Chinese couples getting married bring a whole new aspect to tourist snaps in London
In traditional Chinese culture, when it comes to weddings, couples usually have wedding photos taken before the actual ceremony. This is usually so they have them to show to guests at the reception, either in album or on a big screen. However, in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan the photos are usually shot in temples and pagodas or beside lakes.
But now, a new phenomenon is on the rise: going abroad. In London, more and more young couples from China and other territories are heading for a new direction with their pre-wedding photo shoots by having them done outside famous landmarks. These include Westminster and Tower Bridge, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Bank and Trafalgar Square, though a permit is needed for the latter.
Tao Wei, a former student at UCL began doing such shoots during his time at university after he first did it as a favour to a friend. He eventually gave up his studies and took his hobby to the next level. He now owns VM Studios, which caters to the growing number of Chinese couples wanting to be snapped in popular tourist spots in full wedding gear. In one year he has already done pre-wedding photographs for more than 150 couples.
Tao Wei and Crystal Leung, another photographer who is in the same business, say about half of their clients are couples who are or were students here and want the photos done before they return home, while the rest are mostly from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan who fly to the UK especially to get in on the craze. Leung has been in the profession for eight years and runs Gigibride Wedding Photography, saying that as well as the most famous hotspots, some couples – usually the students – like to have photos taken at places like university campuses or other parts of London that are special to them.
At VM Studios, Tao says that photo shoots start just before dawn so that they can get the best possible pictures and before the rush of tourists floods the areas. The preparation, including hair, make-up and the clothes – gowns and suits are provided for them, along with transport – normally begins after midnight, a few hours ahead of sunrise. The shoots can last up to 14 hours if the couple wants a video too.
While Western couples usually opt for more natural and traditional photographs and poses, the Chinese tend to want something a bit quirkier and will do several shoots while striking comical poses as well as of normal ones. At the end, the majority of them like to have the pictures edited by doing colour washes or getting rid of things or people that were in the way of the photo. “The Chinese judge beauty differently from Europeans,” says Tao, who says most of his clients only wanted a Chinese photographer because of both the cultural and language barriers.
Leung says although she has experienced a surge in Chinese couples wanting pictures done in London every year, the UK’s capital is still not quite as popular as other European destinations. Paris and Santorini in Greece are among the favourites and she thinks this is partly because of the fact that a separate visa is needed to travel to the UK.
Figures released by Visit Britain show that nearly 200,000 Chinese tourists came to the UK last year, nearly three times as many as a decade ago. And although this number lags far behind other countries where over a million visit the UK every year (annual French visitors are close to 4 million), the Chinese actually spend some of the most money whilst they’re here. Each Chinese tourist will typically contribute more than £2500 to the British economy, four times more than the average tourist.