The above trend must've started sometime after 2001. I remember it as one of my ex uni friend got married that year and she didn't have a prewedding semi-candid photo session. If you wonder why there's such a trend, let me break down an example of the "regular" Chinese wedding day schedule.
05.00 The bride goes to the bridal salon to get her hair and make up done (usually that's also where she puts on her wedding gown) - usually a photographer follows her around and takes candid pics. (If there are LOTS of weddings that day and your beauty salon is booked fully, then sometimes you have to go there at 4 am)
06.30 The groom goes to the bridal salon to get his hair done (and they powder his face, too!) Yeah, go figure!!!
07.15 The groom goes back to his own house to have a photo session there (the mother "pretends" to put on his suit and then they take more pics together) - usually another photographer of the same company goes to his house to take the pics.
08.00 The bride goes back to her own house or a hotel room (if she lives in a small alley, it'll be inconvenient to go back to her own house, so normally she rents a hotel room).
09.00 The groom comes to pick up the bride in the hotel room, escorted by his two bestmen. They have more photo sessions, then the bestmen leave.
10.00 They may all go to a photo studio to take family pics.
11.30 If the wedding ceremony at church is held in the morning, then they go to church.
13.00 They go back to the hotel to relax and have lunch.
14.30 The bride and groom go back to the bridal salon to get a make-up retouch.
15.30 They go back to the hotel to have a tea-pai ceremony. Some people choose not to do this kind of ceremony, so they'll just go somewhere to have an outdoor photo session or they'll take more pics around the hotel. What's a tea-pai ceremony? It's a kind of ceremony where the siblings of the bride and grooms' parents come to a certain room and then the bride and groom will serve them tea/wine and then they'll give angpao (a red envelope containing money) to the bride and groom as a present. Sometimes they can also give jewelleries if they want to. It's a symbol of giving "financial capital" for the newlyweds. However, nowadays some people don't like doing this kind of ceremony as there will be a kind of "moral" burden afterwards, as they will feel "obligated" to give as much to the sons and daughters of the givers when they're married later on.
17.30 They go to the restaurant/hotel to have the wedding party.
18.00 Wedding party begins and usually ends at around 9 pm.
So, now at least you understand why there's a need for a prewedding photo session, right? Especially since it's usually a semi-candid photo session. Well, to give you a glimpse of what prewedding photography session is like, let me just give links to two such photographers.
Photo by Sondhiar
The Moment Photography
Normally they offer packages (prewedding photo session plus the photo session on the D-day plus gorgeous albums of both photo session). There are SO MANY packages that such photographers offer. Prices range from affordable to "only for well-to-do people". The couple can choose where and when the prewedding photo session would be done. If they choose to do it in another city/place, then they have to pay for the photographer's accomodation and other expenses as well. If they choose to do it in their own city, then they only have to pay the fee to go into the certain locations that they choose (yeah, the owners of those locations have now commercialized everything!!!).
Normally couples choose to have the prewedding photo session a few months before their D-day. Why? Because normally they choose an outdoor theme and they'd get sunburned because of that. Since most Indo people LOVE having fair skin (as opposed to westerners who'd die to get bronze skin), especially the brides would normally want to have as fair and smooth skin as possible on D-day (no suntan lines, please).
I think the cheapest prewedding photo session (only, without the D-day photo session) in Bandung in 2006 would cost around €330 or $400. I think the last time I checked, the most expensive prewedding photo session only would cost around €830 or $1020. Yep, the marriage business is a HUGE thing in Indo. I think the average TOTAL wedding cost in Indo (if you get married in a restaurant, which is MUCH cheaper than getting married in a rented building or a hotel ballroom and if you invite only around 400 people and you pick the cheapest of everything - the gown, the suit, the beauty salon, etc.) would cost at least €4,500 or $5,550. Shocked?
Well, if the bride and groom are lucky, they'd get back almost all the total cost from the angpao given by the guests. I think back in the 90's, almost all bride and grooms would get back all the total cost of the party (well, back then the cost of everything wasn't as expensive anyway and there was no prewedding photo session thingie). However, since the economic depression a few years back, people's ability to give has decreased greatly. I can say that these days there are more people who feel "relieved" if they're not invited to a wedding party, as it can be a HUGE burden if you're invited to 4 wedding parties a month or even more --- it DOES happen sometimes, you know??? So, these days I think brides and grooms can't expect too much from the guests.