So you’ve received a wedding invitation, and the dress code is Indian attire.
Wearing traditional Indian clothes to a wedding that calls for it is no big deal. It can even make the whole experience more meaningful, making you feel part of the rich Indian culture as you celebrate your friends’ nuptials.
Overall, an Indian wedding ceremony is a hugely fun event filled with color and festivities, so, of course, your outfit has to match. We’re here to make sure you know what to wear to an Indian wedding — without making any cringy faux pas. Here’s what you and your fellow wedding guests need to know about a traditional indian dress code.
The first thing you need to understand about Indian culture is that it differs greatly depending on what part of India you’re referring to and where the bride and/or groom are from.
The most common type of traditional Indian wedding includes a Hindu ceremony. Sikh ceremonies are also commonplace, but you also have Islamic, Punjabi, Parsi, Gujarati, and others. What guests wear will vary according to the specific type of Indian wedding they’re attending.
That said, there is one thing that Indian weddings all have in common: color!
Indian wedding guest outfits should be bright, festive, and rich in color. Pastels are often worn during daytime ceremonies and then swapped for rich jewel tones for the evening.
While non-Indian guests are encouraged to get on board and embrace traditional Indian clothes, it’s perfectly acceptable to wear modest Western attire, too.
One thing is sure, though. Do not wear red (that’s exclusively the bride’s color), and avoid black and white, as neither is considered appropriate for an Indian wedding.
If you plan on attending a traditional Indian wedding and wearing traditional Indian wedding attire, what items should you add to your shopping cart? If you’re dressing masculine, consider some of the following options.
Traditionally tailored from silk or cotton, the kurta is a light, loose, collarless tunic that falls to about the knees. The sleeves are long, and more formal versions are adorned with intricate embroidery.
Long, straight, and tight matching pants (literally called pajama pants) are worn underneath to complete the outfit.
This is one of the most formal types of Indian wedding wear. The sherwani is a fitted, long-sleeved outer coat and can be collarless or feature a mandarin or shirt collar. The jacket features buttons, while the hem falls somewhere around the knees.
Opulent designs feature embroidery or patterns, and the ensemble is completed either with pajama pants or churidars, a type of pants cut wide at the top of the leg and narrow at the ankle.
Both women and men can wear this outfit. It features a simple, long, loose tunic or shirt that falls to the knees or ankles, long sleeves, and a collarless design.
The tunic typically is a single color, may feature embroidery, and is worn with a shalwar or loose pants that are wide at the top and narrow at the ankles.
While wearing traditional attire to an Indian wedding ceremony is encouraged, it’s also okay if you prefer to wear Western attire. The key is to ensure your suit is bright or rich in color. Avoid wearing black or white. Think beautiful jewel tones like emerald green or sapphire blue paired with a pastel or contrasting shirt.
What about the ladies? Here’s what you can expect to wear.
A lehenga is a long, flowing skirt that falls to the ankles. Favored by younger generations, the outfit goes with a matching short-sleeve cropped bodice (called a choli) and a long scarf draped around the shoulders.
Lehengas are typically patterned and adorned with embroidery and sequins. Other versions of this outfit include long, Palazzo-style pants instead of a skirt.
The most traditional form of womenswear, the saree (or sari), consists of a single, long piece of unstitched fabric draped around the body. One end is fixed around the waist, while the other drapes over the shoulder.
A choli is worn on the upper part of the body, and women may choose to expose their midriff if appropriate.
Sarees come in almost any color, style, or pattern you can imagine.
It’s also fine for women to wear Western-style dresses. Again, choose something bright and colorful, and maybe pair it with Indian-inspired accessories such as bangles or a matching scarf.
Do note that, at Indian weddings, it’s frowned upon to wear tight, short, or body-hugging dresses, so keep your attire, whether you go Western or otherwise, long and flowing.
As mentioned, different types of Indian weddings call for different customs. As such, you may need to adjust your planned outfit accordingly.
Hindu wedding attire differs depending on whether the wedding is a northern Hindu or southern Hindu Indian wedding. In general…
The most important piece of attire in a Sikh ceremony is a head covering. Sikh men traditionally wear a turban, and non-Sikh men can wear a handkerchief.
Women must also cover their heads, using a chunni (a 2.5-meter-long light scarf), a standard scarf, or a pashmina.
At Sikh weddings, you must dress modestly. Women wear long dresses that cover the legs, and men do likewise with trousers. Showing legs is a big no-no.
Traditional Indian wedding attire for Punjabi weddings consists of the Punjabi suit for men and the salwar kameez or lehenga for women.
A traditional Indian ceremony differs greatly from a Western wedding reception. It is a religious ceremony that requires modesty. Therefore, take care and respect the Indian customs for the wedding you are attending.
In contrast, the reception is when the party starts, so you can cut loose and relax a little. Indian wedding outfits for the reception can be more casual and revealing.
Don’t go overboard, though. Modest dress is still key. Think long flowing pants for men and a lehenga for women. Of course, comfortable shoes are a must, too, because you’ll be dancing all night!
While it’s all very well and good, wanting to get on board and don an Indian wedding outfit, where can you actually purchase traditional Indian attire?
If you have an Indian community closeby, it’s likely there will be a shop or two selling Indian clothing, so why not go and explore, and see what’s available? This is especially true in larger cities.
Indian wedding guests are actively encouraged to wear traditional Indian attire. If you’re unsure, talk to fellow guests to get outfit ideas and learn what is and isn’t appropriate attire.
Red is the color of traditional Indian wedding dresses and, therefore, strictly reserved for the bride. It is also not a good idea to wear black or white to an Indian wedding.
Many Indian wedding guests choose more formal and conservative attire for religious ceremonies and daytime events, then change into something looser and more comfortable for the evening. However, feel free to stick to one outfit throughout the whole event.
Women can wear bangles, large earrings, and headpieces to an Indian wedding. For men, you can wear stud earrings and/or a watch.
If you are not an immediate family member, $100–150 is acceptable. If you are an immediate family member, the ballpark is $200 and upwards.
Dressing for an Indian wedding can be as fun as the event itself. Why not treat it as an opportunity to explore new colors and styles? You never know; emerald green may just be your color!
Whatever the type of wedding, picking the right outfit for a wedding can be a minefield, so let the experts over at The Groom Club help you make the right choices. From definite outfit no-nos to picking the right suit color and folding the perfect pocket square, we’ll ensure you look stylish and dapper every time.