Mon, Jul 16, 2007 - Page 12 News List

FEATURE: Japanese `house weddings' come to Taiwan

BRANCHING OUT As the Japanese market shrinks due to the low birth rate, Dears Brain is eager to expand overseas and it will make Taiwan its first move

By Jackie Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Yoshiyuki Matsuba, director of Dears Brain, a Tokyo-based ''house wedding'' firm, speaks to the media during an interview on Saturday.

PHOTO: CHANG CHIA-MING, TAIPEI TIMES

Ever imagined fireworks going off just at the perfect moment to make your wedding even more romantic? Thought about having a professional photographer capture the most memorable moments of your honeymoon?

These are just two of the novel ideas being brought to Taiwan by Tokyo-based Dears Brain, Japan's fifth-largest "house wedding" firm in terms of revenue.

"Taiwan's wedding market is like Japan's 10 years ago, when the `house wedding' concept was still new to the public. But now in Japan, 15 percent of the newlyweds choose to do it this way," said Yoshiyuki Matsuba, director of Dears Brain, during an interview in Taipei on Saturday.

Bullish about the market's potential, the Japanese firm plans to set up Dears Brain Taiwan (迪詩) at the end of this month and spend NT$80 million (US$2.4 million) to acquire the operational rights to Grace Hill (麗庭莊園), a church-style venue that offers wedding planning services in Taipei's Neihu District.

The original investors in Grace Hill will become the landlords leasing the facilities to Dears Brain's, he said.

Matsuba, 32, will be in charge of Dears Brain's Taiwan business when the new company starts operations next month.

"House wedding" has been a popular wedding style in the West for decades. With stand-alone mansions and outdoor gardens as the main elements, newlyweds and their guests can celebrate the day in their own private space, in stark contrast to narrow and noisy venues often seen in restaurants or hotels.

Sensing a crisis arising as Japan's wedding market is shrinking due to the low birth rate, Dears Brain is eager to expand overseas with Taiwan, known as a Japan-friendly country, as its first foreign market to test the waters.

"We have been looking for the best markets to enter, from Korea to Beijing and Shanghai. Thanks to Mitsui and Co (Taiwan) Ltd's help in March, we came into contact with Grace Hill, which shares similar service concepts with us," Matsuba said.

Established three years ago with a space of 2,000 ping (6,600m2), Grace Hill claims to be the nation's first house wedding operator. It managed sales of NT$120 million last year by hosting weddings and business banquets, a figure Matsuba said will significantly jump after Dears Brain introduces its service model and implements cost control schemes.

"Three years ago, Dears Brain also acquired a poorly performing wedding firm in Japan and has successfully boosted its performance" by overhauling its operations, he said, explaining his confidence that the company would make a splash in the marketplace.

According to government statistics, approximately 140,000 couples got married in Taiwan last year, about one-fifth of the number in Japan.

"Our goal is to provide consumers with an alternative, and I believe the marketplace will change due to the competition," he said.

Although the Taiwanese market is smaller, Dears Brain believes that more couples will choose house weddings over normal banquets at hotels, thanks to people's growing budgets and a trend to pursue tailor-made weddings.

The new business expects to host 500 weddings and banquets during its first year of operations with revenues topping NT$300 million. Following two years of fine-tuning, the firm plans to invest NT$400 million building two wedding houses, one in Taipei and the other in either Taichung or Kaohsiung.

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