[New York Times] Fairytale Romances, Real and Staged
Fairy Tale Romances, Real and Staged
New York Times, May 9, 2014
Kiko Zeng and Eric Cheng’s courtship plays out like something out of a storybook. It is love at first sight. Their first touch is a shy, slow-motion handshake, with neither wanting to let go, until friends pull them apart.
Soon they are chatting online, Ms. Zeng while on a pink bedspread typing on a Hello Kitty laptop, Mr. Cheng in a minimalist bedroom. Chinese characters flash across the screen: Will she come on a date? She agrees. He throws his laptop to the side and pumps his hands in a victory gesture.
Fast-forward to an evening in front of a carousel. Mr. Cheng takes a small box from his pocket and hands it to her. She opens it, perplexed, then disappointed: just a red plastic ring. But then he brings out a second box and kneels before her. Inside is a real engagement ring. Will she marry him? She nods enthusiastically, beaming. Their friends suddenly appear, holding up signs that spell out M-A-R-R-Y M-E.
At least that’s how it looks in their wedding video. Who knows how it really happened? At Paris Wedding Center, a company with three locations in the Chinatowns of Manhattan and Flushing, Queens, the lines between reality and fairy tale are blurred.
Not only are photos and videos often taken months before the ceremony, they also don’t necessarily document actual events.
Instead, couples visit studios crammed with costumes and props, sets and backdrops — some traditionally Western, others straight out of Chinese folklore — and act out romantic fantasies in what has become a trend for Chinese newlyweds in New York, just as it is in China.
“The couples want to show a beautiful side of themselves,” said Dickie Chen, 22, the executive director of Paris Wedding Center. “It is an important event in their lives.”
Even as most weddings take place in the fall (a more auspicious time on the Chinese calendar), spring is the busiest time of year at the photo studios. The studios — one, in Manhattan, called Paris, another in Flushing with the same name and a third in Flushing called L’Affection — are all owned by one woman, Fiona Yang, and are part of a mini-industry that includes about a dozen such shops in New York City.
➞ Read at The New York Times.