BEIJING, Aug. 8 (Xinhua) -- The joy was written all over the faces of Sun Zhengbiao and Xue Jiaojiao after they tied the knot on Friday morning, the day of the auspicious three eights.
"We decided to get married on Aug. 8 last year," said Xue, a secondary school teacher. "It is such a lucky number and it's only once in a life time."
Chinese people are keen to tie the knot on an auspicious date. The number eight symbolizes wealth, fortune and luck. Many people choose dates with the number to start a business, get married or give birth. People also pay extra to have it in phone numbers or license plates.
This year, Aug. 8 is also the opening date of the Olympic Games in Beijing, giving it added cachet.
Xue, who is also a volunteer for the Olympic Games, will patrol her neighborhood Friday night for security risks. "I will probably miss some part of the opening ceremony but it's okay. I can watch the recast tomorrow."
Outside the registry office in Chaoyang district, love was in the air. Pink ribbons with balloons decorated on the gate. Red banners congratulating newly-weds were put up on the wall for this special occasion. Dozens of couples queued to get their marriage certificates.
The office opened for business at midnight, said He Tieqing, spokesman for the district's Civil Affairs Bureau. "We were preparing our work and a couple came in, so we registered them," He said.
Large groups started coming to the office at 6 a.m., two and half hours earlier than usual.
"We chose this date because it's the opening of the Olympics. It's very memorable," said bride Tang Guinan. "We decided to marry on this day in 2003, when we were still in college. We were so happy when Beijing won the bid to host the Olympics in 2001."
So many couples were planning to tie the knot on Aug. 8 that Beijing's marriage registries set up an on-line service to file paperwork in advance and speed up the process. More than 16,400 couples booked their marriage certificates on Aug. 8 in Beijing, according to the Beijing Civil Affairs Office. On Aug. 8 last year, 3,390 couples were married in Beijing, making it the second most popular date after Dec. 18 when 4,400 couples wed.
Around the country, thousands of people were getting married on Friday; more than 5,000 couples registered in Shanghai, 3,300 in Guangzhou, 2,300 in Wuhan and 2,300 in Hangzhou, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said.
Jiang Li, Vice Minister of Civil Affairs, said civil affairs bureaus should try to guarantee that all couples who wish to register on Aug. 8 get their certificates.
About 300 extra staff were added to helping the 18 marriage registration staff at Chaoyang's civil affairs bureau, where 2,418 booked registration, He Tieqing said.
"It took only three minutes to register," said Tang Guinan. "The clerk checked our forms, gave us the certificates and congratulated us."
"We will continue to work after the normal closing time of 6 p.m. if there are still couples to register," He said. "We will definitely make sure that every couple today will be registered."
But despite the flood of weddings, many hotels and restaurants are had few bookings for wedding banquets. Usually Chinese couples register their marriage and hold wedding banquets on different dates.
A staff member at the five-star Prime Hotel, on the renowned shopping street of Wangfujing in downtown Beijing, said it would take no reservations for wedding banquets until early September, because it was one of the contract hotels of the Olympic Games.
Not every couple is rushing to catch the tide of "Olympic weddings".
Chu Meng had planned earlier this year to get married on Aug. 8, but she began to have doubts about the date after the devastating magnitude-8 earthquake hit Sichuan, southwest China, on May 12.
"I heard the numbers of the date coincidentally added up to eight. It all sounds very superstitious, but there's no reason for me to risk having any bad luck for this important day in my life," said Chu, who works for a Canadian consulting firm.
She finally changed her mind as the day approached. "The date has a triple eight. It's too perfect; I'm afraid that it will have the opposite result."
Most couples delayed their wedding banquets to avoid the inconvenience of traffic controls and being upstaged by the Games opening ceremony, which will feature thousands of performers and extravagant fireworks.
Wang Dongxiao, manager of the 168 Wedding Planning Company, said they declined work at more than 30 wedding banquets on Friday because of the restrictions on cars that only allow vehicles on the street with odd and even number on alternate days.
"We only accepted four wedding banquets outside the Fifth Ring Road, where traffic control measures don't apply," he said.