Indrajala wrote:As far as I know this is a relatively recent development.
Looking at the news articles this has been running every year since 1995. I don't know the history of weddings in Chinese Buddhism more generally, but I don't see anything surprising in the idea that modern Buddhist organisations might have something to say about the institution of marriage.
Here is the official blog of the Dharma Drum Mountain Joint Buddhist Wedding http://ddmwedding.blogspot.co.uk
There is a detailed handbook on the site in pdf explaining the purpose of the ceremony, and a rundown of the ceremony. One thing I like about Dharma Drum mountain is that they like to make sure that the participants in their ceremonies actually know what is going on and what everything means (as opposed to more traditional Chinese Buddhism where you just bow a bit and light some incense based on a vague idea that it's 'lucky').
One important context for the ceremony is that a traditional Chinese wedding involves a huge feast with tonnes of meat and alcohol that mostly wasted. In this joint wedding ceremony the couples have a vegetarian meal on the day, and the idea is that this vegetarian meal is their wedding feast, and they will not then arrange a separate meat and alcohol orgy on another weekend (the couples have to agree to that on the application form). So in the video attached to the news story a couple of the participants say they chose to get married in this way because it is 'environmentally friendly' - this comment doesn't really make sense unless you know what a Chinese wedding is usually like!
As for this just being a money making exercise, I'm not sure. I couldn't find any reference to payment (admittedly, if there is payment you would expect it to be low key), but the application form does seem to be trying to weed out applicants who want to get married in the joint marriage ceremony just to save money. So even if you are expected to make a contribution, it's still less than what a typical wedding would cost. Looking at the application form they seem to want people with some honest affinity with Buddhism and the concepts of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
In return for getting a cheap or free wedding service at at a beautiful location presided over by local dignitaries and the abbot of one of Taiwan's most famous Buddhist organisations, a service whose Buddhist content the participants presumably find very meaningful, the participants just have to agree to be used in publicity footage for the values of Dharma Drum Mountain. If you agree with those values and are willing to publicise your wedding, then it seems like a good deal all round.