Chinese couples splash out on lavish pre-wedding photo shoots starring New Zealand scenery

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South Island scenery is the star in Chinese wedding photos. Amanda Cropp reports

Chinese brides in flimsy frocks are choppering to mountain tops and braving sub-zero temperatures to capture dramatic images of themselves in the snow.

Avoiding the tourist hordes outside the Church of the Good Shepherd at Lake Tekapo demands 6am photo sessions and an early rising so hair and makeup are done in time.

At the other end of the day, there’s always chance to grab a romantic shot with their groom beside the iconic church under a star-filled sky.

Nothing is too much trouble for Chinese couples spending thousands of dollars on lavish pre-wedding photo shoots that can last several  days.

Chinese Lord of the Rings fans sport elf ears for their pre-wedding shoot at Hobbiton.

Tangchi Film and Tourism

Chinese Lord of the Rings fans sport elf ears for their pre-wedding shoot at Hobbiton.

Pre-wedding shoots are a growing business here and Queenstown, Lake Tekapo and the wide open spaces of Central Otago are favoured spots.

Hobbiton – where photographers must pay a $1000 wedding fee – is also popular with Lord of the Rings fans.

Christchurch airport’s Asia sales director Swallow Wang said Chinese couples often did the paperwork to get legally married months in advance of the actual wedding reception.

In the interim they travelled here, combining a holiday with the opportunity to get photographs to display at the wedding party.

Receptions were often lengthy affairs that included a  lunch hosted by the bride’s family and a dinner hosted by the groom’s family so “no one does the photos on the day because it would be too stressful.”

Wang said China’s seasonal extremes of heat and cold meant wedding photos were normally done in studios and the opportunity to get them taken outdoors with the South Island’s spectacular scenery as a back drop was a big draw card for Chinese couples.

Last year Tangchi​ Film and Tourism expanded to Christchurch from China where it has 30 staff specialising in wedding photos and videos.

Co-owner John Zhang​ said a two night photo video package covering hotels, helicopter flights, photographer, dress and suit hire, and makeup cost between $7000 and $10,000, depending  the number of locations visited.

The itinerary usually included Lake Tekapo and Mt Cook where couples flew to the Liebig Dome, but he had also done shoots in Hagley Park and outside the historic Canterbury museum.

Queenstown-based Warren Williams of Mountain Weddings said once helicopters, florists, photography fees and make up artists were taken into account, the economic impact was substantial.

It was common for the resulting images to be projected on the wall at wedding receptions or blown up into huge prints, and he once had a request for a photo 10 metres across.

“People are captivated by the clear blue waters of the lakes, the rolling landscapes and the mountains.”

Wildlife is also a big hit with couples who happily pose with cows, alpaca and horses, and Williams can rustle up sheep on request.

Shoots last anything from a couple of hours to a couple of days, with multiple changes of outfits.

“Some like to have two or three changes of dresses. When I say ‘are you going to wear those dresses again at your wedding?’ they’ll say, ‘no I’ll have another gown for that.'”

Cheng Li of Kylin Image Photography said business really picked up after he attended a wedding expo in Shanghai three years ago.

He has branches in Auckland and Queenstown with a selection of 200 hire gowns at each, and he photographed about  300 couples from mainland China in the last year.

Social media also has a huge influence and the pre-wedding market got a boost last year when Chinese celebrity actress Liu Shishi​ and Taiwanese singer and actor Nicky Wu jetted in for a pre-shoot in the Waitomo Glowworm Caves ahead of their wedding ceremony in Bali. ​

By AMANDA CROPP
Stuff New Zealand

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