In America, mostly we hear celebrity couples sign prenup to protect their assets in case of a divorce. In China these days, prenup has become a contentious negotiation between the parents of both parties and it can end up either making or break the marriage deal.

My husband Joe has a couple nephews and a niece who are already in their 30s but still single. When Joe and I were in China last October for my cousin’s wedding, we were delighted to find out that two of them had been dating seriously. The prospect of two family weddings in 2013 was highly likely.

News just came from home that his nephew Pang Pang had broken up with his girlfriend as they were making plans to get married. Things went downhill when his parents met hers. Her family would only agree to a wedding within a year if the following three conditions were met:

1) An apartment paid with cash
2) A wedding banquet hosted at a five-star hotel.
3) A 67% increase of the groom’s salary

After the meeting, Joe’s brother and his wife felt that the first two conditions could be met with some maneuvering but the third was too unrealistic. So Pang Pang went to inform the girlfriend that he wouldn’t be able to fulfill her parents’ demands. She said they could still be friends.

Joe’s niece Mei Mei already has a tentative wedding date: May 25th, 2013, but her fiancé’s parents who live in Shandong will have to make a trip to Shanghai and meet her mother (for the first time) at the bargain table. I am not sure what conditions Joe’s sister-in-law has in mind and how his parents might react. The couple isn’t going to send out the invitations until after the meeting. I hope their love is strong enough to pass the test. I’d also like to believe that ultimately parents want their children to be happy. But there is a very strange phenomenon in China: the over-protective and manipulative parents and the unbelievably self-centered and yet dependent kids who aren’t raised to know what they want out of life.

Since the 1940s, Chinese women has joined to workforce and been encouraged to jack up half of the sky. When it comes to marriage, the groom’s family traditionally pays for the wedding and also has to send a long list of presents to the bride’s family to show appreciation of being given a daughter. But somehow the price tag for giving away a daughter is getting more and more hefty with the economic boom in the last two decades. Girls are being taught to value material things more than love. One young woman made this outrageous claim “I’d rather cry behind the wheel of a BMW than smile driving a Honda Civic” and it became an instant motto that millions of girls live by. Seems to me that Pang Pang may have won the heart of the girl but not the approval of her mom and dad.

With one marriage killed in its cradle, I hope the other one will pull through. I want to see Mei Mei happily married to a man worthy of her love. Now the question becomes how much her mother wants Mei Mei to marry her fiancé.