China newly-weds star in their own 'love music video'

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Staging a wedding in China isn't cheap.

In Shanghai the cost of your "big day" is almost as high as it is in the United States.

Even elsewhere in China, according to the state media, the cost of an urban wedding can be around 200,000 yuan (£19,400; $30,000).

The most obvious symbol of the big business that the wedding industry has become are the huge photo studios and wedding clothing rental shops you see on the high streets in big cities like Shanghai.

Every bride wants to look her best, and in China they shoot formal wedding portraits before the big day so every detail is perfect.

But for some couples that is not enough.

The latest fad for newly-weds in Shanghai, is to hire the team who promise to turn you into a star.

'Love music videos'

Li Liang is a young film director. He and his team are setting up equipment on the boardwalk beside the Huangpu river in the middle of the city.

Image caption,
Derrick Chen and Yan Huang showed their film at their wedding, adding extra drama to the day

There is a lot of kit - this is a professional outfit. The actors though are amateurs, a bride and groom who are paying him to recreate their romance.

"Normally the clients tell us their story. Then we polish it up a bit," he says.

"Because it is their story, when they act it out for me, it's not difficult. I just need to guide them a little, tell them what kind of moves to make, what kind of expressions they should have."

On his command they run down the boardwalk.

It looks like schmaltz - lots of fake grins or wistful gazes into the middle distance, but schmaltz looks good on film the director says.

Li Liang has made dozens of short films like this, they are called "love music videos" in Chinese.

The bridegroom, Fang Yi Chun, says he is nervous. He's not used to acting in front of the camera.

"I'm not really in the right mood," he complains.

But he does what he is told - after all he is paying a lot for this.

It costs more than two and a half times the average monthly salary in Shanghai to make a "love music video".

Another couple - Derrick Chen who is a tax consultant and his wife Yan Huang who is a lawyer - showed their finished film at their wedding, adding drama to what was already a big event.

The video chronicled their courtship; a university romance. They went back to their old classrooms to shoot it. There were extras employed for the flashback scenes.

"It was a tear-jerker," they say with pride.

They put a lot of effort into the production, working on the script for weeks.

"We had a very romantic proposal, last February, on Valentines Day," Derrick explains. "We thought why not shoot the movie, show what happened - show everyone our sweetness," he says.

Post-80s generation

For the moneyed middle classes in China, weddings are where you demonstrate to your friends and family you've made it.

Image caption,
The post-80s generation want their weddings to be different from those of their parents' generation

Yang Dan, the producer whose company started the love music videos, says no request is too ambitious.

"Many clients like a story about travelling back in time. For example, they want to show a previous life, as a person in Shanghai in the 1930s or 40s and then intertwine that with their modern story."

It is fashionable to have a soundtrack from a Korean pop star.

But Mr Yang says: "Some even want to recreate ancient times. They want to have the feeling their relationship is timeless, they're following their destiny."

His clients are all from the post-80s generation. They want their weddings to be different from those their parents' generation enjoyed.

They show the video at the wedding and keep it after as a memento of their youth.

Mr Yang's company, Youth Image Studio, used to make advertisements but started this kind of work when the advertising market declined during the financial crisis.

Now they are booked solid for weeks by couples hoping the firm can work its magic and make starlets of them for their big day.