Behind the scenes of China’s billion dollar pre-marriage photo sessions trend
Unlike western nuptials, where pictures are most often taken on the day, location or studio shoots done months in advance have become the must-have for Chinese couples
Chinese couples used to be satisfied with a single black-and-white photograph taken during their wedding as a memento of their special day. But times have changed dramatically, and wedding photographs, especially pre-wedding photo sessions, have become big business in China.
In the main tourist spots in different cities across China, it’s easy to see couples having their pre-wedding picture shoots, which have become the must-have for every Chinese couple before their marriage.
Unlike western weddings, where usually couples have their photos taken on the day, for Chinese people it is popular to have day-long photo sessions way before the actual wedding. Sometimes it can be half a year or even a year in advance of the ceremony. To make these pre-wedding photos as unique as possible, lots of couples will select unusual spots as a backdrop, such as a fake field with deer and a sky full of stars, or in an interior scene made to look like one of the largest religious Cambodian monuments, Angkor Wat; all of these spots can be found in photo studios. Some couples even choose other countries for their pre-wedding sessions.
Often for their photo shoots couples go for traditionally romantic cities such as Paris. Those who can’t afford such a trip can have their photo taken in front of Chinese replicas of the world’s main tourist sights. Other couples prefer more traditional outdoor locations, like Beijing’s Hutong neighbourhood, or to be surrounded by nature like in Dali, where lots of couples do their pre-wedding photography next to Erhai Lake.
These sessions can range in price from a few hundred up to thousands of dollars, with companies providing clients with everything from outfits to make-up and transportation.
Brides typically have at least three dress changes per shoot. Inspired by the western style, many choose a flowing white wedding dress, a Chinese-style red gown, and something more modern. The shoots are just one part of a booming industry in China.
A wedding for most newly married couples can run from 50,000 yuan (£6,000) to 200,000 yuan, with larger amounts not uncommon in big cities like Beijing or Shanghai.
China’s wedding industry was valued at 1.46 trillion yuan in 2017, and it is expected to grow to 3 trillion yuan by 2021.