new wedding style that people in Pearl River Delta would like to have small and unique wedding which only invite their families and close friends instead of having a big scale of wedding. Another possible explanation might be that the house price has gone through roof these years in Pearl River Delta so that the new couples may cut their wedding budget for house purchase.

Table 5: Correlations of spending amount with monthly income (N=113)

Monthly income

How much you would like to spend on your wedding?

Pearson coefficient

.446**

Sig.(2-tailed)

.000

N

113

**. Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).

Correlation testing between the amount of wedding expenditure and monthly income level showed a moderate relationship (r=0.446) between these two variables (Table 5). This is in line with expectation given those with higher level of monthly income has been found to consistently to spend more on wedding. This result also proved the previous demographic analysis of income level.

4) Wedding style

Table 6: What was/is your wedding style?

Type

Frequency

Percent

Chinese wedding

55

48.7

Theme wedding

37

32.7

Western wedding

19

16.8

Destination wedding

2

1.8

Others

0

0

Total:

113

100.0

Table 6 showed the preference wedding styles for couples in Pearl River Delta. Over a half of respondents had or would have Chinese wedding (48.7%) while over one-thirds of respondents had or would have theme wedding (32.7%). Less than 20% of the respondents had or would have western wedding (16.8%). Only 2 respondents (1.8%) had or would have destination wedding. It seemed that majority of the respondents are prefer to have Chinese style wedding than western style. One possible explanation might be that the traditional Chinese culture still plays an important role in big event. However, it was noted that theme wedding has became popular for couples in Pearl River Delta.

5) Importance of the factors affecting the selection of wedding planners

Table 7: Importance of the factors affecting the selection of wedding planner (N=113)

Selection criteria

Mean

S.D.

1

Wedding planner - Attitude (e.g. patient, friendly etc.)

4.655

.531

2

Wedding planner - Understanding the needs of customers

4.469

.721

3

Service/Product - Creativeness

4.401

.715

4

Wedding planner - Communication with customers

4.398

.726

5

Wedding planner - Paying attentions to the details

4.398

.726

6

Wedding planner - Experience of planning and organizing a wedding

4.327

.749

7

Service/Product - Variety

4.221

.753

8

Service/Product - Customer oriented

4.142

.844

9

Suggestions from friends who have related experience

4.142

.766

10

Wedding planner - Knowledge of the wedding rituals or customs etc.

4.115

.894

11

Wedding companies - Relationship with suppliers

4.071

.799

12

Wedding companies - Reputation

4.062

.859

13

Suggestions from families

3.982

.855

14

Wedding companies - Past successful cases

3.814

.851

15

Service/product - Price

3.743

.989

16

Wedding companies - Brand

3.292

1.099

17

Promotions through events or exhibitions

3.000

1.077

18

Advertisement in the internet

2.690

1.044

19

Advertisement on the TV or newspaper

2.531

.946

20

Wedding companies - Location

2.274

1.096

As showed in the table 7, “the attitude of wedding planner” (4.65) obtained the highest mean score followed by “the understanding of customer's need” (4.47). Besides these factor, there were another 4 factors related to wedding planner among the top ten selection criteria, namely “communication skills” (4.40), “attention to the details” (4.40) and “experience” (4.33). The standard deviations of these factors are within 1 which indicated that the responses were similarly in terms of importance of wedding planner. This result showed that couples considered more about the wedding planners when making the purchase decision than the other factors such as service/product and wedding company. It is true that wedding consultancy is a kind of service business and wedding planner is the first line people that directly contact and communicate with customers. Therefore, whether the wedding planners were qualified will directly affect the couples' whole experience.

Apart from the wedding planner, couples also paid more attentions to the service/product offered by wedding company. In accordance with the previous analysis of reasons of hiring wedding planner, “the creativeness of the service/products” (4.40) was a very important factor affecting the couples' purchase decision. The other factors such as “variety of product/service” (4.24) and “customer oriented” (4.15) obtained high mean score as well. The data indicated that the wedding today is more customized than before in China. A possible explanation was culture and information exchange in the China which allows Chinese people to learn different cultures and pursue different experience.

