While it’s an exciting time to be invited to a wedding, planning the outfit for the big day can be daunting, especially if the wedding is an event of a different culture than your own. To help you decide what to wear, while still keeping culture in mind, we’ve created the following guide.
The bride’s dress
Knowing what the bride may wear is important in order to avoid wearing the same colour or style. British brides often wear white dresses with long trains and an elegant veil. But how do our own bridal traditions compare to India, Japan, and China?
Wedding dresses: India
Different regions in India have different bridal styles. In some regions, the bride wears a saree which is a garment that looks like a long drape, in others she wears a lehenga which is a long skirt. Often the bride is dressed in red or another vibrant colour, her garments will be carefully embroidered with an impressive design. The bride and her bridal party often have henna on their palms, hands, forearms and legs.
Wedding dresses: Japan
Wedding days in Japan can be pricey events, with families known to spend around £75,000. It is often the parents of the couple who organise the wedding, and they are willing to spend excessive amounts to save face. Because of the large scale of the weddings, the bride can have as many as five costume changes! At a traditional (Shinto) wedding, the bride wears a white kimono, but more recently Japanese brides wear a dress that has a traditional print.
Wedding dresses: China
Red dresses are a popular choice at Chinese weddings as the colour red is linked to good luck and warding off evil. In some regions, typically in northern China, the traditional attire for a bride is a one-piece dress that is embroidered with gold and silver designs. In southern China, the typical wear is a two-piece frock. Brides may also wear a beautiful bridal crown for photos and for show during the day. For footwear, a special pair of shoes are often worn that are embroidered with a symbol — for example, a turtle or a deer which symbolises happiness and longevity.
The groom’s suit
There’s plenty of tradition in groom outfits around the world too. However, many of them are opting for a smart suit similar to how a groom in the UK would dress.
Groom outfits: India
Garments for Indian grooms are also regionally-varied, like the bride’s dresses. Some husbands-to-be wear traditional dress, such as a dhoti which is a rectangular cloth ties around the waist. In other regions, they wear a sherwani (a long coat), a kurta (loose falling shirt that hangs below the knee), or a Western suit. The men also have henna on their bodies, but it is less elaborate and often hidden.
Groom outfits: Japan
Grooms at Japanese weddings might wear two different outfits for the day: a kimono during the ceremony and a tuxedo for the events after. The formal kimono that he wears is called a montsuki, and often displays the family crest. More recently, younger grooms start the ceremony in a tuxedo too.
Groom outfits: China
An embroidered robe under a black silken coat is traditional for a Chinese groom. Often, in the modern day, the overcoat is not worn. The groom has to wear certain headwear too – this is usually a black hat with a red tassel. Some younger generations are not following the traditional dress code and simply wear a tuxedo or a Western-style business suit.
The guests’ outfits
Keep in mind these pointers before buying your outfit:
Guest expectations: Indian weddings
Ideally, your outfit for an Indian wedding should be brightly coloured. Wearing vibrant colours will mean you fit in with the Indian guests. Guests should avoid white or black as these are colours worn for funerals and mourning in India. It is also advised that red is not worn either as the bride will probably be dressed in this colour.
It’s important for women to keep their shoulders covered up, as well as opting away from anything low-cut. A jewel-tone dress with a shawl is one appropriate outfit. The Indian female guests will most likely be dressed in colourful sarees or anarkali suits. Jewellery is important for women too, so choose a statement piece for around your neck with matching earrings and bangles.
Moving on to the menswear now. Men often wear a tailored kurta with a pyjama and a dupatta (shawl) can be added over the kurta. For their feet, sandals, jootis or chappals are often worn as these are comfortable and prevent overheating.
You’ll need to cover your head if the wedding is in a temple. For this, women can wear a long scarf or pashmina over their heads and men are usually provided with a head cover such as a large handkerchief. An Indian wedding is often a long drawn out event (it could be three days long!) so make sure you are wearing something loose and comfortable.
Guest expectations: Japanese weddings
Japanese grooms traditionally wear a black men’s suit with a white tie. Now however, the dress code is more flexible, and it is accepted for men to come dressed in suits other than black with various coloured ties. However, it is advised to avoid white clothes with black ties. Women often wear dresses that are knee length or a coloured kimono to take on a traditional look. It is best to avoid showing any shoulder as this can be deemed a disrespectful.
Guest expectations: Chinese weddings
Avoid wearing red as a wedding guest at a Chinese wedding, as it is deemed an insult to the bride (much like a guest wearing white to a British wedding). It’s best to wear pink, peach or purple as these are all symbols of new life and happiness. A formal dress is suitable for a Chinese wedding. Colours to avoid include black and white, as these symbolise mourning and black is considered to be the colour of bad luck.