There are three main types of Indian clothing that is worn by women during the different occasions of Indian weddings: Lehenga, Salwar Kameez, and a Saree. If you are unaware of what these outfits comprise of, don’t worry! Here is a brief explanation of each:
Lehenga: a long skirt accompanied by a matching blouse and dupatta/odni (long scarf). Younger women usually wear these because the blouses are typically very elaborate and decorative. The dupatta is used to cover some of the belly, while still exposing the decorative detail of the blouse.
Salwar Kameez: popular because they fit any body type and very easy to wear. The kameez (long tunic) is worn with loose or tight-fitting pants, known as churidars. A Salwaar Kameez can be worn without a dupatta, but more often than not, women wear a matching dupatta
Saree (Sari): The most elegant, but also the most difficult outfit to wear in Indian clothing. Lengths vary from seven to nine meters with different styles of draping the saree (all of the regions in India drape sarees slightly differently). The saree blouse typically is less elaborate than that of the lehenga because most of it will usually be covered. However, saree blouses are known to being very versatile in cuts, necklines, and backlines.
Indian weddings usually consist of Mehendi Night, Garba Night, Sangeet Night, and the traditional Wedding and Reception Ceremony.
Mehendi Night: a night where henna is applied to women’s hands.
Women: A Salwar Kameez in hues of reds, oranges, and yellows is appropriate for this event. A Salwar Kameez that is not too ornate and extremely embellished is appropriate for this night. This is an intimate night with either only the groom or bride’s family, so don’t worry about dressing very formal. Western Attire: dress pants and a blouse is appropriate. Avoid wearing a skirt or short dress to this event because you will likely be sitting on the floor during this event.
Men: Dress in a nice pair of pants and a button up. Indian attire is not required for this event. Please, leave the jeans at home! This event might be casual, but not casual enough for a pair of worn-in jeans.
For both men and women, skip out on the white and pastel clothing for this event. Mehendi stains, and most likely—someone will accidently get some on your clothing!
Garba Night: a night of traditional Indian dancing and music!
Women: You want to wear a Lehenga or Chuniya Choli with a bandhani print, a tie-dye Indian print. However, make sure your dupatta is safety pinned properly, covering your chest and stomach. Many women forget that as you are spinning and dancing around the room, your dupatta is also moving—save yourself the embarrassment and make sure you are properly covered before you leave the house. Western Attire: a free-flowing dress that you can dance in. Avoid low-cut, hip-hugging, and strapless dresses. And of course, the brighter the color, the better!
Men: Take this as your warning: It will get hot at this event! Dress pants and a dress shirt are appropriate for Garba night if you don’t have an Indian Kurta Pajama. Kurta Pajamas are the male version of the female Salwar Kameez. Of course, you can roll up your sleeves once you get there, but make sure you are wearing loose enough clothes to dance and move around freely.
For both men and women, note that you will be taking your shoes off at this event, so make sure you have the appropriate length clothing that doesn’t drag on the floor.
Sangeet Night: a night full of dancing to Bollywood music
Women: Several options are available for this occasion, so choose according to your wardrobe! A very fancy Salwar Kameez, Lehenga, Saree, or even cocktail dress can be worn for this event. Sangeet night is a classy, elegant, and formal occasion, often known as the pre-reception. Young women often opt to wear Western dresses because they are more comfortable dancing in dresses and have plenty to choose from in their wardrobe already. Once again, try to avoid low-cut, hip-hugging, and strapless dresses.
Men: A suit or dress pants with a blazer can be worn for this event. Most likely, once you have started dancing you will take off your jacket, however this is a formal event so bring the suit jacket/blazer along!
Women: A traditional Saree with warmer colors and gold detailing is suitable. If you are not comfortable wearing a Saree, a traditional Lehenga can be worn as well. Western Attire: a floor length gown or fancy knee-length dress can be worn instead of a Saree or Lehenga. Feel free to wear a dress with embellishments and beading to fit right into the crowd.
Men: A traditional Kurta Pajama is expected to be worn at the wedding. It can be worn with or without the dupatta depending on the style of your garment. Note: wear a plain undershirt with your Kurta Pajama (especially if you are dancing as the groom enters). If you do not have a Kurta Pajama, a traditional suit can be worn to the wedding as well.
Women: You have the same freedom at this event as you did for Sangeet night. You can wear any color, typically women wear cooler colors with silver accents. A modern style Saree or Lehenga is perfect for this occasion. Western Attire: a conservative dress that is close to knee-length is perfect, but depending on the venue, a floor-length gown can be worn. If your shoulders are going to be bare, bring a shawl along!
Men: Wear your best dress shirt with your suit here. Most likely after cocktail hour, your suit jacket will be coming off. Try a skinny tie, tiepin, unique print, or something to make your outfit a little more exciting and stylish than the traditional black suit, white shirt combination.
Some additional tips on what to wear to an Indian wedding:
It is not appropriate to wear black to any occasion besides the reception. By wearing bright and bold colors, you will fit right into the crowd at an Indian wedding.
Simple is more is not a phrase common among Indian weddings. More is more! This especially applies for your jewelry; don’t be afraid to wear several bangles, big earrings as well as a big necklace. This is your one chance to feel like a princess again, so wear your nicest jewelry.
If you like to wear heels, you can wear them at Sangeet Night, the Wedding and Reception ceremony.
If this is the first Indian wedding you are attending, don’t worry and have fun. Enjoy playing dress up and becoming a part of the colorful festivities. Attending an Indian wedding will be a memory that lasts a lifetime, and what better way to remember than snapping some pictures of you in your beautiful clothing.