What to wear for a wedding in a different culture

Eye-catching colours, bold bling and dresses that looked straight out of a Bollywood movie. It’s been just over a year since I went to my friend’s wedding in Delhi, but I still remember how much time I spent searching for the right outfits to wear. Choosing a dress to wear to a wedding is stressful enough as it is, but choosing what to wear for a wedding in a different culture is even more challenging. As Indian weddings are spread over several days, I needed an outfit for each day of the wedding – that’s three outfits!

I especially loved my outfit for the Mehendi ceremony, where I was able to have henna drawn onto my hands and palms for the first time ever.

Me and my friend at our friend's Indian wedding in Delhi (what to wear for a wedding in a different culture)

A few years ago, I went to a wedding in Jamaica. Like many Jamaican weddings, it took place on the beach and as the temperature was so hot and humid, it was acceptable to dress more casually. As was the case at the wedding I went to, the bride might choose to wear a light, floaty dress, while the groom will often wear a beige or cotton suit, or perhaps a waistcoat. The male guests also wear suits, while women wear cocktail dresses.

I wore a royal blue cocktail dress from Lipsy, paired with some flat silver sandals.

Guests at a Jamaican wedding (what to wear for a wedding in a different culture)

Together with Charles Tyrwhitt, retailers of timeless menswear, I’m looking at what to wear for a wedding in a different culture.

What will the bride be wearing?

While traditional UK brides where elegant white dresses, often accompanied by a long train and veil, our wedding dress customs are very different to those in other cultures, such as in India, Japan and China.

India

In India, the bride’s dress depends on the part of the country they come from, and whether they belong to the Sikh or Hindu religion. In some regions, the bride wears a saree, which is a garment that looks like a long drape, while in other parts of India, the bride wears a long skirt known as a lehenga. In most cases, she will be wearing red and her garments will feature carefully embroidered intricate designs.

Japan

Japanese weddings are very elaborate. It isn’t unusual for families to spend close to £75,000 on a single wedding day. It is often the parents of the couple who organise the wedding, and they are willing to spend as much as it takes to ensure their son or daughter has the perfect wedding day. It’s quite normal for the bride to have as many as five outfit changes changes!

At a traditional Shinto wedding, the bride wears a white kimono, but more recently, Japanese brides have taken to wearing dresses with a traditional print.

China

In China, the bride dresses in red as it is considered a sign of good luck that can warn off evil spirits. 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.

Some brides also wear a bridal crown, often for photography opportunities, or for show at a grand occasion. When it comes to footwear, a Chinese bride will wear a pair of shoes embroidered with a symbol such as a turtle or a deer, to bring happiness and longevity.

What will the groom be wearing?

Although men of different cultures often have traditional dress codes that they are expected to follow, many are now choosing to wear a formal suit similar to how a Western groom may dress.

India

Similar to the women, it depends on what region of India the groom is from as to what they wear. Some husbands-to-be wear traditional dress, such as a dhoti – a rectangular cloth tied 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 may also have henna on their bodies, but it will be less detailed and often hidden.

Japan

Traditionally, a Japanese groom wears a wedding kimono for the ceremony and then changes into a tuxedo. 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.

China

In China, the groom traditionally wears a black silk coat over an embroidered robe, although nowadays, the overcoat isn’t always worn.

He has to wear certain head wear too, which usually takes the form of a black hat with a red tassel. Some younger generations don’t follow the traditional dress code, and simply wear a tuxedo or a Western-style business suit instead.

What should the guests wear?

It can be difficult to choose what to wear for a wedding in a different culture, as there are many traditions and symbols that you may be unaware of, and you don’t want to offend anyone.

India

At an Indian wedding, the bolder your outfit, the better. Wearing vibrant colours will mean you fit in with the Indian guests, although at the wedding I went to, all of the guests wore a form of Indian dress. Furthermore, it is said that guests should avoid white or black as these colours are usually worn for funerals and mourning in India.

However, I went against both of these rules when I went to my friend’s wedding in India last year. I wore quite an elaborate black Indian dress to my friend’s wedding, which her friend actually helped me to pick out from a local mall, and it was absolutely fine.

My dress for my friend's Indian wedding (What to wear for a wedding in a different culture)

Female guests are often advised to avoid baring their shoulders, and wearing low-cut tops or short skirts, as this can be seen as disrespectful. If you want to wear an Indian outfit, you could opt for a colourful saree or anarkali suit. Jewellery is important for Indian women too; choose a statement piece for around your neck ,with matching earrings and bangles.

