Wondering what to wear to an Indian wedding? From sangeet to mehendi, here is a COMPLETE style guide to Indian wedding fashion for all ceremonies for both men and women.
cIndian weddings are a mix of color, music, glitz, religion, culture, traditions and emotions. While considering what to wear to an Indian wedding, Indian ethnic fashion is what comes to mind due to its distinct heritage. All Indian families have their own traditions, which vary from one region to another, and even from family to family. That’s why no two Indian weddings are alike, even though traditions and rituals are always followed as a part of Indian wedding ceremonies.
When planning to attend an Indian wedding, do not go with generalization it might mislead you. For it can be a pure Indian wedding or an interfaith wedding which is currently on the rise. Indian weddings have multiple ceremonies and events when invited, it is wise to confirm which it is.
What to Wear to an Indian Wedding
When attending an Indian wedding, consider Indian classic garb as your attire of choice. However, if you have to wear a western outfit, make sure it blends well with Indian customs. For instance, wear color to Indian weddings. Red is typically reserved for the bride, so other good options are pink, blue, green, orange, pastels, etc. Black is usually avoided at weddings.
Avoid too much skin show with shorts or mini-skirts, and ideally, keep it formal. Also carry something to cover your head especially if the ceremony is religious, and takes place in a temple or place of worship.
If you’re thinking what to wear to an Indian wedding as a guest, don’t shy away from accessorizing. Find the perfect jewelry to adorn yourself with. If you are not an Indian, it’s definitely okay to wear whatever jewelry you have.
The Sangeet is one of the most talked about pre-wedding ceremonies. If you’re planning what to wear to an Indian wedding, the sangeet ceremony is the most important one to consider, other than the wedding reception. It is all about music and dance for both families to celebrate the union of the bride and bridegroom. The word sangeet literally translates to music.
A lot of families do dance performances; dances are done in pairs or groups from both families. The event takes place for the whole day or just the evening, depending on which Indian community it is. The Punjabis and Gujaratis are the two main communities who are very big on sangeet ceremonies!
When it comes to sangeet dressing for women, it is time to play dress up and show off your personality through your clothes. Lehenga is beautiful for this pre-wedding ceremony due to the graceful look it has. You can choose crop top lehengas in brilliant hues, paired with a scarf, called a dupatta. It will really make you blend in with the festivities. With all the twirling with the dancing in this ceremony, a long skirt with a crop top puts you in the ultimate dancing mood. This look is versatile and is a perfect choice for almost any pre-wedding ceremony.
Other good options to wear are gowns, sarees or anarkali dresses. They are comfortable and fuss-free. The bridesmaid can adorn this look, too, since it is a beautiful, formal outfit. If you’re wondering what to wear to an Indian wedding as a white person, and don’t have any Indian dresses, go for an A-line knee-length or long dress in a bright color.
The men, too, can add to the energy and laughter and live it up in the sangeet ceremony by wearing Nehru jackets or bandhgala. The Nehru jacket can be paired with a bright colored kurta for the sangeet. The bandhgala should be tailored to perfection and paired with jodhpuri or straight-cut pants. You can also wear a sherwani with salwar or churidar pants to stand out in the wedding ceremony. Or if you want to make heads turn, go for a front-open embroidered bundhgala.
When planning what to wear to an Indian wedding, the answer doesn’t just stop at the wedding ceremony itself. Indian weddings have so much going on and it’s a multi-day affair. As another yet exciting and traditional pre-wedding ceremony, mehndi is the night many families wait for, since it’s so much fun. A lot of families combine the mehndi and sangeet night into one single event, which may take place the night before the wedding.
The mehendi ceremony is the only traditional ceremony that has not changed its customs and rituals even with a lot of western influence. As a matter of fact, most brides cannot imagine not having it. Every bride considers it a big part of her adornments to feel completely beautiful on her special day. The ceremony includes adorning the bride with intricate body art designs on her hands, arms and feet by using the henna paste. It is believed the darker the mehndi, the more love the bride receives from her in-laws and husband. Wedding guests also get mehndi designs applied on their palms.
Women and men both dress up for it. Planning what to wear to an Indian wedding at the mehndi ceremony? For the women, shades of green, yellow, gold and floral shades are the favorable hues for this occasion in chiffon, silk or Georgette fabrics. Yellow and green are considered the traditional colors of mehndi. Here are mehndi outfit ideas for brides.
