The oohs and ahhs we heard when the 'surprise AVP' came to the part where we showed our prenuptial shots were music to our ears. They reminded us of that eventful day we went around the Merlion City. It was all worth it.
Our adventure with the photo ops didn't start there though. It was one Sunday in August when we went to Marina Square, a shopping mall at the City Hall area, and visited one Bridal boutique after another. We had previously decided to have our prenuptial pictures taken in Singapore.
We had a good feeling as we entered the Bridal Zone. There we met Ted, who was not an inch taller than Joanne, slender, and a true-blooded Singaporean. He was in his mid-forties and his black-framed spectacles gave him a smart look. He asked us to sit down while he picked albums here and there.
The pictures he showed us were very remarkable indeed. We took our time sifting through the albums as we sipped water from the bottles one of Ted's associates gave us. We pictured ourselves taking the place of the models in photos we liked. We began to have an idea of the places we'd like to go when it was time for the outdoor shots.
Ted discussed the packages they offered and we found them to be competitive in comparison to the ones presented to us in the boutiques we had previously visited. We asked a few questions and he seemed happy to answer each of them. He also explained a few items that were not part of the package, those that required us to spend a little more. 'Hidden charges' he called them, but they were very minimal.
We went to three other shops after that. Only one came close to what Ted had to offer. One proposed lower prices but the quality of their work paled in comparison to Bridal Zone's. We were only confirming what we seemed to have decided earlier on.
Ted had mentioned it took them a month to have the pictures ready. We figured we could go back to him as late as March and still have the photos in time for the wedding.
Time flew and overshot its landing. We were back at Ted's office by the third week of March, a bit late but not too late. We scheduled the photo ops to happen a week after.
That weekend, Joanne went with her friend, Glen, to choose two sets of gowns she will be we wearing during the shoot. The attire was part of the package. We learned from Ted that it was common for a lot of couples getting married in Singapore to rent their wedding attire. In our case, since we weren't using the outfits during the wedding, Ted upgraded our albums and tossed in a few more pictures instead.
We found ourselves in Bridal Zone's studio at a little past 10 a.m. the following week. It took an hour for the make up artist to work her magic on Joanne. I was happily munching on my breakfast at McDonald's while this was going on.
I must have taken too much time for they were asking me if I had way too much to eat when I got back. That was true but I also had to find a belt in Boon Keng's market because I forgot mine at home in my haste to leave. Auntie had to punch a few holes into the leather before it fitted me perfectly.
A young lady asked me to sit down in front of a huge mirror studded with oversized bulbs that outlined its arched shape. I felt like a movie star for a brief moment. Then she set to work on my hair, spraying tons of chemicals that painted my hair light brown and made it stay like a trained puppy. And though I hate to admit it, she applied makeup on my face. She must be taking this movie star thing a little too seriously.
We were supposed to start with the traditional costumes but we weren't able to bring any. We haven't met Edd Sy or Rhea at this time but we had already started our inquiries through e-mail and through Yin. The people at Bridal Zone made Joanne choose another gown instead. They quickly found a matching attire for me.
We were finally ready to begin the studio shots. We met Howard, our photographer. He spoke to us in broken English but what he lacked in verbal communication, he more than made up with the gestures of his hands and the spells he casted with his camera.
I must admit I gave Howard a difficult time making me smile. I was too conscious of the camera. By the fiftieth pose and the nth change of clothes, my jaws were tired from smiling or trying to force one. Joanne was giving the same complaint. But we couldn't say we didn't wish it was like this everyday. How often did you get a chance to smile that much anyway?
Of course they had to make me wear pink. I told Joanne I knew exactly which pictures we were not choosing. But the shots with that pink shirt turned out nice plus I was missing the bigger picture, I couldn't get rid of them without disposing of the better half. Joanne and I haven't had any major disagreement so far and the chemistry between us worked well as we learned to balance the equation through dialog and compromise.
It was almost 3 p.m. when we finished the indoor shots. It was drizzling outside and the staff was saying we might have to postpone the outdoor sessions. We gave it 30 minutes. As if on cue, the sun smiled and the skies ceased its crying.
We hopped into a van along with Howard, who was also the designated driver, and his assistant who seemed to speak only Mandarin. The Singapore Botanical Garden was our first destination. We had chosen Sentosa and the Esplanade as our primary targets. That very same day, Howard suggested the garden and just the week before, Ted recommended we "don't waste the Fullerton Hotel" when we came to the Esplanade. Of course we knew how to heed good advice.
I was just starting to doze off when Joanne gave me a nudge with her elbow. She was five minutes early; I could've used the extra time in dreamland. We didn't waste any minute when we got to the Botanical Garden, we were posing for Howard just a few moments after we got off the van.
The shot behind the waterfall was most interesting. People who saw this picture often asked, "Is that for real?" It couldn't get any more real than feeling the spray of water on my face and getting Joanne's gown wet. We had to rely on Howard's hand signal because we couldn't hear Howard's voice behind the water wall that stood between us.
