Weddings are huge events in India. From the sheer number of ceremonies, to the guests, the colours and the grandeur, there is nothing quite like an Indian wedding when it comes to the scale. While weddings in most parts of the world celebrate the two individuals getting married, in India, the celebration is of the two families coming together, complete with all their similarities, quirks and differences.
To an outsider who is more used to attending weddings outside India, an Indian wedding would appear like a grand spectacle, much like a gala festival peppered with lots of interesting events. An Indian wedding entails a number of rituals guided by tradition and yet is a fun filled event that every guest can enjoy. If we start talking about the rituals, we could go on all day, but today, what we are going to talk about is another important aspect of Indian weddings - about what to wear to an Indian wedding.
If you are attending an Indian wedding for the first time, we ought to tell you that the dress code is heavily guided by traditions and customs. In a north Indian wedding, you will find ladies in lehenga-cholis, anarkalis and sarees while in the rest of the country, women mostly wear sarees during the wedding. The style of draping a saree also differs from region to region, so much that it is quite possible that the myriad styles will leave you confused. Men in most parts of the country would wear a kurta over a pair of pyjamas while when dressing for a south Indian wedding, the custom is to pair a shirt or a kurta with a dhoti that goes around the waist like a wrap skirt. Amidst all this diversity, one thing to keep in mind is that dressing up conservatively is important if you are attending an Indian wedding, for you do not want to hurt the sensibilities of the other attendees.
The outfit that you would wear during a wedding would also depend on the ceremony that you are attending. An Indian wedding is not an event that will wrap up in a couple of hours. Most weddings in India are spread over at least three days with the festivities in some of them lasting close to a week. It is not called a ‘Big Fat Indian Wedding’ without reason.
So to help you navigate this maze of what to wear to an Indian wedding, we’ll take you through various events that make up a wedding ceremony and give you ideas as to how you can dress up for each event. This way, depending on the event and your role in the wedding, you can decide on your outfits for each event. So without further ado, here is an event-wise guide about what to wear to an Indian wedding.
An engagement party precedes a wedding in India. In many parts of the country, the engagement ceremony can take place a couple of months before the wedding. However, due to paucity of time and to club events together, more and more families these days hold the engagement just a couple of days prior to the wedding and have an extended bash. Find out what to wear to an Indian engagement party below:
If you are a female guest attending an engagement party, then this is your opportunity to flaunt your dressy semi-formal or contemporary clothing. There are no rules to dressing up to an engagement and you certainly don’t have to wear anything overtly traditional. Quirky draped sarees, Chanderi palazzo pants with kurtis, shararas, lehenga cholis, Indian gowns - anything goes as far as the engagement is concerned. Just remember not to go overboard with your outfit or accessories because chances are that the bride-to-be herself might be very simply dressed. This is the best time to dress according to your personality without being weighed down by traditions.
If it is a day ceremony, opt for lighter colours like peach, pink or powder blue. This Anita Dongre saree in a pale blue is our pick for an understated and elegant look during the day. For engagement ceremonies that take place in the evening, you can choose deeper colours like fuchsia, maroon, green or even gold and more opulent styles that are trimmed with gold detailing. Dress up your outfit with a simple clutch, a couple of bangles and a statement neckpiece and you are all set to attend the engagement ceremony.
A male guest can wear a simple formal pant and shirt or choose to go the traditional way with a classy kurta and pyjama.
In terms of accessories, all that you need is a wristwatch and a pair of mojris to complement your outfit if you are wearing a kurta. The dupatta can be skipped during the engagement because it is something that would ideally be worn by the groom and his immediate family members.
Family of the Couple
If you belong to the family of the couple, then you definitely need to be well-dressed for the occasion since this would be the first time that you would be meeting the other family in a formal setting. But in a bid to dress well, don’t be too ostentatious because you do not want to upstage the other family and hurt their sentiments. Try choosing understated and elegant styles that exude a touch of class and sophistication. Anarkalis and sarees in rich fabrics and subtle hues with minimal embroidery work well for women. Men can wear a kurta with a well-fitted churidar and dress it up with a jacket. The mother and father of the bride and groom can set themselves apart by wearing dressier outfits and choosing heavy pieces of jewellery to accessorise their outfits.
