Weddings would not be weddings without a few photos to mark the occasion. Without question, all that surrounds these milestone-marking ceremonies comprises a minor pillar industry in Hong Kong, and has done for several decades. Whatever the personal circumstances, resources will be found to make memorable “the big day”. For the wealthy, the sky is literally the limit when it comes to what they are prepared to create; for everyone else, considerable ingenuity goes into the curation of something meaningful. Photographs form a key element of this memory making, and have done so ever since mass studio photography became broadly affordable in the 1940s. But how were wedding photographs arranged in previous times? Until rising prosperity in the post-war years made these little luxuries possible, for many ordinary people, there was no photographic record at all; financial resources simply didn’t stretch that far. As ever in Hong Kong, deeply practical considerations entered into the decision to arrange a wedding photograph. As a document in its own right, a posed photograph served as a form of positive identification that the new couple were formally “a couple” in the eyes of their families and wider circles, especially if no official paperwork had been recorded. Until not that long ago, for many Chinese, several simple ceremonies at home, followed by a celebratory meal, marked their commitment to each other – and that was that. In the eyes of their world, they were henceforth married; nothing more needed to be said or done. By the 30s, increased Westernisation meant that studio portraits in tailored suits and lacy white wedding concoctions had become fashionable, for those who could afford them. More traditional Chinese shuddered at the prospect of wearing white – the colour for funerals – at a wedding, which should be a day of happiness instead of mourning. As a result, the idea of taking photographs significantly removed in time, space and context from the actual wedding ceremony was born. From these beginnings, the Hong Kong phenomena of posing for an album of photographs – or several albums – months before the event, sometimes on the other side of the world from where any ceremony would take place, has taken on a life of its own. By the 70s, numerous businesses were profiting handsomely from the desire for something “unique”, even if the eventual product was barely distinguishable from every other album. Several costume changes over the course of an average Hong Kong wedding are usual. At least one frilly, frothy white bridal gown, paired with a dinner suit or other more elaborate outfit for the groom, is an essential piece of kit; often traditional Chinese red wedding robes, and the male equivalent, are also deployed. A cute cocktail frock, or some other eye-turning designer number, eventually replaces this, to be flounced around in at the wedding banquet, as each table toasts the happy couple. This outfit offers a distant nod to the traditional European “going away” dress that the style seeks to mimic – or did, until the original concept became blurred over time. As ever, practicalities rule. On the day itself, what with mock bridal kidnappings, tea ceremonies, ritual gift presentations and various other activities – not to mention a lengthy banquet to round things off – there is simply no time for more than a few random snaps; posed portraits are out of the question. In addition, for most couples, hotel or restaurant banquet venues are interchangeable, right across Hong Kong – the only material difference being space and setting, which varies according to budget. Some sense of uniqueness for an individual couple’s personal memories is key, and here the advanced wedding album, and various costumes, comes into its own.