08 May 2017

Pre-Wedding Photoshoot Experience (7 Years Late)


Let me explain.

In this part of the world, "Pre-wedding" photoshoots are a rather normal or expected part of getting married. Couples book shoots months before their actual wedding, dress up in dresses and tuxes rented from the bridal studio, and spend a day with a photographer and a makeup artist taking ultra-glamorous photos, photos which may later be designed into large, artistic albums and printed onto huge posters to be displayed at the wedding reception.

This means that it's very common to attend a wedding reception here and get to page through the bride and groom's wedding photo album--this was at first an odd concept to those of us from the West, as we normally think of "wedding photos" as being taken at the actual wedding, so that only in the months to come you might be able to view the photos.

{At my friend's wedding last year, their photos and albums were displayed.}

However, we have come to really have fond feelings toward this tradition--I treasure the glamorous photos of my friends. After all, who wouldn't want to have some extra-special photos of you and your man when you were young and starry-eyed about the person you were about to marry?

Some couples really go all out for wedding photos--making travel plans and booking photoshoots overseas, taking photos in especially photogenic areas of Taiwan, Japan, or Korea. Others who aren't looking to invest nearly so much money into a photoshoot take photos locally--either at a variety of outdoor locations around the city, or at a studio.

All of this doesn't yet explain why, suddenly in April, we were visiting a studio that my family had previously used for family photos in order to discuss a photo package. Here's the situation: Angel suddenly decided he wanted nice, updated photos to be able to give to his relatives that we'll be meeting for the first time in many years in May. We'd always had it in the back of our minds, since before getting married, that maybe we'd do one of these wedding photoshoots someday, but the years went by and there was never really any motivation to spend the money and take the time to do it, but now we had some reason, and it was Angel who decided he really wanted to get photos done. The lady I sat down with initially offered a base one-day in studio package, which included 3 gowns and suits from their collection, makeup, hairstyles, along with 20 digital photos with full rights for sharing and printing. The package also included a 12"x12" photo album and a 16"x20" wall photo frame. When she showed me the frame--my eyes widened big time. 16 inches by 20 inches is gigantic. No...we didn't need a nearly life size (okay, I know that's an exaggeration...but it looked life size!) photo of ourselves to hang on the wall.

I responded that since these were really just anniversary photos, not pre-wedding photos, I was looking for a smaller package at a smaller price--not so much included, and in return, not so much to pay for. The bridal studio worked very well with that idea, offering suggestions--we ended up shrinking the framed photo to 6"x8" (much more to my taste!), shrinking the photo album size by half, and using just two outfits from their collection while including my original wedding dress and his original wedding suit as the third outfit. This shrunk the price to 3/4 of what we were initially quoted, which I was very happy with.

The next step was to go in for a "fitting." The sizes available for borrowed clothing do tend to be somewhat limited--as they stock dresses and coats that can be worn by the largest percentage of their customers. When I was first at the studio making arrangement for the photoshoot, Angel wasn't with me, and when I asked about coats for him, the saleslady asked, " he very big in size?" This made me laugh--they mostly deal with Malaysian customers, who on average are more petite, and seeing a Caucasian in their studio, it's pretty natural to assume that my other half might be a bit out of their size range. I assured the saleslady that Angel is not very big at all, he blends in well with the crowd here in Malaysia. :) The size range is definitely limited. I'm definitely taller than average for this part of the world and some of the dresses were borderline too short, or they would be if I wore heels--so I just went barefoot.

I didn't want any other white dresses since I would already be wearing my white dress, so that limited my selection to what they called "evening gowns". When we arrived for the fitting, Angel and I were told to dig right in to the racks to find what dresses I wanted to try. I eliminated quite a few right away for having too many bows (I don't like bows) or for being the wrong color. I ended up trying on 4 dresses.

The first two were a simple pink lacy dress and a fitted red gown with a dramatic train.

I was legitimately trying to keep these photos simple, not go over the top.

However, when you see yourself in a cute, simple pink lace dress...and then see yourself in a fitted one-shoulder red gown with a might find it impossible to say no to the over-the-top dress. I felt like a movie star.

The next pair of dresses went very much the same. It was a black maxi dress with some jewels around the collar...or a navy blue ballgown with silver embroidery all over the place.

It turns out that I lose all self control the minute you put me in a movie star dress. The ladies who laced up the dress were saying that they knew which one I'd choose instantly when I couldn't stop smiling, even before the dress was laced.

Then we chose Angel's coats, based on coordinating them with the dresses I'd picked, and we were sent out with a list of things to buy, which included a white shirt and black pants for Angel (yeah...apparently the man who lives in shorts and t-shirts doesn't own basic clothes for men like black dress pants and a white long-sleeved shirt) and eyelashes for me. I said I didn't want to wear fake eyelashes but the ladies at the bridal studio were a bit horrified by that suggestion. Eyelashes was on the list so finally I gave in.