Based on the ranking showed in the Table 7, it was learned that couples perceived “the location of wedding company” (2.27) and the promotions through event (3.00), internet (2.70) and TV or newspaper (2.70) as least important factors when making the purchase decision. This result of the information search deferred from the current trend predicted by Howard (2006) that the internet and e-commerce can give the wedding consumption a new immediacy and flexibility. This may because that for majority of the wedding company, the website is a simply personal blog listing out the contact information and major service. The informal website of the wedding company in China is lack of credential for couples.

Comparatively, the suggestions from friends (4.14) or families (3.98) played more important role in couples' decision making. This was supported by the view of Schiffman & Kanuk (2007) that the advice and experience of other married couples are likely to be important for the newlyweds.

It was interesting to find out the mean score of “price” (3.74) is lower than the other factors related to service/product such as variety and creativeness. One probable reason for this might be the higher income of respondents. An additional cause of this might be the respondents' willingness of spending money to ensure a perfect wedding.

When comparing the factors regarding the wedding company, it was discovered that couples paid more attentions to “the relationship with suppliers” (4.07) and “the reputation of wedding company” (4.06) than the “brand of wedding company” (3.29). This might be because of the lack of brand in Chinese market now. Another possible explanation might be that people were more concerned about the quality of service/product instead of brand name of company.

6) The relationship between the demographic variables and importance of selection criteria

- the significant difference between males and females groups towards the importance of selection criteria

Table 8:Means of importance of different selection criteria between males and females group

MALE

FEMALE

Selection criteria

Mean

Selection criteria

Female

1

Wedding planner-Attitude

4.685

Wedding planner-Attitude

4.627

2

Service/product-Creativeness

4.407

Wedding planner-Attention to details

4.576

3

Wedding planner-Understanding the needs of customers

4.389

Wedding planner-Understanding the needs of customers

4.542

4

Wedding planner-Communication skills

4.37

Wedding planner-Communication skills

4.424

5

Wedding planner-Experience

4.296

Service/product-Creativeness

4.407

6

Service/product-customer oriented

4.241

Wedding planner-Experience

4.356

7

Service/product-Variety

4.222

Service/product-Variety

4.22

8

Wedding planner-Attention to details

4.204

Wedding companies-Relationship with suppliers

4.203

9

Suggestions from friends

4.148

Suggestions from friends

4.136

10

Wedding planner-Knowledge

4.13

Wedding planner-Knowledge

4.102

11

Wedding companies-Reputation

4.093

Service/product-customer oriented

4.051

12

Wedding companies-Relationship with suppliers

3.926

Suggestions from families

4.051

13

Suggestions from families

3.901

Wedding companies-Reputation

4.034

14

Wedding companies-Past successful cases

3.87

Service/product-Price

3.932

15

Service/product-Price

3.537

Wedding companies-Past successful cases

3.763

16

Wedding companies-Brand

3.426

Wedding companies-Brand

3.17

17

Promotions through events or exhibition

3.037

Promotions through events or exhibition

2.966

18

Advertisement in internet

2.741

Advertisement in internet

2.644

19

Advertisement on TV or newspaper

2.519

Advertisement on TV or newspaper

2.542

20

Wedding companies-Location

2.352

Wedding companies-Location

2.203

Table 9: Independent Samples T-Test: Significant Differences between Males and Female groups towards Attributes that Influences wedding planner selection

Attributes

T-value

2-tail Sig.

Service/product-Price

-2.156

0.033*

Service/product-Variety

0.13

0.989

Service/product-Creativeness

0.005

0.996

Service/product-customer oriented

1.321

0.189

Wedding planner-Knowledge

0.165

0.869

Wedding planner-Experience

-0.421

0.675

Wedding planner-Attitude

0.579

0.564

Wedding planner-Attention to details

-2.806

0.006*

Wedding planner-Communication skills

-0.389

0.698

Wedding planner-Understanding the needs of customers

-1.133

0.260

Wedding companies-Reputation

0.362

0.718

Wedding companies-Brand

1.242

0.217

Wedding companies-Past successful cases

0.670

0.504

Wedding companies-Relationship with suppliers

-1.865

0.065

Wedding companies-Location

0.718

0.474

Promotions through events or exhibition

0.348

0.728

Advertisement on TV or newspaper

-0.133

0.892

Advertisement in internet

0.490

0.625

Suggestions from families

-8.889

0.376

Suggestions from friends

0.079

0.937

The means are on 1-5 scale with “1” indicated “Not at all important” and “5” indicated “Very important”

