They are a familiar sight at famous spots in Paris, and sometimes on random street corners—brides and grooms locked in an embrace, though their weddings might be months away. Posing for fake wedding pictures has become big business in Paris and other picturesque European cities, Forbes reports. While trendy Americans favor destination weddings, and photos snapped in real time, Asian couples clamor for a destination wedding album that can take place months before, and thousands of miles away, from their actual wedding. "Asian couples want elaborate photos that reflect their romantic fantasies," Li Zhaoping of China’s Saimaa University tells Forbes. Pre-wedding photography is big business, with some budgets topping $15,000 for a shoot that "can be a complicated and arduous process that demands days of effort" with "numerous costume changes," Li says.
While the phenomenon isn't new, it has exploded thanks to cheaper air travel, and a multi-billion dollar industry has popped up to support it. Companies such as Kiss Me In Paris cater to couples who want to add a French touch to their nuptials. Some pull off the production on a tight deadline; France 2 calls one photographer's sessions "a love dream" with a price tag pushing $2,000 "to take dozens of photos in one day and bring them back home." Plenty of fantasy shoots take place at home in China, where wedding photos used to be simple black-and-whites, proof the marriage took place, photographer Olivia Martin-McGuire told Time last year. The elaborate pictures, she adds, offer "a view into another facet of China not so readily portrayed by the media—color, optimism, enthusiasm and a unique ability to play.” (A couple was ordered to pay a wedding photographer $1 million after trashing her online.)