Photogenic 'grooms' for hire

By Thanh Nga   October 6, 2023 | 12:29 am PT
At 3 a.m., Kim Phung was present at the Ho Chi Minh City studio for makeup and a dress fitting in preparation for her wedding photos with a hired groom.

This 22-year-old District 8 bride said that she had never been in a relationship, and that her photoshoot was only staged to shock her friends—most of whom have a partner or a husband and often tease her about her "singleness."

"This time, I was determined to choose a handsome 'husband' to surprise everyone," she said before the shoot on Sept. 20.

Phung stumbled upon the 'handsome groom' service via a social media post that advertised "Grooms for hire here." The ad was placed by a District 10 photo studio that garnered millions of likes. They posted photos of three grooms in three different styles: warm and mature, cool and charismatic, and studious and gentle.

"It only cost me VND100,000 (US$4) to experience what it's like to be a bride," Phung said.

Kim Phung chooses a studious and gentle-looking groom for her photoshoot on Sept. 20. Photo courtesy of Phung

Kim Phung chooses a "studious and gentle-looking" groom for her photoshoot on Sept. 20. Photo courtesy of Phung

Taking photos with hired grooms is a new trend in HCMC, where many young women are not ready to get married but want to practice for it, or just to see how it feels.

Lai Thi Phuong, a 23-year-old representative of the studio, said they first started offering the service in September last year. Before that, they posted videos detailing the wedding photoshoot process and demonstrating romantic moments between brides and grooms. Some people jokingly commented under the posts that the studio should "give them a groom" as they want to take wedding photos, but didn’t have a boyfriend yet.

"After receiving thousands of comments of the same nature, we came up with the idea to have grooms for hire so that women can gain the confidence that they’re worthy of a handsome and gallant husband," Phuong said.

The studio only offers the service every September for customers that make a reservation beforehand. Since the beginning of the month, about 300-400 people have made a reservation, of which 70% are women between the ages of 18 to 25. Even so, only 15 people were chosen among them to ensure quality photoshoots.

The selected customers paid VND100,000 for the service, with makeup and a wedding dress included. Every customer will have two hours to prepare and take pictures.

"Each year, we will have three different grooms to mix things up. We prioritize customers from HCMC to make it convenient for staff and to save time," Phuong said.

Though they had promised to have a wedding photoshoot together, Thanh Thao, a 24-year-old woman living in District 4, HCMC, and her three best friends still do not have boyfriends yet. Thus, all three of them decided to sign up for the service.

"We want to do it as practice, so that once we do the real thing, we know how to pose and choose the right concept," she said.

Thao was aware that the groom holding her hand was fake, however, she could not help but smile happily. She looked at her best friends and suggested that once they all got married, their families would stay close friends.

While there have been positive comments about this trend, some are also of the opinion that marriage is a sacred, once in a lifetime event, and should not be taken lightly.

They say that a woman should only take wedding photos with the person she intends to marry, or else her future husband will be disappointed when he sees her staged photos.

Hoan Khoi, a 20-year-old man living in HCMC, is styled as a mature groom that customers can choose for their photoshoot. Photo courtesy of Khoi

Hoan Khoi, a 20-year-old man living in HCMC, is styled as a mature groom that customers can choose for their photoshoot. Photo courtesy of Khoi

But HCMC marriage and family specialist Le Thi Minh Hoa said that people should not be so harsh. A person has the personal right to hire a groom to take wedding photos with if they want to.

"If they’re happy and it’s not affecting anyone then there’s no reason to oppose it," Hoa said.

According to her, nowadays the younger generation has the tendency to live for themselves more, and some wish to marry later in life. Many people believe that they do not necessarily need to get married in order to be happy.

There are many options in life, and if someone wants to hire a groom to take photos with, then that is something they can do to have a personal, emotional experience, said Hoa.

With that said, Hoa also cautioned that people using this service be wary of the fact that their photos can be used by others to fabricate untruths. Once women who use the service have a boyfriend or get married, they need to then immediately explain the photos to their partners to avoid misunderstandings.

Gia Huy, a 20-year-old man living in District 3, said believes that this service is meaningful for the LGBT+ community. He has never thought about marriage due to his sexual orientation and objections from his family. Even if he received consent from his parents, he would be hesitant to face prejudice from his relatives.

But on the day of his photoshoot, Gia Huy burst into tears while looking beautiful in his wedding dress and holding a bouquet next to his groom.

"I felt like I was reborn as my true gender, and for a few hours, I was the happiest bride," Huy says.

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