BEICHUAN, Sichuan, April 26 (Xinhua) -- Bride Deng Ling supported a sapling upright while her sweetheart Li Jun bowed to spade earth into the pit carefully, expecting happiness in their coming marriage life.
With tears running down her face, 38-year-old Deng made a wish: "We plant the sapling and hope it will bring fruit and happiness to us."
Deng and Li were among the 40 people who lost their spouses in the May 12 earthquake last year. They tied the knot at a group wedding on Sunday in the worst hit Beichuan County in China's southwestern Sichuan Province.
The wedding service, funded by the local government, was held in accordance with the folk customs of the Qiang ethnic group in Beichuan. The county lost two-thirds of its population in the quake.
The magnitude-8.0 quake hit southwest China, including most parts of Sichuan, and killed more than 69,000 people. It also left nearly 18,000 missing, more than 374,000 injured and millions homeless.
On Sunday, the 20 couples planted 20 trees at the wedding ceremony to appreciate the caring from others and expect happiness in their own life, according to the wedding organizer.
A gun salute was included in the ceremony to express the Qiang people's hospitality and their blessings to the new couples, said Chen Xingchun, Communist Party chief of Beichuan, the country's only Qiang autonomous county.
Tang Jirao, another bridegroom, held fast to the hands of Zhang Li, his bride, in the 30-minute wedding ceremony.
"It's a bit cold today, and his hands are warm," Zhang explained with a shy smile.
Having lost his wife in the earthquake, Tang was introduced to Zhang Li, a primary school teacher, in October 2008.
At the first sight of Tang, Zhang found her liked the man.
"He gave me the feeling that he was reliable, though he spoke little," said Zhang.
Like many other who lost their family members, Tang was reluctant to think of the past.
"I was afraid to stay alone, and I kept myself busy so that I would be exhausted and fall asleep," said Tang, deputy head of Leigu Town.
"I even thought that my life would be ending that way," said the 51-year-old man, "till I was introduced to Zhang Li by my family members."
According to the Qiang custom, new couples should sing love ballads at the wedding ceremony, and shelled corns and millets will be spread on the crowds, which is believed to bring fortune to the new couples.
Bridegroom Yang Changbin pulled his wife Zhou Xiaohong out of the crowd, and found her a seat.
"I was a cab driver, and now stay at home and take care of Zhou. She was hurt in the waist in the quake," said Yang.
"I will return to work as she turns better, and she will start a small business like a canteen."
Leaning her head on Yang's shoulder, Zhou said: "We plan to have a baby, so we can have a real home."
Yang's face beamed with broad smile. "Today is the most important day for me after the quake, also a happy start in the rest of my life."