"There's another one at the bathroom stalls", I reported to S. "That makes four, doesn't it?" We were spending Sunday at the beach after my surprisingly swift aquathlon, surrounded by hordes of impressively beautiful people (required at Sentosa's Tanjong Beach) who were playing beach volleyball, some other families with kids like ourselves hiding on the grassy outskirts, lots of very kind and apparently potty trained dogs, one rabbit on a leash and four couples taking wedding photos. When the late afternoon sun coloured everything golden, some more white-clad women and suited men appeared on our horizon.
Tanjong Beach, wedding couple to the left, beach volleyball players to the right. Bonus: just ahead of the wedding couple, there's a guy walking a tightrope.
This wasn't the first time our Sunday-outing had been accompanied by the click-click of wedding photography. While we wove our way through Singapore's Botanic Gardens some weeks ago, beautifully dressed couples were waiting their turn to take pictures at the little bandstand on the hill. And when we climbed to the top of Fort Canning Park there were people posing at the faux Gothic gates.
Yes yes, I hear you think, loads of white dresses at picturesque locations. So what else is new? Well, for one thing, the locations aren't necessarily picturesque as you can see in the picture below:
That big containership is not a one off - Singapore is surrounded by them (well, it does vie with Rotterdam for being the largest harbour in the world) as you can see in the next picture:
Also, Fort Canning Park has its fair share of rock concerts (Judas Priest, Roxette, Death Cab for Cutie, to name just a few), requiring large white tents and big stages to be constructed just behind the earlier mentioned Gothic gates. Not very pretty, I would think, but the photographers and happy couples soldier on.
"They edit it out", explained a more knowledgeable expat. She'd had her family's picture taken right there at Sentosa. "Not just the ships, the palm trees too." Apparently the natural Singaporean foliage isn't quite photogenic enough to merit inclusion. This was confirmed by a Singaporean beach volleyball player, who'd overheard our admiration of the wedding couples (S. maintains that my focus on bridal clothing is a sure sign of an utterly superficial mind. But he has promised that one day I'll get to wear that dress too). "A lot of people go to Taiwan to have their wedding pictures taken", volleyball lady said. "It's the nearest place with nice natural backgrounds."
This threw European me. We generally do the whole lot, hair, make-up, ceremony, photos, drinks, dinner, party in one very very busy day (afterwards usually described as "rushing past"). So how does a trip to Taiwan fit in? First you have the ceremony, then you jet off to Taiwan, then back in time for the party that evening? Do you have the wedding dinner on the plane?
"No lah", the lady smiled benevolently. "You don't take the pictures at the wedding day. You take them before." Hair, make-up, dress - no problem. Apparently the photographer's team not only lights you to your best advantage and afterwards edits you into your most gorgeous self, but also takes care of your hair and make-up, and if so desired, even arranges several different dresses for you to take the pictures in.
After thinking it through, I realized that this actually makes perfect sense. Why go through the hassle of having a photo shoot on the same day as your actual wedding? Worse, why would you wait until after the ceremony? It'll leave you worried about your dress, it'll cramp your style because you can't laugh and nobody may kiss you for fear of messing with your make up. It tightens the schedule considerably and what are all your guests going to do while you have your picture taken? Who will manage all the introductions and make sure the right people meet and, more importantly, the wrong ones don't?
If the point is to have a beautiful picture of you two at the pinnacle of happiness, it makes sense to turn it into a lovely outing for the two of you, where you are pampered and beatified by specialists and don't have a care in the world. And if you're pampering away, why not tack on a couple of days to enjoy a romantic weekend break to Taiwan, Malaysia or Paris? I think even the frugal Dutch would approve of such an efficient way of combining relieve from wedding stress with actually getting things done.
Unfortunately, the Tamtams got themselves registered in Europe, before realizing the superior Singaporean way. There was no photographer, but father Tamtam was kind enough to take this picture:
It captures us perfectly, I think, and it was a gorgeous, lovely day with sun and cake and family.
That doesn't mean I've forgotten S.'s promise about the dress though.