The henna ceremony or the mehendi is an event that is exclusively attended by the ladies. Though it is predominantly a north Indian ritual, these days, the ceremony is being observed all over the country, thanks to the popularity it has gained through Bollywood movies. The ceremony is nothing but a fun event where the bride and other ladies get their hands and feet tattooed with henna. The ceremony normally takes place at the bride’s home, a day or two prior to the wedding.
Since the bride has to get an elaborate design on her hands and feet, she normally turns up for the event in a sleeveless lehenga choli or a top and skirt. You don’t want to give her competition so here are some tips as to what to wear to a henna party.
As a guest, you can wear a saree, a lehenga choli, an anarkali suit or even a crop top paired with a skirt. The length of the sleeves should be in accordance to how elaborate you want your mehendi design to be. If you asked us, we’d say, it is best to go sleeveless! If you are planning to get a design done on your feet, wear a skirt so that the outfit won’t interfere with the mehendi. Dress up your outfit with a pair of jhumkas, a nice jewelled clutch and a pair of mojris.
There will be lots of music and dancing as a part of the ceremony. So be sure to wear clothes that are comfortable. This breezy green anarkali suit is just the right outfit if you are looking for a great combination of style and comfort. Also remember that the mehendi tends to stain your clothes, so wear something in a dark colour which will not be ruined by the stain. Since it is a low-key event, our advise would be to choose a simple chiffon or georgette saree with a delicate border or an anarkali suit in vibrant prints. Girls who want to sport a crop top and a skirt can go in for a sequinned top that will add some bling to their look.
If you are a male guest who has been invited to the ceremony or are a part of the family, then you can wear a nice sherwani or a kurta with touch of embroidery on the yoke to dress up for the occasion.
Finish the outfit with a pocket square and jewelled buttons and you are all set to make a statement.
Family of the Couple
Since you may be required to help with the arriving guests at the mehendi ceremony, make sure that you wear something comfortable that allows for easy movement. If you are a female, you would also have to get henna applied on your hands. The easiest pick for the occasion would be an anarkali suit or a simple lehenga and choli in vibrant colours with minimal embroidery.
Men can wear a kurta and a pyjama in a dark shade and accessorise the outfit with a bandi jacket to add some character to the outfit. The mother of the groom and the bride can be dressed in a saree or a salwar-kameez but make sure to wear some eye catching pieces of jewellery since you don’t want to be caught on camera in anything ordinary.
The haldi ceremony is held at both the bride and the groom’s respective homes. It involves the application of haldi or turmeric paste on the bride and the groom-to-be because haldi is said to ward off the evil eye and bestow them with the ‘wedding glow’. It is not an elaborate affair so you can turn up for the event in a simple outfit. Usually, the colour code for the day is yellow since it is the colour of turmeric. Here are some ideas about what to wear to the haldi ceremony.
If you are a female guest attending a haldi ceremony, you could wear a yellow salwar suit, anarkali suit or even a crop top with skirt.
The sarees and lehenga cholis are best reserved for the forthcoming events. Make sure you wear something less ornate because you don’t want the haldi stain to spoil the outfit. Dress up the outfit with pearl accessories and wear your hair in a simple hairdo to gel well with the crowd.
Since the haldi ceremony is usually held outdoors, it would be a good idea to carry your sunglasses along!
Family of the Couple
Older female relatives who are comfortable in a saree can drape a simple cotton or a cotton silk saree for the occasion, given that it is a traditional event. Younger women can wear cotton or georgette kurtas with churidars or palazzo pants. Just like the mehendi, it is better to wear sleeveless tops and skip hand jewellery lest the haldi stains ruin your outfit and accessories.
Men can wear cotton kurta-pyjamas that go well with the traditional mood of the ceremony. Avoid whites since they are heavy stain magnets.
The sangeet ceremony, as the name suggests is an event that involves singing and dancing. Typically, it is a nocturnal event held on the day before the wedding. The bride and the groom-to-be, along with their immediate and extended families usually perform choreographed dance sequences to foot tapping Bollywood numbers. There is lots of great food and free flowing drinks to get people in the mood during the event. Take it from us, it is one event that you want to be well dressed to.