Two days later, we showed up at 10:30 in the morning to start our day of photos. I got right into the makeup artist's chair...and was there for a looooong time. The makeup artist asked me if I ever wore makeup, probably because I was having such a hard time not blinking or keeping my eyes where she wanted them to be while she was doing my eye makeup. The eyebrows took a very long time. "My job is not easy, you know!" she said, "Your eyebrows are not easy!" This cracked me up. Next was my hair, which she was not impressed with. "You should have more hair. You hair is so little. If it were down to here (about 5 inches longer) I would be able to do so much more."

Oh, I was having fun! I tried to tell her that actually, for me, this hair is impressively long, because usually it's closer to chin length, but she was still not impressed. She was okay with the purple hair, though. Later, the photographer was asking, "Why is your hair purple?" and the makeup artist spoke up for me, "Haven't you heard of 'highlights' before?"

It was so much fun. I felt like a princess. I had brought my own jewelry and accessories--she let me wear my pearls with my wedding dress, but by the time I put on the red dress, she said the pearls had to go. I offered up a few suggestions of jewelry I had, but she didn't think they matched with the dress so she went to find some from the bridal studio's collection of accessories. She even brought out tiaras, but it turns out that while I can't resist a movie star dress, I can say no to a tiara when I think that's a little too over-the-top. That's better than I can say for Angel, who voted "Yes!" on the tiaras.

After getting dressed and getting my hair styled for each outfit, we were brought into the photography studio. There was a bit of a language barrier between us and the photographer, but mostly the photographers assistant just posed us by physically moving us into the locations where they wanted us to be, and sometimes he told us "Freestyle!" which meant we could pose however we wanted. I wanted happy, smiling photos rather than the serious, magazine-style glamorous photos I see in many pre-wedding shoots, so we made sure to let them know that. The studio itself was very small, but it was cool how many different backgrounds they could fit into one room--each wall of the room was a different sort of background.

The photo-taking experience was fun. Angel isn't very comfortable with being in front of a serious camera, but he was game for all of the different shots the photographer suggested. At one point, the photographer got up on a ladder to shoot down at us, which amused me greatly--just because it seems like the kind of thing you'd see in a movie scene, but here it was, happening in real life.

We finished up at 3:00, and got to head home. It was funny to still have my glamorous makeup and be back in my everyday clothes. Angel said we had to do something festive since I was still all dolled up, so we went out for dinner to our favorite local Indian food shop.

About 5 days later we went back to the shop to choose the 20 pictures we wanted to keep. They would then edit the photos for us. Because of my preferences, and because I've seen these photos done for others many times, I made sure to note a few things:

1) We wanted to look like ourselves, so I asked that our skin not be lightened or really retouched in the first place--"fair" skin is the preferred style over here, but I'm plenty pale enough.
2) I requested that no words be used in the design of our album. Putting "inspirational" or "romantic" quotes in English inside the albums is a common practice, however, often these quotes are not actually grammatically-correct or understandable English, so I knew I'd prefer the album to have no words at all.

Choosing just 20 photos was hard! Perhaps even a good test for the relationship. ;) There were a few photos in front of a bookshelf that I wasn't too fond of (I'm not a big fan of props just for the sake of props) but Angel really, really liked those...I think they appealed to his traditional side, so I agreed on a few with that background. On the plus side, my hair looks great!

Because we'd arranged to get just three digital files early to make prints to give to relatives, these are the only three photos I have. We'll get the rest later this summer after returning to Malaysia and picking up the album. With such a long gap of time, I imagine that my memories of the photos we actually chose will be somewhat hazy, so picking up the album will be a pleasant surprise!

I'm really glad we did this! The experience was very fun--like an extended date!--and as a person who really, really loves photos (have you seen the huge wall of photos that gradually grows with every new home I move into?), I know these photos will mean so much to us for years to come. Later on when my hair is gray, I can always look back on the days when it was purple! ;)

This is my tale of getting traditional "pre-wedding photos" done, from an American perspective. There's so much I appreciate about all the cultures I have ties to!
rooth said...

Love these pictures! I got my pictures done in Taiwan when I was 15 and felt like a movie star for the day. They also shaved off half of my eyebrows (so glad they didn't touch yours) to make the makeup process go faster / easier. The pictures are hilarious to look back on now

AnneMarie said...

How fun! It's cool to hear about this experience, which seems so strange from my American perspective, but sounds so awesome. The train on that red dress is pretty amazing-it's so neat that you got to wear fancy clothes!!

Angi said...

What a fun experience - you look absolutely BEAUTIFUL!

The Lady Okie said...

Okay I love that this was Angel's idea and also YOU LOOK AMAZING. That red dress is seriously so cool. I love that you did this! So fun.

