This article originally appeared on VICE Asia
Pre-wedding photography has become a billion dollar industry in China.
Make no mistake: “pre-wedding photo shoots” and “engagement shoots” are not synonymous. The former refers specifically to images of couples taken on the day they tie the knot, fully dressed in their wedding regalia.
But in China, where pre-wedding photography has soared to elaborate heights, the custom is to take these photos six months to a year in advance. From photoshoots in front of the Big Ben in London to the temples of the Angkor Wat, would-be couples are taking their fantasies overseas.
Usually, the bride brings three dress changes with her: a Western white gown, a Chinese-style red dress, and something more modern.
Worldwide, couples today are spending more than ever on their weddings, according to a 2018 survey by Wedding Wire. Millennial couples spend an average of $36,000. That's $10,000 more than couples did a generation ago. Photography takes the biggest slice of the wedding budget, after the venue, catering, and music.
Most weddings in China can already run for thousands of dollars and the popularity of these shoots add mightily to that cost. Companies that offer packages including outfits, makeup, and transportation charge a pretty penny for their services. In 2017, the Chinese wedding industry was valued at $200 million dollars. It’s expected to grow to $430 million by 2021.
Pre-wedding photos may stem from a desire to portray prosperity and wealth, one that constantly straddles the line between how the couple is in reality and how they want to be seen. It's no doubt this that has given way to a thriving industry.