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This Is the Fake European Town That Exists Entirely for Chinese Wedding Portraits

European style wedding shoot, via Getty
European style wedding shoot, via Getty

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If you haven't seen China's particular flavor of extravagant wedding portraits before, get ready for a journey through time, geography, and costume theater. In the well-documented practice, Chinese couples are increasingly opting for massive pre-wedding photo sessions. Foreign Policy pegged the price of these fantasy shoots—which tend to involve exotic locales, multiple costume changes, and props—at up to more than $15,000.

A major reoccurring motif in the images is the western Old World. Many of the costume changes favor 17th century French gowns, for example, plus matching backdrops. Where do these backdrops come from? There are dedicated wedding studios, of course, and luxury beach destinations, like the southern island of Hainan. And then there are all those unpopulated full-scale replicas of European cities.

Thames Town, a mock English village complete with Tudor buildings, cobbled streets, and a Gothic church, opened in 2006 in hopes of attracting students and artists from nearby Shanghai, according to the BBC. For some reason it didn't catch on, and a couple years later it was a ghost town.

You know what that means: Best European-themed wedding photography backdrop ever. London-based photographer Paul Reiffer, who is currently living in Shanghai, stopped by Thames Town this spring and used his iPhone to document 23 concurrent wedding shoots in progress there. He writes, "Those buildings which aren't yet derelict are nothing more than photo studios, waiting for their (evidently) captive audience to hand over cash."

Well, it is probably cheaper than actually shooting the photos in Europe.

Below find Thames Town shoots and more in all their fantastic splendor.


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· All Weddings Week coverage [Racked]