Bell tolls on queues to book weddings
One of the territory's most familiar sights - dozens of couples camping outside government offices in Queensway to book an auspicious wedding date - is to be consigned to history as officials scrap the counter-booking service.
The Immigration Department will today announce that couples can only book their wedding through a new telephone system, or over the Internet using the Government's online services.
A senior official said the decision was made after numerous complaints about people jumping queues or paying others to queue in their place.
In March, hundreds of couples flooded the register offices to book a wedding for June 16, said to be the year's most auspicious date. The logjam forced marriage officers to borrow a Hong Kong Visual Arts Centre lecture theatre in Central to cope.
Under the plan, there will be no transition period for the change, but a two-week trial will be launched for people wanting to use the system.
Officials at the Information Technology Services Department are now testing the system, which can cope with thousands of couples at once.
'We want to make sure the chaos faced by the Examination Authority this summer will not happen again,' the official said.
In July, the authority's Web site was jammed by more than 100,000 hits as students tried to find out their A-level results.
At present, an average of about 200 couples marry every day and they can make their bookings three months in advance.
'December is a good time to launch the new scheme,' the official said.
'We have checked the Chinese calendar and there are not many good wedding dates until after the Lunar New Year. This will help people adjust to the new system.'