Point of view: Wedding photo fantasies

In Beijing, a wedding means an elaborate photo shoot, complete with props, ladders and lighting equipment.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/staff

A bride and groom in Western-style outfits posed for a photographer in Chaoyang Park on a warm Sunday in June. The Beijing park is a popular backdrop for wedding albums. It has natural settings – trees, flowers, canals – as well as fake ones: European-looking buildings with ornate columns and fountains. It's sort of a Disneyland for brides.

Couples rent clothes specifically for their wedding-album shots. There was plenty of white, but some brides leaned toward punk rock, and one wore bright red (a common wedding-dress color here, as it's considered lucky). Another couple looked as though they were ready for a bowling alley in electric yellow and green.

The photographers set the couples up in – to me – ridiculous poses sometimes, continually shouting commands. Several assistants waited in the wings with props, ladders, makeup, and lighting equipment. (I love how the bride in this photo is standing on a wooden box to make her taller.) My translator explained that the elaborate wedding album usually bears no resemblance to the wedding itself, which is a simple affair in regular clothes – no gowns, tuxes, or bowling shirts.

As we left the park, I saw a bride holding a fake watering can over fake flowers as an assistant held a big silver disk to bounce sunlight onto her face. I wonder if I could get a photo assistant to follow me around?

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