We were told to hold our pose for a few seconds longer than usual because of the slow exposure needed to capture the rapid movement of the water. About a dozen tourists joined Howard in taking our picture. We had become part of the scenic attraction. We held our smiles as they clicked away.
The shot where the rays of sunlight penetrate the canopy as we posed nose-to-nose, is one of our favorites. JoyGo cited this as her favorite as well, describing the scene as something like God's grace falling from heaven towards us. I gave JoyGo a sneak peek of the pictures because she wouldn't be able to attend the wedding.
Right after that shot was taken, we were on our way towards the benches for our next set of shots when we met a swarm of tourists. One of the ladies, upon seeing us, said to the group, "They just got married. Yuhoooo!". The rest of them clapped their hands together and shouted "Congratulations!"
We muttered our thanks and smiled at them. When the tourists were out of sight, Howard, unable to contain himself any further, clapped his hands and exclaimed at us, "Congratulations! Yuhooo!" We laughed with him and his assistant.
Our next stop was Sentosa. Just when we thought we were going straight to the beach, Howard took us to a place we had never bothered to go before. We had been to Sentosa a countless number of times as we took it upon ourselves to accompany friends there who came to visit Singapore for the first time.
We liked the unique appeal of the stairs leading up somewhere. We ended up choosing three pictures from that location out of the more than two hundred shots Howard took. This number was down from the double digits during the first cut.
The beach was of course our next destination. I changed into the appropriate attire inside the van. We had previously bought my attire knowing that the shores of Sentosa was a priority in our list. With that in mind, we also knew it would have been challenging to go to the beach if we chose to have our prenuptial shots taken in the Philippines.
As Howard led us to the spots he felt would yield good shots, we noticed there were about seven other couples having their pictures taken. The beach was just too popular a location for prenup photo shoots. Brides and grooms in the making, we were all smiles as we walked around the beach, even when we weren't posing for the camera.
Next on our list was the Esplanade in the Central Business District of Singapore. But we asked Howard if we could first pass by any drive-through so we could grab something to eat. It had been more than 7 hours since we last ate so we were very hungry. We passed by the nearest mall to Sentosa, Vivo City, and got food from McDonald's.
There was a bit of traffic and it was already dark when we reached Tanjong Pagar. I changed back to my formal attire while the car was moving and I was ready by the time we got to the parking lot near the Durian-like structures of the famous Esplanade.
Howard took shots of us with the Esplanade as the background. It would have been nicer if all the lights on the roofs were turned on. Oh well, it had been a long day and we were just glad we were nearly finished.
The walk to the Fullerton Hotel was short and knowing that this was the last series of shots seemed to rejuvenate us. Even Howard sounded more enthusiastic as he called me husband and handsome alternately.
"Handsome move a bit to you right. Husband look at your wife."
We were back at their studio by 9 p.m. We packed our things, said our thanks to Howards and the rest of their team, and left. I know I slept soundly that night.
Towards the end of the first week of April, we were back in Bridal Zone. It was time to choose the pictures we wanted to be included in the album. Out of the 276 shots, we were supposed to choose only 26. I thought the task was going to be easy. All we had to do was determine the top 10% and we'd be out of there.
After the first five minutes, even with the systematic approach we had devised, we knew it was going to be extremely tough to get the job done. Howard was really good at what he did. The pictures weren't even edited and yet they all looked nice to us.
I began to adopt a more ruthless approach in eliminating the pictures that I felt weren't too great but Joanne chose to be more careful, patiently defending those shots I would have easily gotten rid of. When we started to get indecisive with a few pictures, we turned to our companion that time, Angge, for help. We trusted the new architect's artistic judgment and we went with her every decision when there was a tie that needed to be broken.
Three hours into the task, we had made good progress. We were down to a hundred photos. But it was closing time for the bridal boutique. Ted informed us that we had to finish what we had started some other day. We let him know that we were considering getting additional photos. I stared into his face looking for a betraying hint of smile when he revealed how much it would cost per photo, but didn't find any. We also asked if we could get the soft copies. He said it wasn't possible because the rights belonged to them. Tired, hungry and a bit disappointed with Ted's answers, we left Bridal Zone and headed off to have dinner.
We were back the following Tuesday. The three of us were determined to get the work done before closing time. Ted wasn't around that day and a nice lady by the name of Suzy took his place. We informed Suzy that we wanted to include additional photos, about ten more, to bring the total to thirty-six.
Suzy checked on our progress more than an hour after we began. We said we were down to forty-seven, eleven more to go and we were done. She tried to convince us to bring the total number of photos to fifty, pointing out that the cost per photo would be substantially lower. She offered several free upgrades as well. When we asked if we could get the soft copies of all the photos, including those that didn't make the cut, she must have known she had us. Suzy gave the right answer, which made us reciprocate her smile. We had a deal.
Choosing the three extra photos was the best part, or so we thought. I kept uttering discount to Suzy until she finally admitted she couldn't give us any. Instead, she offered us two additional photos. That was the best part.