BEIJING (Reuters) - August 8 promises to be a lucky day for Liu Chuan who is getting married and has a ticket for the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.
Liu and his bride will join thousands of Chinese couples queuing at the marriage registry on Friday, an auspicious day for weddings and births because of the number 8, which symbolizes wealth in Chinese.
August 8 is also China's big day, when the Olympic Games open in Beijing. Organizers added an extra eight for good measure by scheduling the opening ceremony for 8 p.m. "Chinese are partial to the number 8, and Friday is three 8s in a row - the eighth day of the eighth month, 2008. Also, we picked it because of the Olympics," said Liu, a Beijing resident. "I got a ticket for the opening ceremony that night, but it was only possible to get one, so I will go to the Bird's Nest (stadium) and my fiancee will watch it on TV at home."
So many couples are planning to tie the knot on August 8 that Beijing's marriage registries set up an online service for couples to file paperwork in advance and speed up the process. An estimated 9,000 couples in Beijing alone will get their marriage certificates that day.
"Whenever you get here, you will have to wait. The bureau opens at 8.30 in the morning and some people will come a lot earlier than that to get in line," said a staff member at the Tongzhou registry, on the outskirts of Beijing, which has booked 500 appointments for Friday.
But despite the flood of weddings, many banquet halls are facing a drought of bookings. Many Chinese get their certificate and hold their banquets on separate days, and August 8 is usually a popular day to hold banquets.
However, most couples will delay the banquet for another day to avoid being upstaged by the opening ceremony, which will feature thousands of performers and extravagant fireworks.
"We thought about holding the banquet that night, but we figured it was inconvenient," Liu said.
"Since it overlapped with the opening ceremony, most guests probably wouldn't have the time or the interest to come to our celebration."
Couples are also worried that transportation could be snarled up on Friday, when about 100 world leaders attend the opening ceremony, said manager Kang of Jinri Jiari Seafood City, where the banquet room is empty on Friday night but fully booked on Saturday and most weekends through October.
It sounds like Liu Chuan and his bride will have an amazing day.
*raises a glass of bai jiu* Here's to happiness and wealth on this highly auspicious day to everyone, especially the newlyweds and the Olympians. Gan Bei!