The outfits that are worn during this event are generally Bollywood inspired - ladies flaunt lehengas, sarees and anarkalis that shimmer as they sway to the beats. It is the perfect time to bring out those sizzling lehengas that are full of bling or the sequinned saree that will bring out the glamourous diva in you! Pair the outfit with chandelier earrings and a kundan or stone neckpiece that will catch the light during the event.
You can even try your hand at a structured or a pre-draped saree for the occasion since it looks elegant and will stay in place even after the heavy duty dancing you are bound to do.
Off-shoulder blouses that are in vogue now will add a glamourous appeal to your evening outfit. You could even go the anarkali way and wear a silk or georgette anarkali suit with intricate embroidery that will cast a charm on the audience. Red, green, pink and maroon are popular traditional colours for the sangeet outfit. You could also attempt to break the convention with a sensuous outfit in black and gold or a shimmering saree in a pastel shade - ultimately, it all boils down to how confidently you can carry the outfit.
Remember to wear comfortable shoes or sandals since you will be standing or dancing through the night.
Men who are shaking a leg at the event have plenty of options when it comes to the outfit. This is the occasion to wear something sophisticated and charismatic, to elevate your appeal as you make the ladies swoon with your moves. An Indo-western suit with a structured jacket paired with jodhpuris is a good option for the youngsters. You could even wear a bandhgala with a dhoti pants or fitted trousers that will let you move in style while also setting you apart from the crowd.
Another option is to suit up in a tuxedo to up your sartorial game during the sangeet. If you are up for some experimentation, we would also suggest this eclectic floral printed bandhgala with fitted trousers that can make you the cynosure of all eyes.
With all the beats and the loud music, the sangeet ceremony will be an exhilarating experience that will bring out the party animal in you. Opt for comfortable footwear that will let you dance away into the night happily!
Family of the Couple
Female relatives can wear sarees, embellished lehengas or even pre-draped saree-gowns paired with fine jewellery pieces. Since the sangeet is generally a nocturnal affair, we would suggest that you wear bright yet offbeat colours like aubergine, fuchsia and bottle green. Kundan or polki jewellery is a good option for the evening since it will add the requisite bling to your ensemble. Male relatives can wear sherwanis, Indo-western suits or kurtas in fine fabrics to bring out their flamboyant style.
The wedding ceremony per se is the most important part of the wedding festivities. Naturally, all the relatives and guests are dressed in their trendiest best at the event. Since the ceremony entails many traditional procedures and rituals, we’d recommend that you stick to traditional attire for the wedding and do not experiment too much with styles that are not tried and tested in a wedding setting. So what can you wear? We tell you that in this section about how to dress up for an Indian wedding party.
Coming to the all important question of what to wear to an Indian wedding for female guests, the answer to the question depends on the kind of wedding that it is. In a north Indian wedding you would mostly find women in anarkali suits and lehengas. Floor sweeping anarkalis with all over zardosi embroidery would be a good choice if you opt for convenience and comfort over style. Choose designs in vibrant shades with oodles of gold detailing - nothing is considered over the top during a wedding. Sarees, if worn are crafted from Benarasi silk, georgette with zardosi or thread embroidery. If you own an heirloom Benarasi silk saree or a Jamdani saree, it will be an apt choice for the occasion.
Pick outfits in shades of red, green, yellow or pink which are the standard wedding colours. Of late, the trend has also been to sport the so called ‘English’ or pastel colours - subtle peaches and pink that will bring out the natural glow in your skin. Either way, carry the outfit with grace and accessorise it well to make an impact.
Bring out your intricate jewellery like layered necklaces and jhumkas or chaand balis because nothing else can dress up any outfit quite like traditional Indian jewellery. Finish the outfit with at least half a dozen bangles on each wrist, a golden clutch and a nice bright bindi on your forehead. You could even adorn yourself with a a maang tikka if you find other women in the crowd sporting it.
