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Veils on their heads, sand between their toes

Adrienne Mong

Wedding couples jostle with fishermen on Beach Number 2 on a sunny Sunday aternoon in Qingdao.

Adrienne Mong

Check out the guy stirring his meat marinade in the bottom right.

Adrienne Mong

Waiting to pose.

Adrienne Mong

Even a white horse gets in on the wedding action.

QINGDAO, SHANDONG PROVINCE, CHINA –“Beach Number Two,” said my colleague Ed Flanagan.

Of the six public beaches along Qingdao’s 26-mile long boardwalk—perhaps the world’s longest—Beach Number Two was Ed’s vote for the nicest, quietest place to soak in the rays.

He was half-right.

It was the nicest.

Which was why it was also not the quietest, because on this beautiful Sunday afternoon all along the rocky cliffside and the stretch of flat sandy beach were dozens Chinese couples posing for their wedding portraits.

Qingdao apparently is THE place for memorializing one’s nuptials.

Women in huge meringue-like dresses fought the wind, which occasionally blew up their skirts, revealing jeans and sneakers underneath.

Photographers sprawled on the sand, pointing their expensive cameras up at beatifically-smiling brides and grooms.

A man led a white horse towards the shade after its photo shoot.

Another man on the sideline stirred a bowl of marinated kebab meat—perhaps lunch for the photography team.

Some couples waited patiently, unfazed (unlike me) by the spectacle of it all.

By the way, Qingdao does a roaring business in weddings. The morning I arrived, a white limousine with pink garlands snarled up traffic on the way into the city. My cab driver said couples spend at least $1,200 to rent one for their wedding day. That's in addition to the "Audis, Benzes, and BMWs" the cabbie said the betrothed also hire for their families on the big day.

And the hotel at which I stayed held four wedding banquets on Saturday and three on Sunday. At $53 a head with an average of 300 to 400 guests, couples spend anywhere from $15,900 to $21,200 just on the hotel banquet facilities. That’s very steep given that the average employee’s yearly income in Qingdao is $2,312.