*2-tail probability≦0.05 that show statistically significant difference

When examined the difference between males and females group towards the importance of different factors (table 8), the significant differences were only found over the means of “Price” (sig. =0.033) and “Attention to details” (sig. =0.006). It indicated that “price” was more important for female (mean=3.92) than male (mean=3.537) when making the purchase decision. One possible reason might be females are more concerned about money than male. Meanwhile, female paid more attentions to details arrangement (mean=4.576) than male (mean=4.204) when making the purchase decision. This seems to be due to the fact that females are more sensitive to details.

Although there is no significant difference found over the other factors, table 8 suggested that the male respondents thought that “creativeness of service/product” was more important than other factors such as “communication skills of wedding planner” and “understanding the needs of customer”. Meanwhile, male respondents were more concerned about the “reputation” and “brand” of the company while female respondents thought “suggestions from families” was more important.

- Difference of educational level towards the importance of selection criteria

Table 10: One Way ANOVA for comparison of selection attributes with consumer with different education level

Wine attributes

Secondary/ High School (N=7)

College/ University

(N=79)

Postgraduate

(N=27)

F

Sig.

Mean

S.D.

Mean

S.D.

Mean

S.D.

Service/product-Price

3.857

0.900

3.810

0.988

3.519

1.014

0.923

0.400

Service/product-Variety

4.000

1.000

4.203

0.758

4.333

0.679

0.622

0.539

Service/product-Creativeness

3.857

1.069

4.342

0.696

4.741

0.526

5.796

0.004*

Service/product-customer oriented

3.714

0.951

4.038

0.759

4.556

0.577

6.297

0.003*

Wedding planner-Knowledge

3.571

0.787

3.987

0.899

4.630

0.688

7.315

0.001*

Wedding planner-Experience

4.286

0.488

4.312

0.743

4.370

0.839

0.063

0.939

Wedding planner-Attitude

4.714

0.488

4.633

0.559

4.704

0.465

0.223

0.801

Wedding planner-Attention to details

4.000

1.155

4.367

0.701

4.592

0.636

2.134

0.123

Wedding planner-Communication skills

3.714

1.113

4.380

0.704

4.630

0.565

4.806

0.010

Wedding planner-Understanding the needs of customers

3.857

0.900

4.412

0.744

4.778

0.424

5.634

0.005

Wedding companies-Reputation

4.286

0.488

4.013

0.927

4.148

0.718

0.499

0.608

Wedding companies-Brand

2.857

1.215

3.178

1.141

3.741

0.813

3.364

0.038*

Wedding companies-Past successful cases

4.143

0.690

3.772

0.847

3.852

0.907

0.641

0.529

Wedding companies-Relationship with suppliers

4.000

1.000

4.114

0.784

3.963

0.808

0.385

0.682

Wedding companies-Location

2.286

0.952

2.937

1.113

3.111

1.013

0.596

0.553

Promotions through events or exhibition

3.286

0.951

2.936

1.113

3.111

1.013

0.552

0.595

Advertisement on TV or newspaper

2.857

1.069

2.519

0.945

2.482

0.945

0.455

0.635

Advertisement in internet

2.142

1.345

2.595

0.968

3.111

1.086

3.647

0.029*

Suggestions from families

4.000

1.414

3.886

0.784

4.259

0.859

1.949

0.147

Suggestions from friends

4.000

1.414

4.101

0.841

4.296

0.669

0.638

0.530

The means are on 1-5 scale with “1” indicated “Not at all important” and “5” indicated “Very important”

*Denotes significant at the 0.05 level.

