China Love is a new documentary by Australian filmmaker Olivia Martin-McGuire that gives an insight into the pre-wedding photography industry in China, as well as the pressures and expectations set upon modern Chinese couples.
At Easy Weddings, we were fortunate enough to attend the first Melbourne screening of the film to really see what the Chinese industry is doing that Australia’s industry can learn from.
There we chatted with director Olivia Martin-McGuire and pre-wedding photographer and founder of Blessed Vision Vincent Zhang, about how the film came about and what the pre-wedding photography industry is like in Australia.
Martin-McGuire’s first lightbulb moment for the film came when she was at the Bund on Shanghai’s waterfront and spotted around 30 brides all posing for photos. As part of the former Shanghai International Settlement, the Bund hosts some of Shanghai’s most famous European-style architecture, making it a popular spot for pre-wedding photographs.
On this particular day, Martin-McGuire spotted these brides in all different dresses and colours rushing around from place to place, revealing their white runners underneath. It was at that moment that she was truly sucked in by the industry of pre-wedding photography.
Pre-wedding photography shoots can include five or six different outfit and location changes, so it’s no wonder these women are wearing runners rather than traditional wedding shoes.
China Love follows the story of several couples as they go through the expected ritual of pre-wedding photography. But it also gives us an insight into what pressures these couples face when it comes to marriage, family loyalties, living arrangements and continuing the cycle that is having children.
It also introduces us to Allen Shi, a tycoon in the Chinese wedding industry, which is worth more than $80 billion. Coined the ‘Godfather’ of the pre-wedding photo industry, Allen Shi is on a mission to create a global empire with his company The Jiahao Group.
But as always, it’s our audience the couples who have the most to teach us. What these couples teach us about is the dream. Particularly for brides, pre-wedding photos are something they dream about since being little girls. These highly-edited, fantasy images in studios or even overseas give couples the chance to live out their dreams for a day. They can be a princess or a star and be able to relive the moment that they achieved that dream in the photos afterwards.
It’s also something that previous generations didn’t have the opportunity to do. During China’s cultural revolution between 1966 and 1976, wedding photos consisted of a single, passport-sized image to document the marriage of a couple, rather than celebrating it in a westernised way. Now, many older couples are having those photos taken for the first time.
As one bride in the film says, once the pre-wedding photos are after it’s time to go back to regular life. In a society where marriage is encouraged and expected by both sides of the family, the pre-wedding photos are seen as something for the couple, whereas the wedding is simply viewed by the couple as a way to appease their families.
So what can we as Australian wedding suppliers learn from China Love? As Zhang says, the biggest takeaway is to live in the fantasy.
While Australian couples are currently favouring natural, candid images with native scenery, Chinese pre-wedding photography is focused on achieving the dream. Highly-edited, posed and fantasy images in bright locations with luxurious backdrops are what Chinese couples are after when it comes to their pre-wedding photos.
This is good news for European or mansion-style venues, photographers, hair and makeup artists, and of course, videographers, who are also seeing a massive trend towards pre-wedding videography in China.
It also gives us a chance to look at how the pre-wedding industry might grow in Australia and what areas it’s likely to grow in. There could definitely be areas for growth around capital cities with luxurious locations and a high Chinese population.
After all, as wedding suppliers, we are selling the dream. Whether it’s the dream of pre-wedding photos or the actual wedding day is up to the couple.
Host your own China Love screening
If you’re interested in seeing China Love but can’t find a screening near you, host your own! Anyone can host their own screening at no cost, giving you the opportunity to introduce your brand and audience to a specific location or audience.
Request a screening from Demand FIlm here or watch the trailer below.