But there were signs of a resurgence last year with the Ministry of Civil Affairs saying registrations in the first three quarters of 2023 surpassed the same period in 2022 by 245,000.
The ministry has yet to release a final tally for 2023, but data from cities around China showed a marked increase in total registrations.
In Huaibei, a city in the eastern province of Anhui, 21,179 marriages were registered last year, an annual increase of nearly 92 per cent, according to The Paper.
The city also saw an increase in the number of divorces of around 38 per cent year on year.
In Liuyang, a city in the southern Hunan province, 5,443 couples tied the knot, an increase of 458 from the year before. The number is still nowhere near the city’s peak of over 12,000 in 2014.
“The decline in the number of marriage registrations in Liuyang has been going on for many years. It stopped falling in 2023 and rebounded slightly,” Zhang Jian, director of the Liuyang Civil Affairs Bureau’s Wedding Registration Centre, told The Paper.
Zhang said the decline in marriages in Liuyang was partly due to the falling birth rate and a lack of population growth, leaving fewer people of marriageable age in the city.
Zhang said this rebound in registrations could be a result of couples finally planning weddings that were postponed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Other cities in China also saw increases in marriage registrations last year, with Suzhou in Jiangsu province seeing 10,000 more registrations, a year-on-year increase of around 21 per cent, The Paper reported.
Shanghai went from a record low marriage registrations this century of around 72,000 in 2022 to over 104,000 last year, according to the Shanghai Municipal Civil Affairs Bureau.
But some residents have appealed to authorities in Shanghai to organise events to bring people together, especially older singles who find it hard to meet others due to busy work schedules, according to another report by The Paper.
In a proposal to the Shanghai civil affairs bureau, the proponents said online dating platforms lacked transparency and authenticity.
There are events and organisations across China that focus on marriage and the wedding market, from matchmaking services to one-stop-shop wedding expos in cities such as Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Chengdu.
In 2017, the Communist Party’s Central Committee and State Council issued a Youth Development Plan in which love and marriage were identified as an important area of development. The plan will be in place until 2025.
The plan stated that youth, defined as those 35 years old and younger, “need more care and help in marriage [and] love” because of a changing population structure and growing work and life pressures.
The plan aims to improve education for young people on marriage and family planning, including integrating it into university-level education and spreading “positive concepts” of marriage through mass media.
The plan also said there was a need to “support the development of healthy youth dating and exchange activities” with a particular focus on older unmarried individuals.
Policies to promote marriage appear to have worked last year in Liuyang, as Zhang told The Paper they had “stimulated people’s enthusiasm for marriages and childbirth to an extent”.