What to Wear at an Indian Wedding

November 17, 2011 - by Preeti

You've been invited to an Indian wedding.  You are so excited your socks are knocked off, and you can barely think about what to wear.

Maybe the pink A-cut spring dress I saw at the store?

Or I could wear that snazzy vintage lace dress I picked up last week and didn't know where to wear it to.

Or...

OMG, I'M GOING TO AN INDIAN WEDDING, WHAT DO I WEAR?

Okay, don't freakout. That's why your handy dandy writer Preeti is here to help. I'm bringing you tips, dos and don't on what to wear for ladies and gentleman at an Indian wedding.

The Basics:

  • Generally wearing pure white and black are avoided during the wedding. Wedding and wedding related events are colorful, loud, and fun.
  • Of course if you have a fabulous white or black dress that you would never wear for a funeral, then you can wear it.
  • Avoid dresses and outfits that scream boobage.  You know those dresses ladies;  they're not accepted at Indian weddings.  South Asian weddings are traditional and religious (Hindu, Muslim, Jain, Sikh), be prudent and leave the strapless, tight fitting, hip hugging dress for another time.
  • Men, do dress up.  Skip the jeans and t-shirts and be formal.  We see a lot of weddings held in India are lax in the dress code for men.  Don't be that slob.  Be a gentlemen.
  • Accessories are the most important part of Indian outfits.  There is so much to buy, but you don't have to wear everything.  Bindis and bangles are the most common to wear.  Many girls will also wear payals, or anklets, and some will wear mang tikkas, basically huge bindis.
  • If you are attending a Muslim nikah or a Sikh wedding at the gurdwara (temple), you may need to cover your head. Keep a shawl/scarf with you that matches your outfit.

Indian clothing is beautiful, colorful, and detailed.  If you have an opportunity to buy Indian clothes, do!

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Haldi Ceremony

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For the haldi ceremony, everyone gets to "paint" the bride and groom with a turmeric paste. Typically the bride and the groom have separate events at their own houses, therefore you maybe invited to one or the other.

Because turmeric can stain bright yellow, wear an old pair of khakis/jeans and a shirt that can live with a stain.

Women:  Ladies wear soft, flowly dresses or salwar kameez if possible.  Go with oranges, pinks and cream colors.

Men:  Guys, this is the only time you can wear jeans and t-shirts.  Or a simple kurta pajama set.

Mehndi Ceremony

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The mehndi or henna ceremony is more for the girls, though it's customary for men to gate crash.

Women: The girls should wear something comfortable and nice but acceptable to get some henna stains (if you’re careful, you won’t get any).  I do not recommend sweatpants and hoodie though.

Many women can wear a nice tunic top with a long skirt or jeans.  If you have a simple Indian outfit, go for it!

Men:  This would be time to wear the light summer khakis as the men would be lounging around drinking whiskey/bourbon/insert-drink-here and organizing last minute wedding planning.

Sangeet/Garba Party

Men

The sangeet is the traditional song and dance done at weddings. It is customary for friends to participate in some dance or act.   It’s fun, it’s silly.

Gujarati weddings will have traditional folk dancing called garba and raas in which everyone can dance.

Indian clothes are preferred because dancing would be difficult otherwise.

Women: A light lengha choli, sari, or salwar kameez.  If you don't have anything Indian, wear clothing that you can easily dance in and your boobs will not fall out.

Men:  A simple kurta-pajama in cotton or linen. No Indian clothes?  Wear a polo shirt and nice jeans (I said NICE!).  Or, if the Sangeet is being held in a formal location, go for a suit that is easy to dance in.

 

Wedding ceremony

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Men: Consider a nice kurta pajama set or a western suit. Instead of wearing a white button down, pick something more colorful to be in tune with the wedding.

Women: Salwar kameez, sari, or chenia choli can be found in silk, chiffon, crepe, cotton and in many styles. Pick what you love best.

If you want to wear a western outfit, it is perfectly acceptable too.  However, do not wear short skirts, low necklines, strappy tops, or anything revealing the bust. Dresses can be accessorized with bangles and bindis and bright purse.

Indians love colors; this is your opportunity to go wild.

Manish Arora, the famous Indian couture designer once said “Indians love to wear colorful clothes and they know how to. Europeans go wild when “red” is in season (compared to black, white, or gray) because it’s being 'out there'.”

Go Manish, we know you love those crazy colors.

 

Wedding reception/dinner

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Men: You can either change into a suit (with tie) or wear your kurta. We're advising to change to something not worn at the ceremony earlier in the day as Indians love wearing several outfits.

Women: As with men, you can stay the same or wear a new outfit. Western dresses are perfectly acceptable as long as they are tasteful.  Meaning, if you have big bust, keep it wrapped nicely. =) Strappy dresses are accepted as long as they are again, elegant.

Have fun and enjoy the colors, styles, and madness associated with an Indian wedding.

PS - Just don’t look like Katy Perry in India.