In this engaging study of weddings in contemporary Taiwan, anthropologist Bonnie Adrian documents a rite of passage recognizable across the world from its major visual representation: the wedding photograph. Photographs prompted her early questions and provided her with the point of departure for her research. Why do couples have so many wedding photos? Why do they wear so many different costumes in the photos? Where are the photos of family members? What precisely is the cultural content of such photos, overtly Western – the bride usually in white dress and veil, the groom in morning or evening suit – yet puzzlingly different?
Answers to these questions are suggested in the course of many small journeys through the strange, theatrical world of the Taipei wedding: the bridal salons, which rent out the clothes and take the photographs; the wedding rites and wedding banquet, where the bride changes from one gown to another; the marital home, where the massive photo album is kept, to be drawn out for the admiration of guests or, in later years, for a woman to recall her youth and beauty at the moment she passed from single to married life. The typical photo session is described in fascinating detail. The session occurs before the wedding, and usually takes a whole day. At the wedding banquet guests can look at the photos, which typically contain an astonishing range of images of bride and groom in a variety of poses, places and costumes. Thousands might be spent on a good collection of wedding photos, none of which record the actual wedding.