China, a place we often associate with cold and cold communism, has seen its economy explode over the last decade, and with it, there is a kind of relaxation in local society and culture. Currently 20-somethings in China are growing with almost freedom like the U.S. which is not experienced by previous generations. That freedom, along with economic benefits, has many young people, successful Chinese people who want to show off to friends and colleagues, and silence their mothers with old traditions. One such tradition, China’s official marriage, has produced an entirely new marriage photography sub-genre: Asian pre-wedding.
‘Pre Pre Wedding’ Photo Session
What is the “Asian pre-wedding” you are asking? It’s like what we photographers and our clients refer to as “engagement sessions,” except not really … at all. Here in America, we photographers have standard stable sessions we offer to our clients: engagements, weddings, maybe the next day’s sessions, and rightly so. Engagement sessions are a great way for our clients to get to know us. It also helps our clients learn to feel comfortable in front of the camera. Lastly, it gives us a lot of creative freedom to photograph some pretty photos for savings cards, wedding invitations, announcements, and their guest book. We spent an hour or so shooting, the client brought some simple props possible, we made some pretty pictures, and we finished. His client was happy, and we fired had time to shoot with them without any pressure on the big day.
Enter pre-wedding Asia. This is a heroin engagement session; Driving around raiding banks, doing smoky blackouts in Chevelle ’69, firearms firing at the air, and hair blowing in the wind. Remember all those traditions? The couple wanted a wedding photo that showed they were living the Hollywood Hollywood Dream version, and they wanted someone to document it so they could show it to their friends at home. They want to be in Las Vegas, an “American” place like theirs, driving a supercar, gambling, drinking and having fun. They want to be on Route 66 in a vintage muscle car, top down, hair blowing hard, bigger fliers protect their eyes from the sun. These things represent American freedom and culture towards them, and they want it in droves.
Not all of these sessions are supercharged; There are many other themes that clients choose to use. Our friends Jeremy and Zabrina at Jeza Photography have been a pre-wedding powerhouse for the past few years, having carved out an amazing business for themselves along the way. Their clients have taken them all over the world; from Paris to London, Venice to San Francisco. Their clients want photographs along the streets of Paris with beautiful designer dresses and bespoke suits. They want to ride the gondola through Venice, eyes stuck together in the most romantic places imaginable. Often these clients are more than willing to spend a three month salary to do all this.
As the name suggests, pre-marriage takes place before the wedding, such as an engagement session. But unlike engagement sessions, clients often wear wedding dresses and their wedding tuxedo in photos. They want to be seen in their wedding dress, and have no objections or superstitions, and do not buy the traditional worries that an American couple may have about it. This session can take place from a four-hour photo shoot to a multi-day marathon involving rented cars and chartered planes, locations that require big money for rent on the day, change of clothes, prop guns, and theater makeup! They really are an experience.
Once the session is over, couples often return to China and hold traditional and simple weddings for their parents and families. They then proceed to plaster their pre-wedding photos all over social media to their friends to see! Weddings are very much for mom and dad, and for couples, this is the second thing for their pre-marriage. Here in the state, the wedding day is the most important thing for our clients, and the engagement session is less important – in contrast to our Asian friends.