Sun, Apr 17, 2005 - Page 17 News List

Business booms for wedding boutiques

Couples about to tie the knot are increasingly turning to wedding salons for photographs and all the acoutrements of a big wedding

By Gavin Phipps  /  STAFF REPORTER

Stroll down Taipei's Zhongshan North Road or Aiguo East Road and you'll notice a soon-to-be-wedded couple decked out in glitzy attire posing in a simulated loving embrace, while a photographer hurriedly juggles lenses and a harried assistant arranges reflectors.

It might seem inane, but posing for photos roadside as the traffic roars past spewing exhaust fumes is a fashionable pre-marriage ceremony must for any bride and groom looking to impress their family and friends. As any bride will tell you, a visit to the wedding salon is as important a part of the marriage ritual as the actual wedding banquet.

"It's important because it gives you something to remember and no wedding ceremony is complete without the photos," said Chiu Yi-hsuan (邱弈琁), who went through the pre-wedding ritual seven years ago. "And it's nice to be pampered, made-up, given a nice hairstyle and to be able to wear and have your photograph taken in four or five beautiful dresses. You don't get to look like a superstar

everyday."

The salons first began to appear in the mid-1970s. And while the reason behind their sudden emergence has long been forgotten, it is widely accepted that their popularity grew out of Taiwan's love affair with convenience.

"Before the establishment of the salons soon-to-be-married couples had a hell of a time organizing their pre-wedding rituals. They had to go the tailors, go to the dress store, go to the photo studio and go to the beauty parlor," said Tseng Yin-huan (曾嚴環), who established the Josephine Sposa (約瑟芬) wedding salon 10 years ago. "The salons put all this together into one package. They were, and still are in some respects convenience stores for marriages."

Since the initial days of the wedding salon, the task of transforming the plainest Jane into a striking movie star for a day has ballooned into a billion-dollar business.

Along with taking photos the salons rent and sell wedding dresses or suits, and employ hairdressers and beauticians, who ensure the bride's appearance on her special day is befitting of such a grand occasion. And, if asked, they can even help organize the wedding reception.

In any given month, Taipei's famous eye-catching wedding salons, with their huge glass facades awash with silken wedding gowns and fairytale photographs of happy, loving men and women service an average of between 150 to 300 couples. Last year an estimated 250,000 couples chose to tie the knot and, according to Tseng, at least 80 percent of those opted for the wedding salon treatment.

Many of these chose to visit Taipei's famous wedding salons on Zhongshan North Road. The 30 salons that sit astride the city's central north-south thoroughfare have been at the center of the wedding salon industry since its first began and as such enjoy a steady flow of pre-wedding traffic throughout the year.

"Sure, SARS put a bit of damper on business two years ago, but apart from that we get a steady flow of business all year round," said photographer and salon proprietor Lin Chang-ru (林政儒). "The busiest months are between September and December, when we can get over 400 couples. The slowest time of year is immediately prior to and after the Lunar New Year, but even then we get upwards of 100 couples coming in."

While wedding salon proprietors are loathe to give actual figures for their annual takings, estimates point to the annual revenues of Taipei's leading salons reaching more than NT$50 million per annum. On a national level the total annual revenue of the nations' wedding salons is estimated to be in the region of well over NT$2 billion.

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