Eline Pun, an English teacher who got married in December 2016, bought her wedding package from Grace Wedding, a small shop tucked into a nearby side alley. The arrangement involved multiple visits: First she and her then-fiancé, Daniel, discussed with the photographer the locations for their wedding photo shoot—six different locations meaningful to their relationship, such as the café where Daniel proposed, plus an indoor studio. (In Taiwan, wedding photos are taken months before the actual wedding.) They then picked out their photo shoot outfits—a tuxedo for Daniel, and three gowns and a wedding dress for Eline.
The day of the shoot, Pun arrived at 6 a.m. to prepare her hair and makeup, then hired a cab to transport everyone, including the photographer and a hair stylist (who changed the bride’s look for each outfit), to each location. After a long day of posing, they returned to the studio at 6 p.m.
“The whole day was dedicated to making memories,” said Pun. “You get to go to places that mean a lot to you and you get to try on different outfits, so it was really fun.”
The couple’s package included 30 edited photos, a photo album, a scroll for wedding guests to sign, a framed photo, and cards for guests to take home. Pun noted the photographer also touched up their pictures to get rid of blemishes and trim their figures.
She made additional trips to Grace Wedding to pick bridesmaid dresses, a flower girl dress, and her own wedding dress and gown for the reception. The day of the wedding, the hunsha shop provided a makeup and hair stylist and a bouquet for the bride. Total cost: $2,300.
But while hunsha packages may sound like a blessing for weary American fiancées, as I walk past these shops, most look largely empty. Some are boarded up with graffiti on the walls, the color fading from ads featuring happy couples. Rising rents and a declining customer base seem largely to blame.
“The low birthrate is a problem,” said Mei Feng, a manager at Only You Studios. “Now women don’t feel the need to get married.” The result: Only You sits next to six vacant storefronts. Despite a decline in business, Feng said her store was doing well overall. It recently moved into a larger space and also opened a four-story photography studio nearby.
Only You faces fierce competition from other hunsha stores, and from newcomers: Many studios now focus exclusively on taking photos, without all the offerings of a hunsha shop. This gives clients the flexibility to pick and choose what they like about several different vendors, rather than buying the more rigid—though convenient—packages.
In order to stay competitive, Feng said Only You has started to unbundle its products to give its customers the ability to customize. It’s also catering to local tastes: The new four-story indoor studio has backdrops of a Great Gatsby–style living room, a Victorian-style parlor, and a flower-covered wall.
“It’s just a matter of what portion of the market share you can get,” Feng said in the upbeat tone of a seasoned saleswoman. “There’ll always be people getting married.”