Fierce competition between budget airlines like Tiger Airways, Scoot and AirAsia has opened another avenue for savvy Australian brides to find "The One" (the perfect wedding dress that is).
With return airfares (on sale) to China as low as A$600, it's no wonder many people are now flocking there to shop for their wedding dress (or dresses) and other wedding needs.
The two most famous bridal streets in China are:
- Guangzhou's Jiangnan Avenue North wedding street (江南大道北)
- Suzhou's Tiger Hill wedding street (江苏省苏州市金阊区虎丘风景区正大门)
My grandma lives in Guangzhou so when we visited her late last year, it was the perfect opportunity for us to visit the Jiangnan Avenue North wedding street to see what the fuss was all about!
The area is comprised of independently run bridal stores, some are located in large building complexes but many more are located underground and in alley ways.
The area has everything that a bride-to-be will need including wedding dresses, traditional Chinese wedding dresses (qi pao), evening gowns, bridesmaids' dresses, veils, shoes, hair and other accessories, make-up, children wear, wedding decorations, favours and invitations.
There are also plenty of stores that sell men's suits, shirts, bow-ties, ties, shoes, and traditional Chinese grooms-wear, which will keep your fiance pre-occupied while you hunt down your perfect wedding dress.
- Haggling is a must!
- Speaking Mandarin/Cantonese helps - It's better if you can haggle in Chinese or bring a friend who can (even though I speak fluent Mandarin, they could still tell I wasn't from Guangzhou which slightly weakened my bargaining position). Some of the upmarket stores may have personnel that speak English. Otherwise, bring a calculator - numbers is a universal language after all.
- Be patient - Many stores offer the same or similar products, so if you find something you like and you can't get a good price, visit some other stores before you buy it from the first one. One store tried to sell us the same Chinese grooms-wear as another store but at 3xs the price even after haggling (the storekeeper insisted it was because his was made from fire proof silk)!
- You get what you pay for - I have heard of people buying wedding dresses there for only A$100-$200 but that was not my experience. Maybe I'm too picky or I'm just not as good of a haggler as I would like to think, but I was not at all impressed with the quality of dresses in the low price range. I found dresses made from quality material were in the mid to high price ranges (around RMB3,000-6,000, which is approximately A$500-$1,000). A$1,0000 may sound a bit expensive for a dress from China, but keep in mind you will be getting a replica designer wedding gown made of quality material for that price, which is a fraction of what designer gowns cost.
- Bring photos - This is useful if you are after something specific (e.g. a replica gown).
- Simplicity costs more - I discovered from our visit that Chinese brides love lace, frills, swarovski crystals, diamontes and ball-gown style wedding dresses. If that's what you like you should have no trouble finding your perfect wedding dress. If you are looking for a simple organza fish-tail wedding gown like I did, then finding "The One" will not only be difficult but more costly. I got many confused looks when I said I did not want any frills or bling for my wedding dress. One store told me if I wanted something simple then I need to pay extra to have the frills removed.
- One day is definitely not enough - On our first visit, I was overwhelmed with having so much choice, and not just for wedding dresses. Even after three separate visits, I still felt we didn't get everything we wanted.
- Buffer additional days for tailoring/alterations - If you need to make alterations or you are buying a tailor-made item, then that may take from a few days to months to complete. Depending on the length of time needed, you may wish to stay in Guangzhou for longer to do some sight seeing (see our suggestions below). Shipping from China to Australia is an option but may not be cheap, especially if the item is over A$1,000 and it may be subject to GST and customs duty.
How to get there:
- Take a subway to The 2nd Workers’ Cultural Palace (Line 2)
- Take a taxi to Jiangnan Avenue, Haizhu District, Guangzhou (地址：海珠区江南大道北), or
- Take a bus that stops at Jiangnan North Avenue Street (江南大道北路)
Being the winner of Tripadvisor's Traveller's Choice in 2012, Guangzhou has a lot to offer its visitors other than wedding-related shopping:
- Food - And there is plenty of it, so go and explore!
- Chang Long International Circus - This was one of my highlights. It's a 90 minutes show, there were two sessions per day when we were there. It's located in the same area as the Xiangjiang Safari Park and Chimelong amusement parks. You can buy tickets at the park or book beforehand, but it's a good idea to get there early to grab a good seat.
- Xiangjiang Safari Park - The park is split into two sections one section is for self-drive and the other for walking, and there are many different animals to see.
- Chimelong amusement parks - There are two amusement parks. Chimelong Paradise has roller coasters and various carnival rides. Chimelong Water Park, as the name suggests, has various water slides and rides.
- Chen Family Temple - Home to the Guangdong Folk Art Museum.
- Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall
- Yuexiu Park - You can spend many hours in this public park because it is huge!
- Canton Tower - This is the tallest TV tower in the world. Best time to go is late in the afternoon so you can enjoy the sunset and the view of the city lights at night. There are restaurants in the tower but the food is expensive.