The sharara dress is a great idea for women, and so are salwar suits. Gowns are also favored by the bride and also the wedding guests. Other ideas are anarkali suits, lancha and lehenga-sarees for girls. A green kurti that is matched with a yellow salwar is beautiful and matches the occasion perfectly as the garb for the day. You can also go for darker colors as any stains from mehendi can be washed off easily!
Men get mehndi tattoos, too, just that theirs are not as conspicuous as the women’s. Most of their designs are done on the palms, although it is not mandatory. They also attend the mehendi ceremonies dressed in kurta pajamas which are stylish and comfortable and you can never go wrong with them. Pair with sandals and jazz them up with a dupatta. Other options are bundhgala, Nehru jacket or kurts over jeans.
The haldi ceremony is held on the morning before the wedding. Some families celebrate it after the mehndi ceremony, in preparation for the main wedding ceremony. In this ceremony, turmeric paste is applied to the bride and groom as it is an ayurvedic face and body scrub. It leaves the skin smooth and glowing in preparation for the wedding ceremony. It is also believed it wards off evils and is applied as a symbol of blessing to their marriage.
There are many dresses that one can choose for the haldi ceremony, whether you are the bride, bridesmaid or a wedding guest. The haldi dress should be striking and designed in a way that leaves your arms, feet and neck accessible as people apply haldi. A high-low lehenga or long skirt paired with a chic tie-back blouse is a beautiful option. Or go for a gold satin skirt with a crop top or long kurta, which is embroidered at the borders and either ready-made or personalized for you.
As a bride, a dress with ruffles, scallops and poufy layers for the haldi ceremony will give you the desired attention you deserve. Match this with your bridesmaids to bring out the sophistication and uniqueness to your haldi. A gold sharara or chaniya-choli is also perfect for this pre-wedding ceremony. Go for an embellished blouse so that all your pictures have a gorgeous look.
The men can wear a plain kurta or one paired with a Nehru jacket. This traditional combo is good for such festivities; a long or short kurta is perfect for this ceremony. Choose cotton, silk or brocade fabric as an elegant choice to match with contrasting churidar bottoms. Yellow is a perfect choice for the haldi ceremony especially due to the stains that will be left after the celebrations from the haldi strokes.
Another awesome outfit for the men is a bandhgala which will bring the shine on the groom for this day. This outfit fits the ceremony well or you can opt for a sherwani that has gold embroidery with white or ivory dhoti pants to style up the look.
Wedding Reception & Baraat
The reception may take place before or after the saat phere ceremony (see below). And a lot of guests wear the same outfits for both, depending on the timings and family traditions. The baraat is the procession in which the groom rides a horse (very slowly) to the wedding venue, followed by his relatives who walk (or mostly dance) behind him, along with a walking-band. This is followed by the main wedding ceremony, which can vary depending on the part of India you’re in. In some cases, it may be a ring ceremony, or a jai-mala (exchange of garlands) ceremony. And in some cases, it may be the saat phere ceremony.
Finally, the wedding reception follows, which is the dinner time. It may be a lavish multi-course meal with a buffet and drinks. It is typical for the bride and groom to eat last, along with their immediate family members. So don’t be shocked if it’s time to leave for you, and the bride and groom haven’t begun eating yet!
The perfect wedding wear for brides is a lehenga choli, salwaar suit or saree, depending on the tradition in that part of India. Grooms wear a sherwani in north India, and a dhoti or dhoti kurta in central and south India.
Thinking of what to what to wear to an Indian wedding reception as a female guest? Female wedding guests wear lehengas and sarees, too. Other options are gowns, anarkali suits, shararas and Indo-western dresses. You can also wear western wear to Indian wedding, as long as it doesn’t reveal too much skin and looks formal. Accessorize with a clutch, open-toe heels, matching Indian jewelry and bangles. You can also wear a bindi if you’re married. Sleeveless long dresses are a great idea.
What to wear to an Indian wedding as a non Indian guest (other than sherwani or kurta)? Men can try a bundhgala, suit or embroidered velvet jacket in a rich color like maroon or midnight blue. Here are some more ideas: Wedding Clothes for Men.
Saat Phere Ceremony
This occasion is the most important traditional occasion of the Indian wedding. It means the seven circumambulations of vows that bind the bride and groom as one. Each rotation is associated with a different vow and has a significance to it. The seven pheras constitute of health, family, progeny, prosperity, strength, friendship and prayer for food and nourishment.
