Back in April when Y and I visited his hometown and my second favorite city in the world, Beijing, we partook in what is commonly known as the wedding glamour photo shoot. This was part of our second wedding reception and festivities in Beijing, and it was something that both he and I had been looking forward to. So to introduce the concept of Chinese glamour photo shoots, let me give some background and context to this madness.
In China, there hardly exist any wedding day of photography that Americans are normally used to. Most couples, instead of pursuing a more photo-journalistic and dynamic feel to their wedding photography, prefer to take posed glamour shots before the actual wedding day so that photos can be enlarged and framed as decorations on their big day. As a result, there are thousands of glamour photo shoot studios that meet the demand. These studios offer hundreds of outfits, including different styles of wedding gowns, colorful ball gowns, traditional red Chinese wedding outfits, other ethnic outfits and much more. Studios also offer makeup artists and hair stylists who will package you along with the outfit into a almost unrecognizable beautiful version of yourself, and will take photos of you and your hubby against different indoor or outdoor backgrounds near the studio, including Korean styled ones where lace and neutral tones fill the background, European background where dark mahogany and golden frames line the background, single color backdrops where you end up looking like a commercial ad, vintage looking bathtubs and door frames, inside fake small cathedrals, and the list goes on, beyond your imagination.
What Y and I ended up experiencing was a pretty epic version of all of the above. We had 5 different outfits and 6 different backdrops to rotate through during the day, including two which were outdoor. It was quite the production. The days started at 8AM when our personal outfit, hair and makeup artists helped us to pick our gowns and outfits as well as did our makeup for the first set. Yes, I did say “our makeup”. The makeup artist did dab some BB cream and powder on Y so that his pimples were hidden and “the contour of his face smoothed” in her words. After getting dolled up, we started our first photo shoot in a small fake cathedral against the altar, where a fake stone bible laid open. If Y and I had doubts before about our photogenic ability to pose naturally before total strangers, I need not have worried. The photographer with his assistant gave us specific prompts and directions as to how to angle our chin and how to hold out our hands on our laps so that “our fingers are laced tastefully together”, yet another classic quote by him. Our only roles were to follow his directions and smile as naturally as we could, even twenty minutes into the shoot.
After a few more backdrops and changes in hairstyle and makeup, we were ready to embark on our journey for outdoor photo shoots. This was the part that Y and I were most excited about since we had handpicked our settings: against the red wall of the forbidden city and in the hutongs of Beijing’s old city, which are traditional alleyways lined with courtyard styled houses from the 1800s, both of which were unique representations of Beijing. With our gowns and outfits and props thrown in the van, we set out for the Forbidden City first. If you know anything about the Forbidden City, you’d know that it’s an extremely popular place with tourists. So when Y and I emerged from the van in my puffy wedding gown and his stiff tuxedo, everyone around us stopped in their trails and commenced staring at us. By the time we were done posing and kissing and running toward each other with the red wall of the imperial palace behind us, we had a small gathering of passerby around and became quite the scene! We went on from there and drove to an area of hutong alleyways next, and a problem immediately arose- where and how would I change from my gown into the red traditional Chinese wedding outfit that I needed to put on? There are no public bathrooms in these hutongs, and the van was too cramp a space to change in. My makeup artist, being as street smart as she is, huddled me toward a more isolated corner of the alleyway and started unzipping my gown and slipping on the traditional red robe at the same time while half covering me with a giant piece of fabric! There were a few passerby who emerged at that time, and thankfully my face was half hidden behind the wedding gown I was struggling to slip off. What a strange sight it must have seemed- a girl changing from a fancy wedding gown into a red robe from the Qing dynasty in broad daylight in the middle of a hutong! After I was changed, my makeup artist commenced to surround me with a make shift makeup studio in the middle of the alleyway with her arrangement of curlers, hair ties, makeup brushes set on a tiny table that she stuffed in the back of the van. Fifteen minutes later, complete with a heavy gold rimmed headdress on my thick braids, I was ready for the second portion of our outdoor photo shoot. Y with his black and red robe and scripted fan in one hand and me with my elaborate headdress balanced on top of my head were trotting down the busy hutongs, like actors from a period drama. Shot against the grey brick walls of the hutong and red gates of the courtyard houses, this memorable photo shoot adventure was our favorite.
After we got back to the studio, it was already five thirty, and we finished the rest of our indoor shoots. We went through role plays of mafia lady boss in daring qipao dress (don’t ask me why I did it) and Korean styled dreamy orchard backgrounds. By the time we were finished, it was close to 9PM and Y and I were utterly exhausted. Six weeks later, we received the fruit of our labor and investment in the form of a USB containing 60 photoshopped photos and intricate photo frames of various dimensions. And I’d have to say, these are some of the most unique photos that Y and I will ever take, and it was so worth it. In fact, I will even share one of our favorites here.
The recipe I will share today is probably the simplest of the most simple recipes, for those of us who might be too busy to cook and finding it difficult to eat healthy and fast. I sympathize with you all. But it doesn’t have to be this way! This oyster sauce lettuce dish is a classic Cantonese vegetable dish and is both fast and delicious.
Oyster Sauce Drizzled Lettuce
- romaine lettuce, 1 head, leaves washed and separated
- soy sauce, 1-2 Tbsp
- sesame oil, 2 tbsp
- oyster sauce, 1 Tbsp
- salt and pepper to taste
Boil water in a deep frying pan or pot. Blanch the lettuce leaves in boiling water for 30 seconds and turn the heat off. Strain the liquid off. In a large mixing bowl, add soy sauce and sesame oil to lettuce, salt and pepper. Mix the lettuce leaves so sauce is coated evenly. Drizzle oyster sauce on top and enjoy!