By Ingrid Melander
Wang and Xiao gaze into each other’s eyes by Paris’s Notre Dame cathedral, posing hand in hand in sparkling white Western-style wedding clothes as two photographers click away.
A few meters along the river bank from the young couple, who are due to marry next year back home in China, two more Chinese couples in wedding outfits are getting similar pictures taken, while a fourth pair wait for them to vacate the perfect picture spot.
“We’ll show the pictures on our wedding day,” said 25 year-old Xiao, a white bouquet in her hand, as tourists on one of the Seine’s many riverboats clap and cheer at the sight of the couple.
“It’s my first time here, it’s very exciting. We’ve been taking many pictures. And the food is nice.”
As young Chinese become wealthier, they have taken to Paris the national tradition of having wedding photos taken in advance for display on the big day. An industry banking on the city’s romantic image has grown up around the trend.
“It’s very famous for being a romantic city and we can do shopping at the same time,” 31 year-old business owner Wang said.
Chinese couples in wedding attire have become a common sight at the Eiffel tower, Notre Dame and on the bridges along the river Seine, becoming almost a tourist attraction in themselves.
Wang and Xiao are part of a Chinese tourist boom that has gone from 420,000 visits to France in 2006 to over 1.7 million last year, and which tourism officials hope to protect from the potential impact of the yuan’s slide in recent weeks.
The shopping Wang refers to is not small scale – with an average 3,400 euros spent on a visit to France, including 1,000 euros on shopping alone in 2014 according to French government figures.
Twenty-six year old Lu Xin, who is preparing to return to China after studying in Paris for four years, also decided to have pre-wedding pictures taken with his bride-to-be.
“I have so many memories of my youthful life here, I met my fiancee here in Paris, so it was really important for us to take wedding pictures here to remember all this,” he said.
While Greek islands and Prague also attract Chinese couples for pictures, Paris became trendier after Chinese actor Sun Honglei’s Paris wedding pictures appeared last year.
And the practice has spread beyond China.
Western-looking couples dressed for the big event have been sighted having pictures taken near the city’s landmarks, as have others from around Asia.
“We’ve been here before and decided to come back to do our wedding pictures because it’s so romantic here,” 26-year-old Tuan from Vietnam said as he waited to take pictures with his fiancee Chen by the Seine.