The Modern Citizen’s Wedding: A Government Pamphlet Gets It Right

A government pamphlet on marriage attempts to promote diversity and tolerance, and might just be one of the best government documents ever written

Earlier this month the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) published an initial draft of a marriage pamphlet titled (現代國民婚姻) or “The Modern Citizen’s Wedding.” It was first reported in the Chinese-language Apple Daily, with the headline, “The government suggests that a typical wedding should cost NT$260,000.” My initial reaction was that the administration had decided that divorce rates were too low. However, after a brief reading of the pamphlet, I had to change my mind.

The 90-page pamphlet, authored by Chao-Yang Technical University Professor Kuo Hui-juan (郭慧娟), covers a wide range of topics, including a brief rundown of the state of marriage in Taiwan, wedding traditions, wedding do’s and don’ts, administrative and clerical details regarding the registration process, and a timeline with steps on how to hold your own wedding.

As a Taiwanese who has seen el Presidente accuse typhoon victims during an international press conference of failing to evacuate, and tell Taiwanese Aborigines that they “will be treated like people,” the calls for tolerance and diversity outlined in the document were incredibly refreshing.

The first chapter, titled “The Spirit of Marriage,” covers the following topics:

  • On page 4, it briefly mentions that the Supreme Court has ruled that “marriage is between a man and a woman.” However, the author completely rebuts the concept and argues that “society should make the appropriate changes regarding same-sex marriage.” On the next page, Kuo writes: “Gender equality is an international consensus … both heterosexual and same-sex marriages should be respected equally … and both should enjoy the same protections and rights.”

Being a glass-half-full kind of person, I expect the “God hates homosexuals” crowd (once they find out about this document) to come in and spew invective all over this, but until then, this is one of the most forward-thinking statements I have read from any government agency.

  • On page 5, Professor Kuo describes the need for tolerance inside a marriage. Kuo states the need to respect differences between partners (religious, ethnic, and other aspects), and the need for tolerance of each other’s attitudes and actions. On page 6, there is a full-page “vignette” describing a hypothetical marriage between a Hakka man and a Vietnamese woman and how they cope with their differences and overcome barriers, such as language. The story stresses their continued tolerance and respect of their different cultures and backgrounds, and the specific actions taken to blend the two cultures together in everyday life.

And all this is to be found in the first six pages!

  • There is further mention of evolving gender roles and the need for equality. In Chapter 2, “The Modern Evolution of Traditional Marriage,” Kuo emphasizes the importance of evolving gender roles, and some of the gender inequality issues regarding women in marriage. Examples are how certain steps in the traditional ceremony may regard the woman in the marriage as “inferior” or “less worthy.” In fact, most of the chapter is a comprehensive list of pre-wedding and post-wedding traditions that may have gender-inequality overtones. There are even suggestions for “theme weddings” and tips to make weddings more environmentally friendly.
  • In Chapter 4, “The Modern Wedding Protocol,” Kuo gives a few examples of wedding-day protocols, and she does not forget the need for religious diversity as she lists typical wedding-day schedules for traditional Buddhist, Catholic, and Protestant weddings. There is no specific mention for wedding protocols among Aborigines, but that is expected, as the many tribes in Taiwan all have individual practices. Kuo does make specific mention of “cross-cultural” weddings and the need to be respectful of the traditions of both parties.

The rest of the document is filled with useful information, such as sample wedding invitations, introductory speeches, content needed in “wedding videos,” and suggestions for wedding vows. There is also the sample budget regarding the marriage, and even suggestions for the honeymoon trip.

We should applaud Professor Kuo’s effort to create a concise guideline on the modern Taiwanese wedding, and her emphasis on diversity, tolerance, and equality. This draft version will continue to undergo changes, but I highly anticipate the final version of this document, with hopes that the message will not be distorted by influential groups that continue to spread messages of hate and intolerance.

Tony Chiu is a geriatric psychiatry fellow in Northern Taiwan. A graduate of the National Taiwan University of Medicine, he advocates for the independence of Sanchong District in New Taipei City and the paving of the Taiwan Strait. You can reach him at tonychiupsy@gmail.com. He comments on the PTT board under the handle “IronChef.”

Comments are welcome, but will be moderated. Remarks containing abusive language, personal attacks or self-promotion will not be published. We encourage healthy discussion and, above all, tolerance of other's views.