Here comes the bride, with 300 balloons
Of all the ways to take your vows with wows, few could match walking down the aisle in a wedding dress made of balloons.
And in Hong Kong, where weddings are no small affairs, brides-to-be seeking that extra lift are looking to Phoebe Chan Kin-pui.
It's an idea that's certainly taking off around the world - a wedding gown worn by the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton (whose parents built a fortune in the party supply trade), is said to have inspired a copy made with 5,000 balloons by a British artist.
Chan, 38, is one of only four certified balloon artists in Hong Kong - and these are no inflated qualifications, as aspirants have to sit written, oral and practical examinations.
And just in case you think a balloon artist is some sort of shrinking violet, Chan's 'day job' involves teaching construction workers how to handle building machinery safely. Her balloon artist 'studio' is in the workshop among the shovels and concrete mixers and pneumatic drills of her training institute.
Chan's talent with balloons was recognised in March when she was named New Artist of the Year at the 2012 World Balloon Convention in Dallas, Texas. Her dresses and decorative arrangements have won prizes in Belgium, Japan and Malaysia.
'Balloon art is actually really easy, and you can feel accomplished quickly after creating something in a short time,' the self-taught artist said. 'It takes me six hours to weave a dress, but can you imagine how long it would take to knit a garment that size with yarn?'
She took up balloon art two years ago after watching a television show on it with her two young children.
Now she offers balloon art classes - sometimes free - for special groups.
Chan's stellar rise as a balloon artist has rankled some clowns and party entertainers, who claim she is taking away their clients. Chan uses about 300 balloons to make a dress, and has received many orders.
'The reason my dresses are so popular is because they are formfitting. While other designers in the world just slip the dress over their models' heads, I design the dress to be so tight that it presses into the flesh, which narrows the waist.'
She said her balloon dresses can be kept for up to a week, but can only be worn once. 'The dress is all for photos and memories.'
Chan is also negotiating to design costumes for a major male pop star to wear at his concerts next month.