Investors say vows to wedding-planner platform

Although marriage in China is in decline, the investors in wedding planner platform Hunliji hope to put a ring on the Rmb3.3 trillion wedding sector.

People who were born in the 1990s are now at a marriageable age, and the potential of this market has attracted the attention of investors.

Wedding-planner platform Hunliji has completed its $70 million Series D1 funding. It is the highest amount raised so far in the wedding planning market.

Existing investors Matrix Partners China and Orchid Asia led the round and proceeds will be used to improve the platform’s algorithm, build offline franchise outlets and expand advertising.

Hunliji started off as a wedding-service platform and has now accumulated 50 million registered users. It is a platform on which shops can list their services online - this includes wedding dresses, wedding photos, honeymoon services, hotels and decoration. It also has offices across the country.

The wedding-planner platform previously raised more than $30 million in its Series B round, and more than $65 million for its Series C funding. Aside from Matrix Partners and Orchid Asia, Fosun also participated in that round of funding.

The wedding market is a challenging sector. Although the average spend on each wedding is increasing, the number of newlyweds is actually decreasing.

With customers more prepared to choose a personalised wedding ceremony, couples are more willing to spend to have that customised wedding ceremony. According to third-party research firm Qianzhan, the Chinese wedding market is likely to exceed Rmb3.3 trillion (US$490 billion) by 2021.

“Couples set aside larger budgets for their weddings,” said one wedding planner. “People like to compare different service providers or choose a photographer and where it will be hosted themselves, instead of having an all-in package for the wedding.”

Yu Zhe, chief executive of Hunliji, said that the company wants to evolve from an e-commerce site to a solution provider for wedding ceremonies. It serves users who are more price sensitive, and the platform will add value to its users and merchants by providing suitable algorithms that match the two sides.

Around 10 million people in China already work for the wedding industry or the related market, according to the Ministry of Commerce. Since 2016, people born after the 1990s outnumbered all other age groups among newly married couples. The wedding market in China had entered an era of competition after years of development but it is now gradually turning into a buyer’s market.

One noticeable change is that the number of marriages has declined over the years. The number of new marriages fell 7% year-on-year to 10 million in 2017. At the same time, China's divorce rate reached a historical high of 3.2% that same year. This means not only a shrinking customer base for the market, but a low birth rate since the 1990s does not indicate a pickup in demand any time soon.

To get the maximum value out of existing customers is a reasonable strategy for wedding service providers. Hunliji, planning to offer more customised wedding services, aims to open 300 offline stores in first and second-tier cities. It hopes to be the “perfect match” for couples who are looking for reasonable wedding services.


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