The dream makers
Updated: 2011-09-30 13:53
By Yao Jing (China Daily European Weekly)
Wedding couples want their big day portrayed in a new way, and there are those who are happy to oblige
A field of flowers offers a picture-perfect backdrop for couples. Provided to China Daily
There could hardly be a more romantic wedding photo setting for a bride and groom than a sun-drenched, lavender-clad field in the south of France.
For most Chinese couples such a backdrop belongs strictly to the realm of dreams, but that does not mean they have to be deprived of such possibilities.
Indeed, traditional wedding photo studios appear to have cottoned on to the fact that for many Chinese couples, striking up a few romantic poses drenched by nothing more than bright studio lights and against the backdrop of plastic greenery does not quite make the cut.
"Wedding photo studios and locations are trying to bring something new to their clients," says Zhang Rui, a wedding photography editor with the aijie.com website, a guide to weddings.
"Posed, template photos are not what the new generation want."
On the other hand, while some marrying couples would love an exotic backdrop in distant lands for their photos, many of the same people dread the stress and the cost, Zhang says.
The response of Blue Dreamland, in the suburbs of Beijing, to such consumer sentiment is much like: If the customers will not go to the south of France, the south of France must be brought to them.
Blue Dreamland has planted a field of lavender that sprawls over 20 hectares, and it is becoming one of the most popular destinations for wedding photo shoots.
Since Blue Dreamland opened 15 months ago it has greeted more than 15,000 marrying couples.
"In peak periods, the number can reach 80 a day," says Wang Liang, sales manager of Blue Dreamland, which has signed contracts with dozens of wedding photo studios in Beijing and nearby Hebei province.
The admission price for a couple from a partner studio is 200 yuan (23 euros); otherwise couples pay 500 yuan. People in the former category account for 90 percent of wedding photo customers, Wang says.
Lavender is not the only hue or fragrance on the company's palette of dreams. Among the others are the fresh, crisp green offered by manicured lawns and the lush dark greens and reds provided by a Southeast Asian background filled with Thai decorations.
Other studios are treading a similar path.
In the southern city of Guangzhou, Million Sunflower Garden, with a name as flamboyant as the flower that lends it its name, is opening a restaurant whose theme is hanging flowers. Cai Yunfei (Colorful flying clouds) is opening in time for the National Day holiday period from Oct 1 to 7, a peak time for wedding ceremonies.
Million Sunflower Garden opened nine years ago as a theme park, but only in the past few years has it blossomed into a wedding photos venue.
"Rainy days aside, you see newlyweds taking photos in the garden every day," says the sales manager, Liang Zhijun. "On holidays there will be more than 200 pairs."
In addition to photo shoots, couples will eventually be able to hold wedding ceremonies there, he says.
Like Blue Dreamland in Beijing that is working with studios, Million Sunflower Garden is working with studios from Guangzhou and the nearby cities of Shenzhen and Zhuhai.
Three studio staff are allowed to accompany each couple, who are given the use of a dressing room and are provided with refreshments.
A studio that wants to use the park pays 200 yuan for each couple for a one-day shoot.
Should couples wish to take a stroll down their marital memory lane in the future, they are given a VIP card that gives them access to the garden for 10 years.
Anyone wishing just to visit the park pays 85 yuan. Such customers generate not only income but publicity too, Liang says.
"The more photographers present our scenery in their pictures, the more people get to know about us."
While renting out the backdrops for wedding dreams is lucrative enough, outfits such as Blue Dreamland see a deeper gold mine. Renting out rooms for guests and providing catering are but two of the nuggets there for the taking.
Some wedding photo studios, not content to rely on others for their location shots, and propelled by a more geographically expansive imagination, are building their own sets.
August Photo Studio, a Beijing wedding photo outfit targeting the high-end market, opened a 6,000-square meter studio in the city's Shunyi district in October last year.
It can take 60 couples shooting at the same time, and backdrops that run the gamut from Korean, traditional Chinese, Westminster Abbey-like church and other western styles are on offer.
"We hope to vary our shooting styles as well as satisfy our customers' taste," says Liu Beihang, marketing manager of the studio.