Shanghai China Bund bride groom
Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

No Shortage of Brides and Grooms in Shanghai

Like a model in a fashion show, she struck her pose confidently as her white dress — made even starker in the bright sunshine on that warm but smoggy Tuesday afternoon — swayed in the light breeze off of the Huangpu River while the photographer snapped picture after picture of her beauty.

Meanwhile, the man in the white tuxedo with the emerald green vest and bow tie waited patiently for his turn to be photographed as though he was to be on the cover of the next issue of GQ magazine.

A few of the hundreds of people out on the Bund whipped out their cameras and took some photographs; and some more looked at the couple in white with curiosity — but many of the people simply strolled on by, going about their business, talking in Chinese or English or whatever language in the cacophony of conversations communicated in many dialects.

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.
The photographer appears to be using a light meter to check a reading on the ambient light in the vicinity on the Bund in Shanghai. Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

It was my first time in Shanghai — let alone China. In my very brief research of Shanghai, I read that there was nothing really spectacular about the largest city in the world in terms of population with approximately 24,150,000 people — roughly three times the population of my native New York — and I had no one to recommend to me what to see and where to go as I originally planned to visit the Bund area for only a few hours; but because of a last-minute change in my flight itinerary, I was now going to spend the night.

My first instinct was to simply explore the Bund, which is the waterfront area in Shanghai; and as I first stepped onto the promenade which began the Bund, I saw that bride and groom, simply thinking to myself “how nice.” At one time in my life, I shot weddings as a photographer on weekends — I still have my trusty sets of Hasselblad cameras; but they are too bulky and heavy to carry with me when traveling — and can appreciate the work, creativity and limitations of time which goes into wedding photography. I watched this photographer shooting the bride and groom and seeing how he poses them for a few minutes…

…until I noticed that just beyond them was another bride and groom posing for another photographer…

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.
As the photographer went to retrieve something, onlookers and passersby decided to photograph the bride and groom during a break. Note that there is another bride and groom being photographed in the background. Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

…and then another…

…and yet another…

…and yet even another…

Was this a publicity stunt? A “flash mob”? Perhaps this was a coordinated fashion shoot for a magazine?

The only thing I knew for certain was that there was no shortage of brides and grooms in Shanghai.

I was also curious about the color white being used. I have attended traditional Chinese weddings in the United States; and Chinese brides wore red because it is a color associated with prosperity and luck — although they also changed into clothing more typically worn in the United States. I am no expert on Chinese traditions; but apparently more colors are in vogue now for wedding attire. If you are a traditionalist, there is no need to be concerned, as there were plenty of women wearing red dresses as well as more contemporary fashions evoking Western styles.

My preference when shooting photographs of the bride and groom was to do it well before the wedding so that there would be more time to experiment and provide the bride and groom with the unenviable task of choosing from hundred of photographs which ones they preferred the most. I understand that having wedding photos taken in China is not necessarily done on the actual wedding day. Rather, they are started well in advance — weeks or even months — before the wedding day, in different locations, wearing different rented outfits of different fashion styles.

That can cost the wedding couple at least $1,500.00 easily — most likely more.


After briefly consider becoming a wedding photographer in China and quickly dispelling that idea, I decided that it was time to explore the rest of the Bund…

All photographs ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

  1. Yeah I had the same experience on Santorini. Seeing many (well a few) chinese couples taking wedding photographs. Not sure I get the point if your wedding isn’t there as well.

    1. Well, more time for photographs means that there will be more time for creativity and more photographs from which to choose, Nick

      …and the couple has plenty of choices at all of the hotel properties available along both sides of the Huangpu River if the couple does not live in the area close to the Bund…

  2. You are correct about the red/white. However, the Chinese are currently going gaga over all things Western. I saw this on a trip to Taiwan back in 1992, and it has moved to the Mainland.

    In fact, I was on an extended business trip to Guandong Provence in 2014 (around 4 months – don’t ask), and almost every day there were multiple weddings at our hotel with brides and grooms in traditional Western wedding outfits. These were from the elite families in the area and, according to the hotel staff, they would drop the equivalent of $20,000 USD on a wedding party.

    On another note, you have a typo: “24,150,000 million” is roughly equivalent to 24 quadrillion.

    1. Whoops — thanks for catching that error, DarthChocolate — which is similar to those who post that the cost of a flight is .02 cents per mile instead of $.02 or 2 cents per mile. I corrected it…

      …and I will not ask about your extended business trip to Guandong Provence — but thank you for sharing your thoughts…

  3. Those women definitely can pick any guy they choose. I believe China still has the one-child policy right? Traditionalist parents tend to prefer sons than daughters (forgot why) and thus most daughters, if born first, were given up for adoption. I heard nowadays there are certainly more men than women in China.

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