What to wear (and what not to wear) for a wedding of a different culture

If you’ve been invited to a wedding, no doubt you’re excited to get planning for the big event! But if you’ve been invited to a wedding of a different culture, you need to be careful that your outfit is appropriate. It can be difficult, especially if it’s a culture you’re not familiar with, to know what is and isn’t acceptable. We’ve created this guide spotlighting a small number of different cultures and their wedding traditions so you can better plan your outfit accordingly. 

How the bride may dress 

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? 

Bride dresses in India 

There are different dress styles for Indian brides depending on the region they are from. 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. 

Bride dresses in Japan

Japanese families will spend as much as £75,000 or more on these extravagant days. 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. 

Bride dresses in China 

As a colour linked to good fortune and protection, Chinese brides often opt for red dresses. 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. 

How the groom may dress 

Tradition dictates a groom’s outfit too. However, many of them are opting for a smart suit similar to how a groom in the UK would dress.

Groom attire in India 

For their big-day outfits, Indian grooms also have some regional variance to their traditional suits. 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 attire in Japan

Prior to donning a tuxedo, Japanese grooms often wear a traditional kimono for the ceremony itself. 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 attire in China 

Traditional Chinese groom outfits consist of an embroidered robe and a black silk coat. 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.

Outfits for guests 

There’re a few things guests should be aware of when planning their outfits: 

Guests at Indian weddings 

Bright coloured clothes will fit in perfectly here. 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.

Women need to keep their shoulders covered and avoid low-cut tops or short skirts. 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. 

Time for the men’s outfits. 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. 

Ask if the wedding is to be held in a temple, as this will mean your head needs to be covered. 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. 

Guests at Japanese weddings 

Black suits, men’s dress shirts, and white ties are traditional at a Japanese wedding. 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. 

Guests at Chinese weddings 

You wouldn’t wear white as a wedding guest to a British wedding for fear of insulting the bride and wearing red to a Chinese wedding is held in the same regard. 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. 






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