Men often wear a tailored kurta with a pyjama and a dupatta (shawl) which can be added over the kurta. For the feet, sandals, jootis or chappals are popular because they are comfortable and prevent overheating.

When choosing what to wear for a wedding in a different culture, bear in mind that guests might be expected to cover their heads if the wedding is held 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.

Japan

At a traditional Japanese wedding, men dressed very formally with a black suit and white tie. Now however, the dress code is more flexible and men can dressed in suits of colours other than black, with various coloured ties. However, it is advised to avoid white clothes with black ties.

Women often wear knee-length dresses or coloured kimonos to achieve a traditional look. It is best to avoid showing any shoulder, as this can be deemed as disrespectful.

China

The colour of your outfit is an important consideration when deciding what to wear for a wedding in a different culture. When dressing for a Chinese wedding, the last thing you want to do is wear red, as this can be seen as trying to steal the limelight from the bride. It’s best to wear a feminine colour like pink, peach or purple as these are all symbols of new life and happiness. A formal dress is suitable for a Chinese wedding.

You should refrain from wearing black or white, as these symbolise mourning and black is also considered to be
the colour of bad luck.

Do you have any tips on what to wear for a wedding in a different culture?

What to wear for a wedding in a different culture
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20 Comments

  1. December 19, 2017 / 12:30 pm

    I went to shrilanken wedding a couple of years ago and the colors were epic. Brings such an atmosphere doesn’t it. Loved learning through your list

    • December 19, 2017 / 12:37 pm

      I bet that was beautiful! I love Indian weddings.

  2. December 19, 2017 / 1:37 pm

    I find all of this fascinating with which colours you should and shouldn’t wear. Friends of mine got married a few years ago and the request was a Tux for Men and a black dress for women and the photos are just stunning x

    • December 20, 2017 / 12:46 pm

      Ooh, I never thought of imposing a dress code for a wedding but I guess it would make for the perfect pictures!

  3. December 19, 2017 / 6:56 pm

    Oh gorgeous and some great advice! I’ve only ever been to a traditional English wedding, I’d love to go to an indian wedding, they sound amazing!

    • December 20, 2017 / 12:46 pm

      They are so much fun, but I think it can be pretty full-on for the bride and groom, as there are a lot of rituals to perform.

  4. December 20, 2017 / 12:05 am

    I think the trend for white wedding dresses really took a hold when Queen Victoria chose white for her dress. Some greta tips and ideas here

    • December 20, 2017 / 12:44 pm

      I don’t think I could go for a white dress, I’ve got a terrible habit of spilling things down me, haha!

  5. December 20, 2017 / 9:38 am

    What a fascinating post. I wouldn’t have a clue but I think you got it exactly right.

    • December 20, 2017 / 12:04 pm

      Thank you! My friend bought my outfit for me. She got it before I arrived and we had it tailored. It fit perfectly!

  6. December 20, 2017 / 7:41 pm

    I’ve not been to a wedding from a different culture before, but I love your outfits from previous ones x

    • December 21, 2017 / 12:44 pm

      It’s so much fun, if you ever get the chance, I’m sure you’ll love it.

  7. December 21, 2017 / 10:31 am

    Oh how lovely to have been to so many weddings overseas. I love all the different customs, my favourite is the Indian weddings with all the henna, so beautiful.

    • December 21, 2017 / 12:12 pm

      I loved the Mehendi ceremony. I’ve never had henna done before so it was a fantastic experience.

  8. Hannah
    December 23, 2017 / 2:15 pm

    I never knew the Japanese spent so much money on a wedding! Oh my goodness.

    • December 23, 2017 / 5:49 pm

      Yes, they really go overboard!

  9. December 23, 2017 / 10:17 pm

    I’ve never been to a wedding from a different culture before, but they always look so pretty! Love your dress x

    • December 24, 2017 / 1:49 am

      Thank you! You should’ve seen the dresses my Indian friends had on – now they were beautiful!

  10. Charlie
    September 12, 2018 / 3:03 pm

    A fascinating read, thank you. You certainly looked fabulous in your outfits.

    • September 12, 2018 / 3:22 pm

      Aww thanks Charlie, that’s very kind of you to say so.

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