Asia is a continent rich in time-honoured traditions, in sacred rituals large and small that guide the pace of life, reminding people to pause and reflect on their blessings, on the beauty and serenity that is all around them.

One of the most beloved out of all of these traditions is the pre-wedding photography session; while pre-wedding photos are important around the world, in China and many other East Asian nations, they hold a special significance. In the past, outdoor wedding photography was prohibitively expensive in Asia, so few couples could afford to have pictures of their actual wedding taken. To bridge the gap and allow brides and grooms the chance to capture their special memories, the photography studios stepped in, offering Chinese couples an affordable package which included numerous luxuries.

Often, in addition to getting the photographs, the happy couple would have access to rented outfits for both the pre-wedding shoot and the wedding, then be presented with an elaborately bound album, a framed photograph, and a slideshow. Naturally, the trend for taking pre-wedding photographs took off like wildfire once these elaborate packages were offered, and as the prosperity of Asia increased, the sessions only got more elaborate and more creative—resulting in stunning photographs that have inspired couples around the globe.

It was this enterprising spirit and passion for beauty I hoped to honour during this session of pre-wedding Photography in Cyprus. The bride and groom, a couple from Malaysia named Karen and Joe, were classic high school sweethearts who bonded over their studies and as they walked one another home (even though the other students teased them, already taunting them about being husband and wife).

Years passed, Karen and Joe eventually graduated, and—as so many young people must do—they parted ways to attend different universities. Though they seldom got to see one another, they both noticed that when they did, all the time apart fell away and they laughed and talked together like the children they once were, free from the troubles and stress of the world.

Life, it turns out, would try to pull Karen and Joe apart many times—he had to go to Kuala Lumpur (the capital of Malaysia) to start his career and she joined the Emirates and moved to Dubai—but the two always found their way back to one another, even if just for brief meetings. Then, in 2015, Karen made a grand gesture and flew all the way back to Asia for Joe’s birthday and suddenly, everything clicked into place: Stunned by her dedication, Joe finally confessed that he had loved her all along, ever since those early days they spent memorizing textbooks and strolling through the crisp autumn air. When she had boarded the plane for Dubai, Joe found he could no longer deny what she meant to him—when she left, a piece of him went with her.

Though they could not be together right away, with both of them having so many obligations in different countries, their bond endured the trials of distance—the test of many tears each time they had to part ways again and the longing in each of their hearts to share all of life’s joys with the other. Finally, on Feb 12, 2016, Joe and Karen forged the one bond that cannot be broken: Marriage. Today, Karen is planning to go home to Malaysia, to her Joe.

During their pre-wedding shoot, I did my best to embody the soul of this couple’s heroic journey to be together—from facing one another across a helipad to standing atop the cliffs of the Stavrovouni Monastery and overlooking the waves of Kurion Beach, every pose this couple made was lit with the aura of destiny. Proudly, they joined hands, chins lifted, together overlooking the vast expanses below as if to say: Though the world is wide, the challenges are many, and the distances are vast, love stands above all obstacles.

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