By BENSON ANG
THE STRAITS TIMES
IF YOU THINK wedding photos show only couples hugging and kissing, or looking wistful under a tree or beside a lake, think again.
Some sporty couples are using their pre-nuptial shoots to express their love of sports and fitness.
One couple, decked in formal wear, even abseiled down a cliff and dangled in mid-air for an hour as the photographer snapped away.
And some ditch the formal wear altogether. A national gymnast, for example, took his pre-wedding photos in 2013 in a leotard, performing acrobatic stunts around his bride.
But while the physical activities are not a problem for these fit couples, the challenge for them is to look fabulous while sweating it out.
Jerald Zhan, 32, from Tinydot Photography, has been taking wedding photos since 2008.
Two years ago, he started receiving requests for pre-wedding photo shoots involving sports such as basketball and golf. Since then, he has been doing four to five such shoots a year.
“In the past, I guess people had more fixed ideas of how pre-wedding photos should look,” he says.
Phang, 32, who has done pre-nuptial shoots featuring rugby, athletics and tennis, agrees. “These days, couples don’t just want prim and proper photos. They want the photos to look unique and be a conversation-starter. Couples nowadays are also more willing to try new concepts.”
Sports-related photo shoots, however, can be challenging as there is usually movement during the activity, says Chris Chai, 36, from Bridal Concept. He has done wedding shoots involving athletics and boxing.
“You have to catch the couple at the right time, so the photo looks nice,” he says.
Solitude of Strength is a gym in Geylang filled with barbells, sledge hammers and giant rubber tyres. Long ropes hang from the ceiling and there is no air-conditioning.
It is hardly an ideal location for a pre-wedding shoot, but Terence Tan and Jackie Li, both 29, picked it for theirs. After all, they met in a gym. Tan, a marketing executive, was training there three times a week. One day in 2011, Li, a speech and language therapist who is also a CrossFit buff, walked in.
Tan thought she looked cute and worked up the courage to talk to her about weightlifting and training techniques. Then the topics branched into interests such as rollerblading and food and before long they were working out together.
When it came to choosing a wedding photo venue, a strength and conditioning gym was their first choice. The gym where they met was not available for the shoot last April, so they picked Solitude of Strength, which had similar features.
In one photo, Tan is lifting a 250kg tyre on one side, with Li, who weighs 55kg, perched on top. “The tyre is hollow,” admits the 75kg strongman says. “Lifting it at an angle is also much easier than carrying it entirely off the ground.”
Set against a seven-storey cliff, Keith Ching and Woo Pei Xun’s pre-wedding photos look straight out of a wuxia flick.
The couple abseiled down a cliff at Dairy Farm Nature Park last July. Ching, 30, a digital project manager, says: “We decided our wedding photos should show what we love doing.”
The couple, who met in university, have completed abseiling proficiency courses certified by the Singapore Mountaineering Federation and had abseiled at the location about 10 times before the shoot.
On the day of the photo shoot, they hiked up in their climbing attire with three friends – two belayers to secure their ropes from the top of the cliff and Alvin Chong, 30, an aspiring adventure photographer who took the photos for free.
When they reached the top, the couple changed into formal outfits – Ching wore a white shirt, pants and vest, while Woo was in a cropped blouse and a long white skirt she bought for the shoot.
They abseiled down together with Chong, who snapped away on two cameras.
“Doing the activities we love for our shoot was fun and memorable. We were laughing throughout. The photos reflect who we are as a couple,” Woo says.
Berlinda Ong and Kenneth Thng, both 31, spend their weekends watching football. So what could be more natural that choosing a football pitch for their pre-wedding photos.
In one photo, taken at the National Stadium, Ong is decked out in a rented S$6,000 (Bt150,000) gown and four-inch heels and kicks a ball towards a goal post “guarded” by Thng and his groomsmen.
“Surprisingly, it wasn’t hard to kick the ball while wearing high heels,” Ong recalls. “I found it harder to walk to that position on the field.
“I like that our wedding photos do not just consist of the usual romantic shots, but also showcase something we are passionate about,” Thng says.
As a national gymnast, moves such as somersaults, jumps and dives are second nature to Gabriel Gan. Yet, the three-time medallist at last year’s Southeast Asian Games found himself struggling while executing the stunts during his pre-wedding photo shoot with his bride-to-be Davina Tan in 2013.
Gan, 30, says: “Doing the moves was easy. The hard part was holding the poses for so long. After a while, my muscles started screaming for oxygen. And it was tough having to smile brightly even though my body was suffering.”
The final photos shows some tough stunts, such as one of him leaping over Tan with the photographer timing the shot so that he was directly above her. Another photo has him hanging upside down from a high bar and sharing a kiss with Tan.
The photo is among those displayed in the couple’s apartment in Kuala Lumpur, where they are currently based.
What will he say to his future children if they ask why the photos were taken in a sports hall?
“Easy, I’ll tell them gymnastics was a big part of their dad's life and their mum supported their dad so much that we took the photo to remember this moment forever,” he laughs.