Claro Cortes IV/Reuters File Photo

Love don’t cost a thing, but weddings in China definitely do

The Toronto Star, Aug. 18, 2011 • SUZHOU, CHINA — Qin Yuxia is tired. On a sweltering, 40C day, she has trawled through China’s largest wedding market, a sprawling block of more than 1,000 standalone shops in the silk-making city of Suzhou, in search of dresses for her big day.

Armed with a parasol and two girlfriends by her side, the bride-to-be is not just searching for one dream dress.

Qin’s shopping list includes one cream satin wedding gown; one evening gown in pink, red or green; and a red qipao, the body-hugging traditional Chinese dress. “My dream is to have a traditional and elegant wedding, but with princess elements,” says Qin, who will marry on Sept. 11 in Suzhou, her hometown and the heart of a bustling metropolitan area of 6 million in southeast China aout 100 kilometres from Shanghai.

If three dresses for one event sounds over-the-top, consider the four dresses Sarah Chen of Shanghai has chosen for her wedding in May 2012.

“I have bought two white wedding gowns. They’re elegant and decorated with crystals,” says Chen, 26, a media researcher. “And I am renting two evening gowns. One is a red qipao and the other is a purple mermaid dress.”

She will wear a shorter wedding gown before the ceremony; another during the ceremony; the mermaid dress during the reception; and the red qipao during the dinner.

In total, Cheng’s four outfits will cost roughly $3,800 Canadian.

Several dress changes are the new norm at Chinese weddings, and it is becoming more common for young couples to splash out on lavish celebrations. The big spend may seem surprising for a population that’s often pigeonholed by the West as tightly controlled, austere and frugal.

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