About a month before my trip to Shanghai, I had a sudden brainwave. Wouldn’t it be awesome to photograph a Chinese wedding? Being the crazy and impulsive person that I am, I immediately emailed about 20 wedding photographers in Shanghai, asking them if I could tag along on one of their weddings.
A few weeks later I got an email from the photographer Dave Marco. He said I was more than welcome to join them on the 24th of December 2016 for a wedding. I was so excited I danced on my couch and phoned my mom scream-speaking in excitement.
Fast forward to my first night in Shanghai. Dave sent me a message inviting me to his studio to have a chat about the wedding. My lovely sister helped me with translating addresses and finding train lines to get to Dave. When I finally arrived at his studio I was welcomed by his fiancé. She offered me a cup of coffee and soon after my arrival Dave’s second shooter, Marc, joined us. We soon discovered that Dave is Polish, Marc is Serbian and I’m, of course, South African. IN CHINA. It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke.
The next day we started the day early. We were welcomed by a gorgeous sunset on our way to the wedding. On arrival the bride’s family insisted that we had some of the Lucky Soup. The soup consisted of berries and poached eggs. As a westerner I was skeptical, but Dave said it was a sign of good luck. Everyone who is part of the wedding day should have some. The verdict- it was really good!
Next we had to photograph the traditional game where the groom had to overcome a series of obstacles before he is allowed to see his bride. The bridesmaids hid the bride’s shoes, which he had to find by solving various riddles. My task was to stay with the bride and to capture her reactions. She was so proud of her husband-to-be and watched him carefully through the window. When the groom finally solved all of the riddles, he burst into the room with glee. He kneeled down and started reciting a poem for his beloved bride. This was one of my favourite moments of the day.
The next event was the tea ceremony. The bride and groom offer tea to each other’s parents as a sign of respect and of joining the two families as one. The parents then in turn presented the couple with a red envelope as a gift.
After the tea ceremony, the entire wedding party moved to the wedding venue. The venue was an hour away. It was quite the sight to see a van full of photographers and videographers fast asleep.
When we arrived at the wedding venue we immediately started planning which angles we were going to cover as to not miss a moment. I was in awe of Dave and Marc and how much knowledge and experience they have. I learnt so much from them in such a short time. They also let me use some of their lenses to play around with!
When the ceremony begun, we were ready for action. The bride was stunningly beautiful and the groom was beaming when he saw her walking towards him. There were tears of joy as the couple read out their vows. I didn’t understand a word that was spoken (being one of the only English speaking people there). However, I perfectly understood the joy and love and magic of the moment. Love is truly a universal language.
The evening celebration was a ton of fun with an American blues band jamming out some tunes in the background. Just as we were packing up the guests started dancing and singing (something that I’m told does not happen very often at Chinese weddings). As we walked out the door we were hugged by a bunch of people, all of them wishing us a Merry Christmas. I felt so welcome and appreciated.
After one last coffee at Dave’s studio, I thanked his for his knowledge and for the amazing opportunity to be part of this wedding. Not many people would just take in a stranger to help them out at a wedding. I will always be grateful to Dave for trusting me and for making me feel so very welcome. I hope one day I can also be in the position to help out a newbie photographer and to impart some knowledge that I have learnt along the way.
Thank you, Dave- I will always be so very grateful.