Table 10 illustrated the relationship between the educational level and importance of selection criteria. Significant difference had been found in the factors of “creativeness of service/product” (sig. = 0.004), “customer oriented service/product” (sig. = 0.003), “knowledge of weeding planner” (sig. = 0.001) “brand of wedding company” (sig. = 0.038) and “advertisement in the internet” (sig. = 0.029). It was noted that these four factors were more important for the respondents with higher educational level than those with lower educational level. Although no significant difference has been found, people with lower educational level paid more attention to “price of service/product” “past successful cases” and “suggestions from families”. Education level, one of important demographic variables, is closely correlated with income level and occupation. Generally, high-level occupations that produce high incomes usually require advance educational experience. The education level can affect one's value, preference as well as the purchase behavior. A possible reason of these differences was respondents with higher education pursued creative and tailor-made wedding which involved their own ideas. They would like to corporate with the wedding planner instead of buying the package and following the standardized arrangement. For those respondents with lower educational level, they may use “past successful cases” “suggestions from families” as the reference for their purchase decision. Besides the suggestions from friends or families, the people with higher education level might spend more time online to search information, the “advertisement online” thus was more important for them when making the purchase decision.

Table 11: One Way ANOVA for comparison of difference of income level towards the selection criteria

<2,000

2,000-3,999

4,000-5,999

6,000-7,999

8,000-9,999

>10,000

F

Sig.

N=1

N=2

N=22

N=30

N=32

N=26

Mean

S.D.

Mean

S.D.

Mean

S.D.

Mean

S.D.

Mean

S.D.

Mean

S.D.

Service/product-Price

3.000

-

3.500

0.707

4.364

0.790

3.867

0.681

3.781

0.906

3.077

1.197

5.130

0.000*

Service/product-Variety

4.000

-

4.000

0.000

4.091

0.811

4.233

0.774

4.281

0.683

4.269

0.827

0.239

0.945

Service/product-Creativeness

4.000

-

4.500

0.707

4.046

0.844

4.533

0.688

4.531

0.671

4.423

0.703

1.623

0.160

Service/product-customer oriented

4.000

-

2.500

0.707

3.955

0.785

4.100

0.759

4.188

0.644

4.423

0.758

3.118

0.011*

Wedding planner-Knowledge

4.000

-

4.500

0.707

3.818

0.853

4.033

0.928

4.125

0.976

4.423

0.758

1.244

0.294

Wedding planner-Experience

3.000

-

4.000

0.000

4.182

0.907

4.233

0.728

4.438

0.759

4.500

0.583

1.404

0.229

Wedding planner-Attitude

4.000

-

4.500

0.707

4.591

0.590

4.567

0.568

4.813

0.397

4.654

0.562

1.140

0.344

Wedding planner-Attention to details

4.000

-

2.400

0.707

4.136

0.833

4.367

0.809

4.531

0.621

4.500

0.648

0.967

0.442

Wedding planner-Communication skills

3.000

-

4.500

0.707

4.273

0.935

4.333

0.669

4.406

0.712

4.615

0.571

1.420

0.223

Wedding planner-Understanding the needs of customers

4.000

-

4.500

0.707

4.364

0.727

4-400

0.621

4.406

0.9111

4.731

0.533

0.968

0.441

Wedding companies-Reputation

3.000

-

4.000

0.000

3.682

1.086

4.000

0.8830

4.406

0.665

4.077

0.796

2.369

0.044*

Wedding companies-Brand

3.000

-

2.500

2.121

2.773

1.193

3.133

0.937

3.500

1.078

3.738

1.002

2.551

0.032*

Wedding companies-Past successful cases

3.000

-

3.500

0.707

3.864

1.037

3.500

0.820

4.031

0.740

3.923

0.796

1.615

0.162

Wedding companies-Relationship with suppliers

3.000

-

4.500

0.807

4.045

0.899

4.033

0.850

4.250

0.718

3.923

0.744

0.993

0.426

Wedding companies-Location

3.000

-

2.500

0.707

2.500

1.371

2.433

0.898

2.188

1.138

1.962

0.999

0.877

0.449

Promotions through events or exhibition

2.000

-

2.500

0.707

2.863

1.207

3.067

0.907

3.000

1.136

3.115

1.143

0.401

0.847

Advertisement on TV or newspaper

2.000

-

3.000

0.000

2.500

1.011

2.567

0.898

2.625

1.040

2.385

0.898

0.352

0.880

Advertisement in internet

2.000

-

3.000

0.000

2.132

1.097

2.900

1.029

2.750

1.078

2.808

0.939

1.529

0.187

Suggestions from families

2.000

-

3.500

0.707

3.901

1.019

3.867

0.730

4.125

0.707

4.115

0.952

1.698

0.141

Suggestions from friends

4.000

-

4.000

0.000

3.864

1.082

4.067

0.740

4.281

0.813

4.308

0.788

0.915

0.474

The means are on 1-5 scale with “1” indicated “Not at all important” and “5” indicated “Very important”

*Denotes significant at the 0.05 level.

