Getting a wedding invitation is an exciting event — what could be more flattering than to be invited to celebrate the biggest day of someone’s life? Of course, this naturally leads on to planning your outfit, which can be stressful at the best of times. But it’s even more complicated if you’ve been invited to a wedding of a different culture.
Luckily, there’s a few easy tips to ensure your guest outfit hits all the right notes.
Be aware of what the bride might wear
In British culture, brides usually wear white dresses with extended trains and a delicate veil. But how do our own bridal traditions compare to India, Japan, and China?
Bridal gowns in India
Depending on the region of India that they are from, bridal gowns can be quite different. 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.
Bridal gowns in Japan
Japanese weddings are grand and expensive events, with families known to spend upwards of £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.
Bridal gowns in China
Red is the traditional wedding colour for Chinese brides. 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.
Similar to a British bride’s veil, a Chinese bride may wear a bridal crown, particularly in big moments or 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.
Keep the groom’s outfit in mind
Tradition dictates a groom’s outfit as well. However, many of them are opting for a smart suit similar to how a groom in the UK would dress.
Groom attire in India
The groom’s attire is also regionally-dependant, like the bride’s. 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
Normally, a Japanese groom will wear a traditional kimono for the ceremony and switch to a tuxedo for the rest of the day. 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
It’s traditional for Chinese grooms to wear embroidered robes under 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.
Suitable guest outfits
With this in mind, let’s look now at suitable attire for guests at these weddings.
Guests at Indian weddings
You can really go to town with bright and bold colours in your outfit. 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.
Keep in mind that women ought to cover their shoulders during an Indian wedding and avoid low-cut tops and 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, choose a statement piece for around your neck with matching earrings and bangles.
Now, let’s figure out a menswear outfit. 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.
It’s a good idea to check if the wedding will be at a temple, as you’ll need to cover your head if so. 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. Keep in mind that 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
Male guests are traditionally seen wearing a black suit and white tie. Now however, the dress code is more flexible, and it is accepted for men to come dressed in suits other than black, such as a smart as black suits, 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
Just as you would avoid wearing white to a British wedding, you are expected to avoid wearing red to a Chinese 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.