Every Spring in Beijing (and every Summer, Winter, and Fall)

April 10, 2014

Wedding photos are one of the most important parts of Chinese weddings, and in contrast to Western countries, these photos are taken weeks or even months before the actual wedding day. The cost can be extravagant depending upon the locations chosen, costumes, props, make up artists, stylists, choreographers, and other crews members needed. Some couples spend thousands of dollars in various locations to get their dream marriage photographs (and the kitschier the photos the better). Next to my building in Beijing is Wang Jing Park. It is a nice park but not spectacularly groomed. Over the years it seemed to be a forgotten landmark, but I guess it photographs well. Every spring (summer, winter, and fall) it is full of wedding photographers, crews, grooms and brides using every nook and cranny, every costume and prop imaginable to get the perfect marriage photos. It can be a very wild and entertaining scene, if you aren’t looking for a little peace to relax and contemplate nature in this big bustling city.

Recently one crew brought in a pink baby grand plywood piano for the groom to play a silent serenade to his bride. On the other side of the lawn nestled into some bushes was a bright red fake London phone booth. Teddy bears, balloons, papier mache glowing hearts, fake rain, confetti--you name it--and there is a chance it might show up on any given day in the park. If a prop is temporarily left behind while the photographer takes his couple to another spot in the park, a different crew might commandeer it so their groom can also play a tune for his love (and catch it on camera for free). It seems to be a well organized free-for-all as dozens of shoots happen simultaneously, passersby look curiously on, old men fly their kites, and locals scour the landscape to dig up the edible weeds, or pick new leaves from the trees for their dishes or medicines. –James Elaine