48 / 50

- Difference of income level towards the importance of selection criteria

Table 11 showed the relationship between income levels and the respondent's weighing of the selection criteria. It was found that there were significant differences in four selection criteria, namely “price of service/product” (sig. = 0.000), “customer oriented service/product” (sig. = 0.011), “reputation of the wedding company” (sig. = 0.044) and “brand of the wedding company” (sig. = 0.032). It was nature that people with higher income might have more disposal income which means more budgets on their wedding. Therefore, they looked for unique and tailor-made service as well as the service quality guarantee. For those respondents with lower income level, they paid more attention to the “price of service/product” instead of “brand and reputation” of the company.
7) The difference between the importance of selection criteria and degree of satisfaction

Table 12: The difference between the importance of selection criteria and degree of satisfaction

Importance

Satisfaction

Factors

Mean

S.D.

Mean

S.D.

Difference:

Wedding planner - Attitude (e.g. patient, friendly etc.)

4.655

0.531

4.701

0.766

0.046

Wedding planner - Understanding the needs of customers

4.469

0.721

3.159

0.763

-1.31

Service/Product - Creativeness

4.407

0.715

3.398

0.912

-1.009

Wedding planner - Communication with customers

4.398

0.726

3.549

0.694

-0.85

Wedding planner - Paying attentions to the details

4.398

0.726

3.31

0.791

-1.088

Wedding planner - Experience

4.327

0.749

3.761

0.631

-0.566

Service/Product - Variety

4.221

0.753

3.575

0.652

-0.646

Service/Product - Customer oriented

4.142

0.766

3.336

0.786

-0.805

Wedding planner - Knowledge

4.115

0.894

3.487

0.696

-0.628

Wedding companies - Relationship with suppliers

4.071

0.799

3.531

0.803

-0.54

Wedding companies - Reputation

4.062

0.859

3.823

0.601

-0.239

Wedding companies - Past successful cases

3.814

0.851

3.558

0.582

-0.257

Service/product - Price

3.743

0.989

3.257

0.904

-0.487

Wedding companies - Brand

3.292

1.099

3.566

0.706

0.274

Promotions through events or exhibitions

3.000

1.077

3.294

0.643

0.294

Importance-Advertisement in the internet

2.69

1.044

3.045

0.755

0.355

Advertisement on the TV or newspaper

2.531

0.946

3.072

0.67

0.541

Wedding companies - Location

2.274

1.096

3.699

0.639

1.425

Based on the respondents' experience, table 12 compared the difference between the importance of different selection criteria and the degree of satisfaction of each element. It was showed that “the attitudes of wedding planner” (4.701) obtained the highest mean score in terms of satisfaction. This score also exceeded the mean of “attitude” in terms of importance. This result illustrate that the respondents were satisfied with the service “attitudes of the wedding planners”. However, expect the “attitudes of wedding planner”, among the top ten selection criteria, the weighing of satisfaction are lower than the weighing of importance especially the factors of “understanding the needs of customers”, attentions to the details”, “creativeness of service/product” and “communication with customers”. It was assumed that, in overall, the service/product offered by wedding companies could not satisfy the needs of respondents. This appears to be due to the fact that couples had high expectation for their wedding and wedding is a highly customer oriented event that might be difficult evaluate.

Chapter 5: Conclusion

Through this study, it was found that people in the Pearl River Delta now get married later, mainly between 26 years old to 35 years old where females get married earlier than males. Wedding purchase is a joint-decision in Pearl River Delta which is made by both brides and grooms. However, brides are more concerned about the prices and details while grooms think the creativeness and brand of company are more important. The majority of the couples look for creative service/product and professional advices when hiring wedding planners. Complicated procedures involved and lack of time are also the reasons for the couples. Different from the previous study, one-stop-service is not the major reason for couples as they would like to involve in their own wedding planning.

