Chinese-style faux-wedding photos are just good fun

By Juli Min Source:Global Times Published: 2017/7/16 18:03:39

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Shanghai summer is in full bloom, and like perennial flowers, couples in full wedding regalia are once again popping up along the Bund and the former French concession's sunlight-dappled streets to have their pre-wedding photographs taken.

Many foreigners think the Chinese tradition of staged wedding shoots is over the top, funny and even phony. But personally, I love seeing these happy couples strike poses and arch their backs for kisses that remain suspended on command. They remind me of my own wedding photo shoot in Shanghai just last year.

Pre-wedding shots mitigate the risk of bad photos on the big day in the case of bad lighting, bad weather or other unknown stressors. I know plenty of couples back home who were disappointed at the quality or output of their wedding snaps. Unfortunately, they had no second chance or reserve photos.

Given a wedding only happens once in a lifetime (hopefully), it's also an occasion worthy of celebration and documentation. And if there is ever a good time to go into a professional studio, it's during the couple's bloom of youth.

Many detractors claim pre-wedding photos are "fake." There is no denying this; most studio photo shoots lack the candid authenticity of real wedding pics. But for centuries, people all over the world have been posing in costumes for portraits to commemorate special moments: coronations, inaugurations and weddings.

For me, the staged aspect of the studio shoot is all part of its appeal. I remember twisting, elongating, turning, holding and smiling for eight straight hours during my own shoot, every movement and eye-smile curated by the photographer. "Move this way, chin down a centimeter, fingers relaxed and straight." By the end of the day, I was sore in every part of my body.

But boy, was it worth it! When we first reviewed our photos, even before post-processing I looked like a more poised and elegant version of myself. The transformation of my husband, whose daily dress code more resembles Mark Zuckerberg, was mind-blowing.

After our pics went through the inevitable Photoshop'ing, we looked about the same, just 2 kilograms lighter, nary a double chin or flappy arm in sight. This is the way our grandchildren will remember us.

"But why would I want a series of posed photos in random costumes that have been worn by hundreds of other couples?" is what some Western women will ask with derision. To them, a wedding dress is a symbol, a must-purchase item and a potential family heirloom.

But I had no such concerns. I was happy to jump in and out of the five well-worn ball gowns and oft-used wedding dresses; in the end, I liked one dress so much that I decided to rent it for my real wedding day. I saved a lot of money renting as opposed to buying a dress, and with that extra money we were able to host more guests flying in from abroad, rent bridesmaids' dresses and spend more on our honeymoon.

Plus, I don't know anyone who has actually ever worn their wedding dress again. Most of the time they just gather dust in the backs of closets and are out of fashion in a couple decades' time, at which point a daughter will probably decide to buy her own new gown.

But the biggest reason why I am now an advocate of Chinese-style pre-wedding photo shoots is that, in the end, it's just spectacular fun to play dress-up and spend a day being pampered and made-up alongside your future husband. It's a unique memory shared with your significant other that you can have bound and printed and framed as the ultimate keepsake.

So instead of making fun of all those couples and their hired entourages blocking traffic at Waibaidu Bridge (aka Garden Bridge), give them a nice encouraging smile and even take a picture of them having their picture taken. After all, it's only fair to indulge them a little fantasy, for what is in store for them will be anything but: the blood, sweat and hard work of a lifelong project called marriage.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Times.



Posted in: TWOCENTS,METRO SHANGHAI

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