Six tips for dressing for an Indian wedding as a guest

posted by Chris Valentine

If you have seen an Indian wedding (which you likely have), then you know that they tend to be filled with colour, massive scales of celebrations, and pomp. You have seen the beautiful sarees Indian brides wear, as well as the bridal party – but when you get an invitation for an Indian wedding, it becomes overwhelming to try and select what you will wear.

On one hand, you want to look good, but you also want to avoid outshining the bride; so it can get very confusing trying to decide. If you are feeling overwhelmed on making a choice, here are some tips to help you out.

Make outfit preparations for multiple ceremonies

Unlike western weddings that only happen for a day and everyone moves on, Indian weddings tend to last for about two to three days with multiple ceremonies happening, while some can even go for up to a week. In fact, the usual wedding ceremony western weddings have is just a small aspect of the entire process.

As a rule, you have the western wedding ceremony, in addition to the traditional Indian ceremony (according to the Indian family’s faith like Muslim, Sikh or Hindu). There can be other ceremonies in between depending on the couple, but make sure to have outfits for the two main ceremonies.

Wear traditional Indian clothes, but keep it simple

It is usually considered more respectful to go into the wedding wearing traditional clothes – in fact, the brighter they are, the better. If you are a woman, wear a saree or lehenga (cropped top with a scarf and full circle skirt). You can also wear salwar kameez (a long top with a scarf and flouncy pants) if you are going for a Sikh wedding, and anarkali (a long full circle dress that has a scarf and pants similar to leggings). If you are a guy, you can wear pants and long-sleeved tunics.

In addition, avoid the idea of overdressing for the ceremony. It is not your wedding, and you do not want to seem like you are outshining the bride, so keep it simple. The clothes you choose to wear are fine with some delicate embellishments, but again avoid going plain. On that note:

Stay away from black or white

In the western worldview, white is considered a colour of purity. However, in South Asia, it is associated with mourning – so do not show up to an Indian wedding wearing this colour. Generally, white should be avoided at all costs when you are a wedding guest, regardless of where the wedding is happening. In the same way, stay away from black – it is seen as inauspicious.

You can wear any other colour of the rainbow and anything else, but red is a risky option because the bride is likely to have red on her saree, or the wedding lehenga is red. So the safest choice would be to pick other colours such as pink, blue, green or yellow.

Make sure to have jewellery

Aside from the clothes you are wearing, it is seen as being sloppy if you do not have any jewellery at an Indian wedding – so make sure you have something on you. Don’t feel conscious if you are getting stared at, because Indian women tend to look at the guests and see if they can pick up any unique ideas from the jewellery the guests are wearing.

Because you know your jewellery will be the most looked at aspect of yourself, make sure to pick statement pieces that make you stand out. It can be anything from necklaces and bangles to earrings, and there are plenty of ideas you can use.

Be modest and comfortable

All traditional Indian wear will cover various parts of the body such as the shoulders and legs, and can even cover the whole arm. If you are wearing a western outfit for the western ceremony, for instance, always make sure you remain modest and your clothes cover all these areas.

Any dresses that do not cover the knees, clings to your body or shows your cleavage is a bad idea for an Indian wedding, and guests will feel you are not respectful. For men, you can wear long pants and long shirts as they are acceptable.

Covering your head is also important, especially if the wedding is a Hindu or Sikh one. For a woman, the extra fabric in the pallu can be useful or you can bring a scarf, while the men can bring a handkerchief. Also, because many traditional ceremonies happen in temples, be prepared for the possibility of taking off your shoes.

It is also important to remember to wear comfortable clothes. Because typical Indian wedding ceremonies last for a minimum of two or three hours and there are multiple ceremonies, avoid shoes and clothes that make you feel tired and grumpy. Keep in mind that elderly people related to the couple will also be there, so keep your fashion choices modest so that you avoid making them uncomfortable.

Avoid being too casual

You are attending an Indian wedding, and that is not just some other meeting point – so that cotton shirt you were thinking of wearing, ditch it for that day. Indian weddings are not the place to be sloppy or show up in some cotton clothes – remember, people are observing you the whole time. Since you will be surrounded by jewellery the whole day, you might as well blend in by dressing up properly – and the good news is, the options you have on your plate are numerous.

You can select a beautiful outfit, such as Kota sarees, wear your makeup proudly, and do something special with your hair – all in an effort to look dazzling.

Final thoughts

Indian weddings are beautiful and offer a chance to showcase culture at its finest. However, being a guest to an Indian wedding can be tricky especially if you do not know the culture very well. with these tips though, you are sure to be a great guest and remain modest while looking good. If you’re going for the ultimate Indian wedding (as in actual India), make sure to secure your India iVisa for Americans before you go to avoid issues and make sure you don’t miss the big day!


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