CAUTION, this post is rather explicit, as you might have surmised from the title.
I can’t believe it we actually made it. We managed to take our wedding pictures. In a word…it was surreal! And also fabulous, but mostly surreal.
We had to be in Jiangning, the most Southern part of the town by 8am. Being used to Chinese punctuality we set of slightly late, I was sure it wouldn’t be a big deal. We arrived at 8:10am to find the employees in a frenzy and the best dresses already picked off by all the other couples in the room – a whole group as it turned out later. I guess I should have listened when they kept saying to be on time.
In a rush, I was told to chose seven dresses for the shoot. Luckily, my hair and make-up stylist was a very lovely and reasonable person, who assisted me without forcing her own opinion on me. She even allowed me try on the qipaos, and luckily so. As I rightly feared, it was not an easy feat to find one of the tight-cut dresses made for slight Chinese figures to fit my pear-shaped body. While I managed to squeeze my backside into one of the shorter dresses, my fat got pushed down and squished out from under the edge of the dress. It was a horror show. In the end, a white, long qipao with 青花瓷 Chinese porcelain jars and jugs was just about acceptable. Great, hurdle one mastered.
After Loulou, the stylist, ran a straightening iron through my hair while the photographer, a stick-thin Dongbei bro with a funky tattoo on his upper arm, picked out seven outfits for Mr.Li, matching, and I lose the term loosely, the dress choices I had made.
Then we were all whisked off even further South, I doubt the place can even rightly call itself Nanjing anymore, to their big photo villa in a van with another happy couple and their stylist and photographer plus countless bags stuffed with clothes, accessories and props.
At the villa, it was time for make-up, as part of which Loulou shaved off a majority of my eyebrows only to paint on ones twice as thick as my natural ones. I assume they will grow back by the time of the wedding, in the meantime I look a little bit like a wannabe-gangster. She further stuck on not two, not three, but FOUR layers of fake eyelashes, the aftereffects of which I would experience for the next few days as the masses of glue with which she attached them kept causing my natural lashes to stick to my upper eyelid once the fake ones had been removed, causing a very uncomfortable sensation.
After the eyebrow shave came the first outfit. This was the time when the rubber breasts came into play, a sticky, wobbly push-up construct, that is slapped onto your bare breasts and then hooked up in the middle. After relieving myself of my garments in order to undergo the slapping-on, I got which will without a doubt be the strangest compliment of my entire life.
“You have pretty nipples”, says LouLou, my stylist. Well, thank you very much, I wasn’t aware. I love how in China it is not considered strange or rude to make very intimate observations about complete stranger’s bodies. In most cases they are more along the upsetting line of “You are fat”, yet every so often you get the most fascinating compliments. “Thank you, dear stranger who I met an hour ago, for this observation.” Gotta love China.
After squeezing into the first dress, I noticed a rather ugly panty line showing, despite the fact that I had tried to wear one of the non-show ones. In the end, I decided the chance of me toppling over in my way-too-high heels and revealing my lady parts to the Chinese public were slim enough to risk going without. The things we do for a non-panty lined picture. I have to admit it was a new sensation as I usually never go “full freedom” under my dresses, and not one I cared for much. Once again the end justifies the means.
Then Mr.Li marched out in his first outfit and I thought my nightmares had come true. While I was wearing a lovely baby-blue dress of light material, the photographer had selected a bright blue jacket, white pants and a yellow shirt for Mr. Li. Yes, yellow. He looked like a parrot. It was all I could do to remark upon how foreigners and Chinese have a very different feeling for matching colours and pray that the next outfits would be a bit less clown-like. Luckily, they were. Phew.
The final highlight of the day was when Loulou literally sewed me into one of the tighter dresses that I could not fit into. I know for a fact that this is a very common thing with these photo shoots, otherwise I might have been terribly upset and ended up feeling like a whale. As it was, I just accepted my fate and tried not to pass out as I could barely breathe.
In total we did seven different outfits, ranging from summery blue evening dress, to Han style, classic white wedding dress and of course the Old Shanghai style I had been obsessing about. The team of two asked me in the morning to show them the style I wanted. After I did, they kept saying in very worried voices that our pictures would not be exactly like that. I have seen this happen a few times, that people offering creative services will get really nervous when you show them examples of what you are looking for. Apparently some local customers get aggravated if the result is not 100% identical to the original photo. I found that idea very strange, after all of course the set is going to be different than the one of the photo studio in another province, which provided the inspiration. If I wanted it to be exactly the same, I would have to go to Sichuan province. It seems Chinese customers have a lot higher expectations than I do.
Overall and to my slight surprise, I was very happy with the whole service. Granted some of the dresses were a little dirty, but what else can you expect when you pay a bargain – as it seems we have managed to get the lowest price in the country at 3700 RMB for 250 pictures (half of which will receive post-tweaking). Our Team of Two, LouLou and the tattoed Dongbei photographer, were incredibly patient and very helpful without being too pushy. This might have once again been down to the Laowai Bonus, as Mr.Li observed that the other photographers were a lot ruder to the other customers.
Mr.Li himself was as good as gold, and despite the fact that both of us were almost toppling over by the end of the day, 11 hours after had arrived in Jiangning, he was in surprisingly high spirits.
The weather could not have been more perfect either, as we managed to get into that tiny spring window. It seems that all the worrying and rescheduling paid off in the end.
Now, all that remains is for me to go and chose the photos I want and hope that the quality is fairly good. Though I got a sneak peek of some of Dongbei dude’s work and it looked promising.
This was probably the most tiring but also the happiest day that I have had in years. So thank you Mr.Li for being so tough and giving me a fabulous day to remember.