Individual income level is an important individual factor affecting the purchase behavior in terms of expenditure and the selection of wedding planner. Through this study, it is discovered that the amount of expenditure ranges from RMB 40,000 to RMB 129,999 which is lower than the average expenditure in 2006. This might be due to the trend of holding small wedding and the increase of house price in Pearl River Delta. The finding also indicated that the couples with higher income will pay less attention to the price of service/product and will spend more on wedding. Because of more budgets, the couples with higher income are looking for tailor-made service and the wedding company with better reputation and brand name. In constraint, price of service/product are more important than the brand or reputation of the company for those couples with lower income level.

Educational level is also an important factor affecting one's values and purchase behavior. It is discovered that the couples who would like to hire wedding planner are generally those with higher educational level. Similar with the couples with higher income level, they look for creative and tailor-made service/product. As they are more knowledgeable, they are more concerned about the wedding planner's knowledge in terms of rituals, cultures etc. Although the advertisement on the internet is not seen as an important factor, couples with higher educational level paid more attentions to it than those with lower educational level.

In general, as wedding consultancy is a kind of service business, the qualification of wedding planner, such as attitudes, knowledge, experience etc, are seen as the most important selection criteria for the couples. Same with the reasons of hiring wedding planner, creativeness of service/product is also important for couples when making the purchase decision. The finding also reveals that suggestions from families and friends are more important than the promotions through events of different media.

Overall, as the nature of wedding, couples have really high expectation for their wedding. Thus, currently, the service/product offered by the wedding companies is not able to satisfy the needs of couples in terms of creativeness, communication with customers, attentions to details, tailed made service, knowledge of wedding planners etc.

Chapter 6: Recommendations

1) Qualification of wedding planner

As wedding planner is perceived as most important factor affecting couples' purchase behavior, the wedding companies should put more efforts to improve the qualification of wedding planners especially the knowledge, ritual and customs about wedding. It would be better for wedding planner to take some training from professional organizations to gain the latest trends and concepts about wedding regularly. Getting a certificate from different training program or professional organization would be one of the evidence that makes customers confident with the service/product. As wedding planner is the front line staffs who directly contact with customer, good communication skills is required. The wedding planners may try to use new method to communicate with customers such as MSN, QQ etc. Having a meeting with couples regularly to keep them updated with the progress of their wedding preparation.

2) Tailor -made service/product

With the increase of knowledge level of couples, people would like to make their wedding as unique as possible. Theme wedding is kind of tailor-made arrangement for couples, which require pre-designed invitation cards, banquet menus, image of brides and grooms as well as the venue decoration etc. The theme of the wedding is probably required by clients. The wedding planner should be able to work with clients and interpret the needs of customers correctly. The service/product should be flexible enough for customers so than they can involve in the whole planning. For example, some couples may prefer to design a unique and special logo and present it in the invitation card or the venue decoration. Some couples may prefer to have their wedding ceremony in a particular venue which has special meaning for them. Wedding company should be working for couples as a consultant instead of a company selling standardize package. The tailor made service/product would be a distinctive competency for the wedding company.

3) Promotion

According to the finding, suggestions from families or friends are more important than the promotion in the events or media for couples when hiring wedding planners. Therefore, the wedding company should use “word of mouth” strategy. Keeping a good relationship with customers is a best way to promote their service/product. The wedding company may mark down the anniversary of couples and send greeting cards or message to them or provide some information about the tours or restaurant etc.

Reference

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Blakely, K. (2007). Busy brides and the business of family life: the wedding-planning industry and the commodity frontier. Journal of Family, 29 (639), 5.

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References for literature review

Blakely, K. (2007). Busy brides and the business of family life: the wedding-planning industry and the commodity frontier. Journal of Family, 29 (639), 5.

Brush Creek Weedings. (2009). What is a bridal consultant? Brush Creek Weedings. Retrieved on 28 November, 2009, from http://brushcreekweddings.com/gpage4.html

Daniels, M. & Loveless, C. (2007). Wedding planning & management. Oxford: Elsevier.

Dholakia, R.R.(1979). Influencing buyer behavior: processes and strategies. European Journal of Marketing, 13(5).

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