April 24, 2006 20:13
This lunar year is one of the extremely rare leap years that encompass two first days of spring and are therefore considered especially propitious for weddings. That has been a boon for the industry, with wedding halls and wedding gifts seeing brisk business while travel agents and fortune-tellers are benefiting from the phenomenon.
The Year of the Dog started on Jan. 29 and will end on Feb. 17 next year: the reason being that July is a leap month making the year an epic 385 days long. The first day of spring in both years falls on Feb. 4. "Such a twin spring year comes just once every 200 years," a fortuneteller explains.
"In the art of divination we consider it as auspicious as flowers blooming on an old tree. That is why we say that marriages made in such a year will last 100 years."
The venerable folk belief is making it difficult to find an empty wedding hall. "We are even booked up for what is normally the off-season from July-August and of course there is nothing available through November, even December is almost half booked up," says the manager of the Novotel in Seoul.
Yoon Hyo-sook, a wedding planner at Seoul's Lotte Hotel, is having a bonanza too. "Many couples say any day at all is fine just as long as it's within this year."
Retailers of popular wedding merchandise are also happy. At Lotte Department Store, this year's first spring sale saw major increases in the kinds of gifts brides traditionally give to their future in-laws. Compared to last year, furs sold 39 percent more, makeup 26 percent, and large household appliances 16 percent. In just the first three months of the -- solar -- year, Barunson Card printed no fewer than 20 million wedding invitations.
"In a normal year we sell about 40 million invitations, but in just three months we’ve already sold half that," its marketing director Kim Gyeong-soo says. Among travel agents, Hana Tour has seen a 47 percent increase in the number honeymooners from January through May.
On the fortune-telling website Sazoo.com, according to the company's Seong Jung-yon, readings about weddings are 20 percent more popular this year than last. "We plan to upgrade our wedding readings program so that we can bring in more customers this month," he adds.
FnC Kolon, which sells formal reception dress for men and women, saw a 20-30 percent increase in year-on-year operating profit in the first three months. Property prices are going up as more newly-weds are looking for a place of their own.
According to Kookmin Bank, annual deposits on rented houses across the country increased year-on-year 0.7 percent last month -- almost twice the 0.4 percent increases seen in both January and February and also much greater than the 0.4 percent seen in March last year.
The costs do not stop with the happy couple. Wedding guests are feeling an added burden from the money they are traditionally expected to give the young couple. "I've got at least eight wedding invitations sitting in a drawer at work," sighs one worker with a local insurance company. "It looks like I'll be spending a few thousand dollars just on wedding gifts this year."
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