"A single moment of love is equal to the whole eternity of love."
There is a wonderful pre-wedding culture that exists in Asia. Couples take beautiful wedding portraits months before their wedding day in fantastic locations as to save time on the actual day of the ceremony. Here in Korea, brides dress up in elaborate wedding gowns (sometimes multiple dresses), get their hair and makeup done and take photos with their handsome grooms in studios on gorgeously built indoor and outdoor sets. These shoots often last the entire day and cost thousands of dollars.
However with the constant modernization of young Koreans, many couples are now setting a trend called "self-wedding photos / 셀프웨딩포토" where a more downscaled, diy approach is taken. This style of pre-wedding is more unique as brides-to-be have much more control over styling and locations. Plus the cost of these sessions are much less than that of the studio prices.
As the autumn wedding season is fast approaching I thought I'd give brides-to-be in Korea who are in the planning process of their "self" pre-weddings, some pointers from a photographer's perspective:
My advice is always to hanbok! This is probably a little selfish on my end because let's not tell any fibs, I do love me a beautiful hanbok paired with a traditional hanok setting... BUT Korean weddings are also very important to families (read here: parents). The hanbok is an incredible piece of traditional art and it makes parents proud to have a beautiful photo of their children in one hanging on the wall. So, you or your fiancé might not love them that much however it might score you some big brownie points with the parents who then in turn might be willing to let some other wedding traditions that you don't want to incorporate, slide.
Another great reason to hanbok is that the hanbok is making a HUGE comeback on the Korean fashion scene in the form of a "lifestyle hanbok". So many young designers are exploring different color combinations, mixing fabrics together and combining the core design elements with modern day garments making a previously rather uncomfortable outfit very trendy and comfortable to wear! Combine that with a creative photographer, and you could end up with not only great pictures for the parents' walls but also some unique shots for yourself too!
I am very fortunate enough to be working with a very talented designer here in Gwangju and 90% of the hanbok pictures throughout my blog and website are the fine work of Park Hyun Chul (눈썹달주단). You can see more of his work here.
The latest trends in Korea now lean more towards the latter: a simple dress. Young brides are choosing simple elegant or whimsical dresses in white or pastel colors. This is just another way brides are able to bring in more individuality into their pre-wedding shoots. The Korean wedding studios often have pre-selected dresses and styling to go with specific sets and therefore couples don't have much control over the overall look of the photographs. In all practicality going from location to location in a large wedding gown is not impossible but definitely has its limitations with regards to which locations (we can't dirty a rented dress).
I offer my clients an array of tulle skirts and then they usually pair it with a blouse I have or of their choice. The look still resembles that of a wedding dress but is much less complicated as there is no renting, fittings, etc. In these pictures Jocelyn and I bought a simple blouse online and paired it with one of my more simpler tulle skirts and added a ribbon belt to soften up the look.
Once your clothing is decided there are a few more final details to consider and the main one here is hair and makeup styling. I always advocate to brides to have their hair and makeup done for two reasons: one, it ties up the look and the mood you are looking to display in your pictures. You could have the prettiest dress, but without the correct hair style the whole look could be a bust... The second reason I why I highly recommend hair and makeup styling is because it makes you feel taken care of and beautiful and this translates into the camera as gorgeous confidence and there is nothing more attractive and beautiful than that!
In Korea you can use a freelancer or there are tons of makeup shops around the city and either choice will do depending on the look you want. For dewy Korean style makeup I recommend the makeup shops and for a matt look I recommend an expat freelancer.
The next step is to decide on flowers. Some brides choose not to and that is totally ok. Others choose to add simple bouquets. Whatever your choice be sure that not only the type of flowers but also the colors tie nicely into the style of the photos. For Jocelyn's pre-wedding I scoured Pinterest to get some lovely ideas of flowers that I could put together and then the morning of the shoot I went to our local flower market and bought white and pink flowers to tie in with the color scheme along with some big leafy greens to bulk up the bouquet.
The way I choose locations for my clients is I always try to find out what they had in mind and then try my best to make it happen. Sometimes it just isn't logistically possible (eg. the two locations are too far from each other, etc.) Be sure to match your clothing and stylistic choices to your locations. For example a hanok and streetwear will just look out of place and in turn, a hanbok running through the city streets also doesn't please the eye.
I hope that there is some valuable information here for you to start planning a beautiful "self" pre-wedding shoot! If you think I left out information or you're still left with questions, leave a comment or contact me directly!