Suzanne said...

What an interesting fabulous story and photos!

When I saw the photos I thought you two were doing some red carpet event somewhere : ) You both look like movie stars.

That red dress is TO DIE for. Seriously.


Unknown said...

Girl, you look absolutely stunning in that red dress! It is a showstopper for sure. I'd love to do photos like this with my man!

Rach said...

What?! Only three photos for now?! But I want to see them ALL! These are AWESOME!!! I just love that you guys did this! I remember how this was such a big thing in China too (pre-wedding photos) and how it seemed strange to me at first, but later made sense. I mean, why not? Especially with everything happening on a wedding day. There are only so many hours to cram in so many things. We did anniversary photos on our first anniversary where we dressed up in our wedding clothes again and took photos on a laid back day in Memphis. I love those photos just as much as the ones taken on our wedding day! We were relaxed and not in a rush and had a lot of fun with those photos so they turned out super cute. :)

So glad you had such fun with this! I would too!

Robin said...

Beautiful pictures! And I like the idea of taking this pictures before the wedding. Maybe there is less pressure to capture perfect photos on the wedding day. I think Americans should do this, too.

Rachel ¦¦ A Nesting Nomad said...

This is a strange concept to me too, but it does explain what might have been going on with some of the epic photo shoots we saw in Santorini. I think your photos turned out beautifully! Those gowns are magnificent! I hope your families like the pictures. I wanted to get photos of S and I in Bedford before we left, as a reminder of our time in the place. But he said no... He is extremely camera shy. One day maybe I'll convince him!

Emily said...

Your photos are beautiful. I love the red dress.

Catherine Short said...

These photos are awesome! That is an interesting people also taken engagement photos?

Unknown said...

These are stunning! I LOVE that red dress. You look beautiful!

Beth (Coffee Until Cocktails) said...

Oh my gosh, these photos are amazing! I love that red dress! This is a neat idea, we do engagement photos here, but nothing quite that extravagant!

A.M. said...

I love this so much! I just finished a fun bridal shoot where I took photos in cute "bride" shirts and a little white dress. My fiance isn't much for photoshoots but I really want to do an "engagement" shoot at some point.

- Anali Martinez (

Unknown said...

You look gorgeous!! We didn't do a prewedding shoot or anything like that, just wedding photos! An anniversary shoot is a great idea!

Jennifer said...

What a great idea! I like the idea of an anniversary shoot way more than a pre wedding shoot. Another excuse to get dolled up!

Brita Long said...

I seriously love that you guys did this as a married couple. Why not?! The tradition sounds like a different take on the American engagement photos. I knew I wanted engagement photos for Dan and me, which he didn't totally understand, but he went along with it. Our photo shoot was just a few hours, though, and I did my own hair and makeup, plus we both wore our own clothes. We didn't have a fancy set either--our photographer found a cool location for us, though! I'm not sure if you saw my blog post with the engagement photos, but I know we've talked about the anniversary photos Dan and I took last year, recreating our favorite engagement photos in our wedding clothes. :)

I think it would be really fun to wear a glamorous gown with professional hair and makeup! I would totally say yes to a tiara, though ;)

Safaniya Stevenson said...

Love this! We didn't have a wedding or pre wedding photos. However earlier this year we had our first couple's shoot! I definitely want to some kind of anniversary ceremony to make up for no wedding, mostly for the dress and the party. hahahaha.

Callie said...

So interesting to read about the experience, and I LOVE the photos! Can't wait to see the rest!

Joy said...

Those look amazing! What a fun experience!! I'd love to do it too (though it'd be like 20 years late, not even kidding.).

Shooting Stars Mag said...

I've never heard of pre-wedding photos, but I can see the appeal. You look great in all of these - you both do! What a fun experience.

justine @ said...

how beautiful!!! our pre-wedding pictures were just engagement pictures that we used but this is so much more fun!
i love any excuse to dress up and feel like a movie star <3

mypixieblog said...

Oh my goodness...I love these pictures! And that red dress on you! You really do look like a movie star :) I love that the sales lady asked about your hubby's size but obviously the fit wasn't an issue for either of are naturals in front of the camera :)

Christina @ Hugs and Lattes said...

YOU GUYS ARE GORGEOUS! I hope you share more of these pictures soon :)I'm all for feeling like a princess, so I think this kind of shoot sounds fun!

Jenny Evans said...

Wow, I can't believe how amazing those are. You are one good-looking couple.

Unknown said...

These are gorgeous! You are absolutely STUNNING in that red gown!

Unknown said...

This looks like sooooo much fun!

Tayler Morrell said...

You shared so few! I want to see more!!

Veronica Lee Burns said...

wow this is such a cool and fun tradition. Sounds like a blast and I totally want to see more!

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