While dressing up for the phere, be cautious since it is a religious event and should be given the decency it deserves. The bride can adorn herself in a bridal saree or lehenga. This gives you an ultimate sophistication and for this ceremony with a matching head cover up, or scarf (dupatta). Have it heavily embroidered for glam and sheer elegance as you say your saat phere vows.
Thinking what to wear to an Indian wedding ceremony as a guest? You can try anarkali in mono or duotones to make a style statement. An embellished lehenga choli in various colors and shades is also perfect for this ceremony. The intricate and exquisite embroidery makes it perfect for the saat phere ceremony. Have a chunri too to wrap around the head to trail down to the back.
The groom should wear a matching color to the bride’s outfit to signify the oneness in this ceremony. However, there are different attires that they can wear. For instance, the sherwani as a fusion of the salwar kameez and British frock coat is perfect for this occasion. It has fine intricate embroidery and is perfect to be paired with a pajama or dhoti pants. Or dress up in a heavily embroidered kurta and blend in with the wedding ceremony.
A silk sherwani looks more formal and glam, compared to cotton fabric for wedding ceremonies. This is because the cotton one does not have a lavish feel and look too plain for the ceremonies and formal events. Accessorize with a turban since it is a religious function and it is good to cover the head. There are different types of turbans – printed, plain and bordered. Choose one that matches your sherwani or theme of the phere ceremony. Add a dupatta to make the look elegant. Male guests can wear a sherwani, bundhgala or kurta pajama.
As a post-wedding ceremony, vidai literally translates to ‘parting’ or ‘goodbye’. This ceremony is also known as Bidai. Is when the bride is bidding farewell to her family and leaving her maternal home. It is the most sentimental event of the Indian wedding ceremony and the last ritual as the bride goes to become a wife and daughter-in-law. By throwing wheat or rice over her head to her relatives, the bride offers her blessings for her maternal home and leaves.
Although it is an emotional occasion, the bride and wedding guests adorn themselves for this ceremony, too. The bride can wear a saree or lehenga since it is a traditional attire. A heavily embellished saree is glamorous for the occasion in bridal tones of red and maroon. The blouse can be designed in a unique style – either with sheer panels, quarter sleeved or embellished crop top.
For wedding guests or relatives, anarkali dress is the perfect choice for this ceremony. The layered anarkali dress with its flouncy fancy layers can add a royal feel to your look. If you prefer something simpler, choose a kurta that is stunning and has minimal embroidery for the vidai occasion.
During the vidai, the groom’s dress is not too glam, since he comes to receive his bride from her family. However, an ethnic attire is worn as part of the ceremony. For instance, a dhoti paired with a pale-gold kurta looks stylish and is one of the most traditional vidai attires.
Male wedding guests can dress up in a kurta as well on this post-wedding occasion,and pair it up with a traditional pajama or pants and look and feel comfortable, especially as a brother or male relative to the bride. After all, it is the farewell ceremony – you do not want to look all adorned and excited that your sister is leaving – it may raise a suspicious eye!
Indian Bridesmaid Sarees
Some parts of India have matching attire for bridesmaids. Your BFF is getting married and you’re wondering what to wear to an Indian wedding? Bridesmaid sarees are in different vibrant colors, designs, and rich in the Indian culture that you can’t get enough of. Bridesmaids look beautiful when adorned in sarees for a perfect blend to the wedding colors.
There are different types of sarees in the Indian fashion industry and you can choose one design to match all your bridesmaid since it is a bride’s choice. You can also choose different styles of blouses in the same color. The temple saree from Tamil is one of the best saree choices for bridesmaids. This saree has a wide gold border. With its traditional design, the border makes this saree stand out.
The Banarasi saree from Varanasi is also a common attire for the bridesmaids in India. The gold and silver zari designs make it a brilliant choice for a wedding ceremony. It has a royal feel to it with its intricate designs that one can choose from according to the ceremony’s color theme.
So I hope our guide on what to wear to an Indian wedding was helpful. Is this your first time attending an Indian wedding? Do share your experiences with us in the comments down below!
Shrutika Potwar is an SEO analyst and a part-time blogger with an experience of two years in the IT sector. She loves to blog about fashion, lifestyle and technology in spare time. She is working at Stylecaret, a fashion e-commerce portal in India, and is a guest author at ShilpaAhuja.com. Shrutika writes about ethnic wear, fashion advice and Indian casual & wedding wear.