Suzhou’s Wedding Gown Street has other names as Suzhou Wedding Dress Market, Suzhou Tiger Hill Wedding Street. The street is so close to Tiger Hill and Shantang Street that it would be worthwhile taking the Shantang Street Boat Trip, and then walking around the street of weddings.
Suzhou has a significant wedding dress market attracting couples from all over the country, even from abroad. The market actually is based predominately along a street near Tiger Hill, with more than 700 wedding related outlets. It is the centre of wedding dress designing, manufacturing and merchandising. There are thousands of wedding dresses, evening dresses, and bridal dress, all at competitive prices. In fact, the dresses are half of what you would pay in Shanghai. In addition, these workshops can tailor dresses in one or two hours based on the customer’s needs, meaning a bride can really find her dream dress. If you are planning to buy a wedding dress, then Suzhou has everything you could possibly dream of.
When to visit
Suzhou’s wedding gown street (Chinese Name:苏州婚纱一条街,江苏省苏州市金阊区虎丘风景区正大门) is best visited in Spring or Fall, when the city enjoys the mildest weather of the year. Winters would be a second choice — Suzhou gets more rain than snow this time of year, but there are only a few below-freezing days. If you absolutely must come in the summer, don’t ever leave home without your UV-protective umbrella (available for purchase at any major supermarket in China, and highly advised for a city that, last summer, had temperatures topping 42 degrees Celsius).
In ancient China, there were many traditional wedding customs. With the passing of time, many of these traditions have changed gradually, especially in the cities.
Nowadays, Chinese people combine traditional wedding customs with modern elements, creating a new fashion for weddings in China. Now, most couples desire to have a tailor-made wedding to emphasize the most important day of their lives. As a result, weddings in China have become a major event and the main focus becomes the wedding dresses for the brides.
Established in the late 1980s around an already thriving local silk industry, Suzhou’s wedding market quickly outsized older markets in Guangzhou and Chaozhou with low prices as its main draw.
Brides from across China have been known to flock here for frocks that cost just RMB 200 (US$30) to RMB 2,000 (US$305) apiece.
The area is a well-known tourist attraction and hence a breeze to get to by taxi. Tell the driver to head to “wedding dress street” near Tiger Hill (婚纱街, 靠近虎丘)and the 10-minute ride from Suzhou Railway Station should cost about RMB 10 to 15.
Local bus routes 1 and 2 also run to Tiger Hill from the station (RMB 2 each way) but take twice as long as it has to crawl through downtown Suzhou.
By train. Go to Shanghai Station (that’s the main station — not to be confused with Shanghai South Station), where you can purchase train tickets to Suzhou. Buy yours at one of the automated kiosks there, especially for the high-speed trains. Don’t worry about tickets being sold out — there are so many trains going to Suzhou every day, it’s impossible not to get a seat. The trip from Shanghai to Suzhou takes a little under one hour.
By plane. Suzhou has no airport, so your best option is in Shanghai. Hopefully, you’ll fly through Hongqiao Airport, the closest airport located in the West of Shanghai — because the other choice, Pudong Airport, leaves you 45 minutes East of downtown Shanghai alone. Either way, you’ll need to catch a train to Suzhou (see “By train” below for details). Shanghai’s subway system now serves both airports, and has links to major train stations, but taxis (at least 100 to 120 RMB) might be the choice for the weary, overburdened traveler.
Once you arrive in Suzhou, the most comfortable way to the Suzhou Wedding Gown Street is by taxi (~20 to 25 RMB) — but you can also get there by taking a bus to Tiger Hill (tourist buses Y1 and Y2 from the train station).
Tips for buying gowns in Suzhou Tiger Hill Wedding Gown Street and Market
Decide if quality or budget is your priority, as that helps to determine where to start your search.
Stores along the main road tend to have pricier dresses (RMB 800-2,000) made of higher quality fabrics with neater hems while prices in stores along the back alleys are much lower (RMB 200-800), but could end up looking cheap.
A general way to gauge a shop’s prices is to look at how well furnished its interior is.
As the bulk of business for shops here come from making wholesale trades rather than from walk-in customers, store assistants tend to be less pushy and starting prices tend to be much less of a hike from the real price.
The easiest is to buy what’s on display — and most stores have so many ways to do flowing chiffon, silk, taffeta and more that even the fussiest foreign woman will eventually find a gown she loves. But if you have a design in mind, have them do a tailor-made dress — just be sure to bring a photo or drawing of what you want, and choose a store with a basic design similar to your dream gown. Prices range from around 200 RMB for simple dresses up to 400 or 500 RMB for tailor made designs (such as my own bridal gown). And, since many stores also sell qipaos and evening gowns (most brides in China wear three dresses at their wedding), you can do all of your wedding dress shopping in one place.
Whatever your choice, begin by browsing the stores, with an eye for styles you love. You don’t need to bargain right away, and you shouldn’t. Give yourself time to know the stores, and know what’s available. Then, when you come upon something gossamer and gorgeous, make a note to come back.
Sometimes, though, it takes a seemingly exhaustive “tour” of the wedding gown street before you’ve found the perfect match. That’s what happened to me — it was the last store that had styles similar to the dream gown I had in mind (and thank goodness, because I almost though my “dream” was dashed forever in a pile of boring gowns).
Once you find the perfect one, bargain, bargain, bargain. The asking price is often twice what you should pay, so never accept the first offer. And remember — the price should include a bridal veil and gloves.
You can relax and take a moment to ponder the next step — how to make your friends at home jealous over such a great deal on a wedding dress.
Tour spots near Suzhou Wedding Dress Market
After walking down the aisles of Suzhou’s wedding gown street, you might consider taking in some of the city’s more traditional delights, such as nearby Tiger Hill, or even one of the famed gardens (Master of the Nets is a personal favorite).
婚纱 hūn shā White gown
虎丘婚纱一条街 hǔ qiū hūn shā yī tiáo jiē Tiger Hill “Wedding Street”
凤凰 fēng huáng phoenix
吉祥的 jí xiáng dē auspicious