In case you are attending a South Indian wedding, chances are that you may not find too many women in suits or lehengas because the saree is the outfit of choice during a wedding in that part of the country. For the wedding, it is a good idea to take out your pure silk saree for a spin to look the part of the ideal south Indian wedding guest. Kanjeevaram, Mysore silk or Uppada silk sarees are some of your options - they are sarees that are rich and extravagant, with gold zari work that makes them the perfect choice for the wedding.
The trend these days is to pair the saree with a contrast blouse that is adorned with a smattering of zardosi and stone embroidery. If you already have a blouse to pair the saree with, you can incorporate this trend by getting a spot of embroidery done on the neck and the sleeves. If done well, it will surely get you all those appreciative second glances at the wedding. Complement the saree with some gold jewellery - two layers of necklaces, a large jhumka and some bangles in true south Indian style.
But before deciding as to what to wear to the wedding, ascertain as to what kind of wedding it is. These days, it is a trend in India to hold outdoor weddings during the summer. If the wedding you are attending is going to be an outdoor summer wedding, then chances are that contemporary dressing will be the order of the day. Your expensive silk sarees and lehengas will stand out like a sore thumb at an event like this. For an outdoor wedding, try Indian wedding gowns, lehengs, anarkali suits or pre-draped sarees in chic designs that are not overtly traditional and yet have an Indian touch. By that we mean, picking outfits with a touch of traditional embroidery here, some zari work there or Indo-western ensembles that are made of a fabric that is inherently Indian.
Indian gowns like this elegant Anita Dongre gown that are designed to look like anarkalis, suit an outdoor event like this perfectly. If the wedding is on a beach, better still! Nothing beats the look of an Indian gown at a beach wedding.
Some of the colours you can pick for an outdoor wedding are fresh tones like pastels, pinks, cool mint green or vibrant yellows. Keep the jewellery to a minimum and choose classy and understated pieces of timeless style. Pearls and diamonds would be a good choice, especially if the jewellery boasts of a contemporary design. Finish your ensemble with a pair of high heels, a potli bag and some flowers in your hair and you are all set to rock the chic Indian girl look at the wedding.
But if the wedding is south Indian set in the outdoors, we’d go back to suggesting that you try your hand at the saree. Of course, the saree can be less ostentatious and the drape more casual. The look you could be gunning for would be ‘boho-chic in a saree’. That calls for a fine handwoven saree that is finished with offbeat jewellery styles like oxidised silver jewellery or uncut diamonds and a kitschy potli back to round up the look.
Men attending an Indian wedding should definitely avoid the regular trouser and formal shirt combination. The wedding is an occasion where you can show off your sartorial style and a shirt with a trouser definitely does not do justice to the scale of the event. If it is a north Indian wedding that you are attending, you could wear a kurta with some elegant embroidered details on the collar and yoke. A silk or a cotton silk kurta with a jacket exudes the right amount of richness suitable for the occasion. Finish it with a pair of churidar pyjamas and a matching dupatta for a truly traditional look.
Men wanting something more dressy can opt for sherwanis with all over embroidery in festive colours. A beige or golden sherwani with contrast embroidery would be perfect for a day wedding while a night time wedding calls for colours like maroon, midnight blue or brown. A pair of churidar pyjamas or jodhpuris can complete your look.
If one wants to dress up traditionally to a south Indian wedding, then the only way is to go the dhoti way. A cotton or silk dhoti with a golden zari border is just the right pick for the occasion. The dhoti can be paired with a tonal or contrast shirt or short kurta. Just as how north Indians wear a dupatta over a sherwani, men down south wear what is known as an ‘angavastram’ over their topwear. An angavastram is essentially a small piece of cloth, resembling a dupatta that is folded and worn over one shoulder during traditional functions. Even though you could wear a kurta-pyjama to a south Indian wedding, nothing beats the experience of looking the part of a south Indian and showing off your swag in a dhoti!
While you could dress up elaborately for an indoor wedding, an outdoor setting calls for a more casual approach towards the outfit. Wear relaxed styles like linen kurtas and pants, cotton-silk jackets and jodhpuris that exude a smart and sophisticated air. For a south Indian wedding, you could even try an airy dhoti with a handloom kurta and complete the look with a pair of sunglasses.
