October is traditionally the month for marriages, but this year the wedding season seems extra busy, with an unprecedented number of couples tying the knot, especially over the National Day holiday. One reason for the surge of weddings is that many couples who had been planning to get married this year had to postpone their nuptials because of the Sars epidemic. Another reason is that amended regulations are making marriage a simpler affair than it has been for a long time. From today, prospective brides and grooms in China have only to present their hukous (residency permits), identification cards and two photos to the registrar and pay nine yuan (about HK$8.50) to register their marriage. Previously, a person wishing to get married also had to show proof of his or her single status and obtain medical clearance certifying they were in a fit state of health for marriage. The whole process could set a couple back by more than 200 yuan (HK$187). The complicated, time-consuming procedure is believed to have often delayed or even discouraged young people from getting married. A 25-year-old advertising executive working for a real estate company, who declined to be identified, said he has been living with his girlfriend for two years because they were both too busy to take time off to get married. 'If the law had not been amended, we wouldn't have thought of getting married,' says the executive, who has a four-month-old son. He adds that cohabitation is a common practice among people of his generation, especially among the better educated. He said he and his girlfriend plan to register their marriage during the holiday, when the queue is not too long. 'If the queues are too long, we'll go back the next day,' he says. The Civil Affairs Bureau expects a 30 per cent increase in marriages during the holiday period. At the Ming Ren Bridal Shop on Beijing Road, shop assistant Chen Kunni says the company has sold 40 per cent more bridal packages than it did in the same period last year. The shop starting filling its order books for the Golden Week holidays on September 20. 'This year more people are getting married during National Day because during Sars nobody got married,' Ms Chen says. Business is brisk at jewellery shops as well, although the price of gold has been on the rise. A sales assistant at a gold shop says couples do not appear to be deterred by the slight price increase. Meanwhile, restaurants are fully booked for wedding dinners. An employee at the White Swan Hotel, in Shamian Island, Guangzhou, said the hotel was booked up for wedding dinners a month ago, even though a table at the hotel, one of the smartest in the province, costs 6,000 to 8,000 yuan (HK$5,600 to HK$7,500) . Red tape and stringent rules have had much to do with couples postponing marriage. Those wishing to get married and lacking all documents often had to make long trips to their hometown to get either a single status certificate or a hukou, or both. From September 1, marriage registry officials have been asked to work on the holidays to cope with the increasing number of marriages.