A happy couple exchange a kiss for the camera, the bride in a white off-the-shoulder dress holding a delicate bouquet, the groom in matching white suit, standing together on a green lawn lined with pink blossom.
It looks like the perfect wedding memory — except it’s not their wedding day. Instead, it is part of a booming industry in China for increasingly elaborate pre-wedding photos, as young couples spend time and cash lining up glamorous photo shoots to display on their big day.
But for those who can’t afford to travel overseas or to Chinese tourist hotspots in search of suitable backdrops, companies like the Love Story in Rome studio bring a range of backgrounds, costumes, accessories and themes together — all within one Beijing complex.
“It’s really tiring to shoot outside, moving from one place to another place. This wedding shoot centre is indoors and it provides everything you want,” said bride Zhao Tianyou, 25, who had been shooting since 8am that morning.
Rows of couples pose for photographs inside the sprawling complex in Beijing, with settings ranging from tropical gardens to autumnal fields, waterfalls to starlit skies.
In one carefully stage-managed shot, a bride in a white dress floats half-submerged in water, drinking a glass of wine.
“Chinese wedding photography has become more customised,” said general manager Zhao Rongchang.
“Chinese people used to love to go on trips for shooting their wedding photos… But now they prefer to shoot indoors and prefer a more precise photography style.”
The value of the wedding industry in China has been booming, with research group ASKCI predicting that by the end of 2019 its value will reach 2.27 trillion yuan.
Zhao says between 50 and 60 couples come to their centre every day on a quest for the perfect snaps.
The enormous building is full of aisles of clothing and accessories in every colour, from traditional red Chinese wedding outfits to modern Western-style white gowns and suits.
An army of helpers take photographs and manage sets, adjust clothing and add accessories with couples changing outfits multiple times throughout the day.
“I love all the styles they’ve designed for me,” said a bride surnamed Wu, aged 26. “It’s a bit tiring, but I’m very happy.”