Monday, June 13, 2011

Tying the knot in Taiwan (Taiwan Business Topics)

Couples planning to marry in Taiwan are expected to follow various customs and respect certain traditions. Before any formal engagement, both parties will submit their birth dates and times to a fortune teller who then determines if they are destined to spend the rest of their lives together in blissful prosperity, or if the match is doomed from the start.

Ahead of the actual marriage, the couple has to supervise the designing and printing of invitation cards, and choose wedding cakes to send out to friends and relatives.

In the past few decades, these age-old practices have been supplemented by another convention. Nowadays, some weeks before the traditional wedding banquet, almost every Taiwanese couple will spend one or more days with a professional photographer, posing in various costumes.

Pictures are taken both in a studio and outdoors at picturesque locales. Typically, the groom in his tuxedo and the bride in her white wedding dress will hold hands on a beach, or gaze into each others' eyes while sitting on a lawn in front of a historic building. These images are staged, of course, but far from stiffly formal. A skilled photographer can imbue such portraits with humor and elegance, as well as beauty and lashings of romance.

Just as important is what the photography studios then do with the images. Rather than simply print standard 4x6s, a great deal of thought and creativity is put into combining the pictures with captions, mottoes or song lyrics into an exquisitely produced album. The couple thus gain a souvenir of their youth and their wedding that will endure for decades.

Taiwan's wedding photography culture is very different to the West's, and the island's wedding-photography entrepreneurs can be considered world leaders in their field. This is largely the result of hard work, innovation and years of experience. However, the men and women who work in the industry readily admit nature has dealt them a strong hand.

Strange as it may seem, the brides- and grooms-to-be who step gingerly out of minivans so as not to crease gowns or muss hairstyles have something in common with the extreme sports enthusiasts who flock to Taiwan aiming to work up a good sweat. Both benefit from the island's incredible geographical diversity and year-round sunshine. In not much more than an hour you can get from downtown Taipei to Baishawan's pristine sandy beach. Scenic spots in mountainous Yangmingshan National Park and waterfalls near Wulai are equally accessible.

Taiwan's capital is full of manmade attractions such as Taipei 101. Imposing edifices built during the Japanese colonial era (1895—1945), such as the Museum of Drinking Water, are also popular backdrops. All in all, wedding photographers and their clients are spoiled for choice...

This is the first half of an advertorial text that appeared in the May issue of the American Chamber of Commerce's magazine.

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