Family of the Couple
The family of the couple should ideally wear outfits in opulent fabrics like silk and brocade. Sarees are a good choice for older women while youngsters can wear anarkali suits or lehengas to the occasion. Remember to pick the best jewellery pieces that you own to accessorise the outfit because as family, you need to look impressive on the wedding day. Men do not have to stick to the same old kurta-pyjama. Try something new with bandhgalas, sherwanis or jodhpuri jackets paired with slim fit trousers.
Among all the festivities in an Indian wedding, the reception is one that is not exactly guided by any rituals. It is just an informal gathering with a lavish dinner, lots of music and plenty of photo opportunities. Naturally, every single guest is dressed in their festive best for the reception.
For ladies attending a reception, there is no single guiding rule as to what to wear to the Indian wedding reception. The only principle to follow is to wear lots of bling. Be it a saree, lehenga or even an anarkali, pick the outfit in a lush fabric with lots of detailing on it. You can make your outfit stand out in the crowd by choosing some unusual styles - like an anarkali kurta teamed with shararas or a lehenga, or pick a saree with an off-shoulder blouse or why, even a jacket blouse. Full sleeve blouses styled like a jacket are a trend these days. This Anita Dongre lehenga saree and this gorgeous Siddartha Tytler net saree incorporate the trend beautifully.
Women choosing to wear anarkali should make sure that the detailing on it does full justice to the occasion otherwise you will look washed out in comparison to the other guests. A lehenga-choli is also a good choice but the only thing that you should ensure is that it does not give competition to the bride in any way. Since the reception is usually held during the evening, it is a good idea to wear deep colours like fuchsia, gold, pink and red. Our pick is this gorgeous Anita Dongre lehenga with gota patti embroidery.
Brocade, silk, jacquard and tissue are fabrics that will look opulent in an evening setting. Zardosi, thread embroidery, gota patti work and aari embroidery are details that can lend the outfit a regal charm that is befitting a reception ceremony. A kundan necklace, chaand balis and a maang tikka would perfectly complement a reception outfit. Finish the outfit with embellished heels and bejewelled potli bag to make heads turn.
Men can turn up for the event in a formal suit or a tuxedo. If you do not want to go the whole hog in a suit, choose to dress up your shirt and trouser with a formal blazer. If you are gunning for an Indian look, wear a well-fitted bandhgala over a pair of trousers. It looks crisper than a sherwani and can also be accessorised with a Nehru jacket and a pocket square. A unique pick would be this red ikat bandhgala style sherwani with trousers that we can't stop drooling over.
An achkan over a pair of Jodhpuri pants is another option for a regal look that will set you apart from the crowd. Mint green, indigo-blue, steel grey and black are colours that work well during the evening. Don’t shy away from picking outfits with some detailing in the form of embroidery or embellishments because detailing is what adds a festive touch to the outfit. Don’t forget to pay attention towards picking the right kind of footwear because sloppy footwear can break the look of the entire outfit.
Family of the Couple
As the family of the couple, you will be meeting and greeting a lot of guests at the reception. So gear up for the occasion by picking the best party wear outfit in your wardrobe. Ladies can wear sarees or lehenga cholis with striking embellishments like Swarovski work, zardosi embroidery or even zari detailing. Accessorise the outfit with the choicest pieces of jewellery that you own - heirloom necklaces and bangles along with drop earrings that make people go wow. Round up the outfit with a nice jewelled potli bag or clutch and a pair of embellished heels. Men, depending on the age and body type can choose from a wide range of outfits like sherwanis, Jodhpuri jackets with pants, bandhgala suits or even Indo-western suits. If you are wearing a formal suit, don’t forget little details like cufflinks, a tiepin and a pocket square that show how meticulously you dress.
The reception is normally the last event as a part of the wedding celebrations. So remember to finish it on a high as far as your wedding fashion is concerned. At the end of a wedding ceremony, you will realise that it is a roller coaster ride with an overload of emotions, drama, music, fun and colour. So before we sign off, the only thing that we want to tell you is to put your best foot forward confidently, wear that smile on your face and enjoy the ride! For more ideas about what to wear to an Indian wedding, here is a clever tool that we built with loads of visual inspiration - https://strandofsilk.com/perfect-indian-wedding-outfit-generator. Go, check it out!
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