You’ve been invited to an Indian wedding – what a privilege!
A notoriously colorful rager that can last for days, traditional Indian weddings are renowned for their food, gorgeously intricate ceremonies, and dancing processions.
We’re sure you’re curious about so many aspects of these celebrations, and a big question that is usually on people’s minds is: “what the heck do I wear?!”
You’ve come to the right place. Today, we’re covering everything you need to know about what to wear to Indian wedding. Grab your notebook, and let’s get brainstorming!
What Do I Wear as a Non-Indian Guest?
As a general rule of thumb, don’t shy away from color- the brighter the better! You’re celebrating, after all! And honestly, you can’t really “overdress” for an Indian wedding. The bride and groom will be decked out in a dazzling array of items, so don’t worry about overdoing it.
For femme types, this may be the only chance you’ll get to shop around for a sari/saree! And what a fun experience that is. Sari’s are effortlessly beautiful, and for the different ceremonies, you might want a couple (or three!) They come in a huge variety of colors, too.
The sari is a draped piece of fabric that is worn on the body that covers the shoulders and falls to the ankles, and it may cover one or both of your arms.
It may be tricky keeping the sari wrapped if it’s your first time, so if you’re looking to get one, be sure to practice wearing it around the house ahead of time, so you can enjoy the wedding with as little fuss as possible.
A lehenga is another super popular option, and unlike the sari, is a two-piece outfit that usually consists of a shorter crop with a full skirt. This organza floral lehenga would be perfect for example:
The glittering gold embroidery thread makes it eye-catching yet subtle, not to mention it oozes a thousand percent feminine charm! There’s a variety of colors to suit whatever season you’re looking for, too.
Not sure if you can rock a proper lehenga? You can even go for a cute crop with a maxi skirt. Midriffs are generally okay to expose (within reason) but watch the cleavage.
You can also opt for a modern pantsuit or a full-length dress; just toe closer to modesty to be safe. Florals are a great option, as are embellishments! Accessories will be your best friend.
For masculine types, shop around for a kurta, a snappy bandhgala suit, or a dignified traditional sherwani in a vibrant color or print! Jewel tones are all the rage, and even if you want to play it safe, you’ll still be in style with any of these traditional outfits.
Leave the red pants (these are typically reserved for the groom) at home and go for something that will garner approval from the Indian aunties in attendance.
It may also be smart to bring a light scarf as a head covering in the event of a religious ceremony, regardless of who you are. At the very least, you can use it as a dancing prop!
Is It Cultural Appropriation to Wear a Sari to an Indian Wedding?
If you’re celebrating an Indian wedding, yes, it’s safe to wear a sari or lehenga to the festivities (if you feel comfortable!).
While I wouldn’t suggest rocking a sari to the grocery store or the mall if you’re not of ethnic Indian heritage, I understand that cultural appropriation is at the forefront of a lot of minds. If you’re nervous, and you happen to be close enough to the soon-to-be newlyweds, just ask!
More often than not, they will love that you’re interested in putting in the effort to learn more about the traditional dress customs.
Modern couples sometimes like to stick to a color theme, which makes things easy! This is also a great opportunity to learn if it’s going to be a more conservative or relaxed event, which will inform your fashion decisions.
Wearing a sari or kurta while attending an Indian wedding means you’ll fit right in with the party, which can sometimes go up to 500 guests! And, it’s important to note for religious ceremonies in a temple (such as Sikh weddings), you’ll need to ensure that your head, shoulders, and legs are modest and covered, so do your research.
Don’t be that person who turns up in a short dress or strappy, revealing dress! You should feel encouraged to take this opportunity to advance your cultural knowledge and dive into the wonderful world of different wedding customs.
Indian weddings are a great example of how to look chic, composed, effortlessly styled, and still modest!
What Should I Avoid Wearing to an Indian Wedding?
Just as it is in Western weddings, avoid wearing white!
In Indian tradition, white is typically reserved for funerals. However, if you’re close to the family and they’re not strict on tradition, you may be able to rock some beige or cream-toned outfits!
To be safe, avoid wearing black as well. Why would you, when there are so many other incredible colors to dress up in?
An LBD (little black dress, if you’re not familiar) is in the arsenal for many of us, and while that might work for a Western wedding, bright pinks, yellows, and greens are more appropriate at an Indian wedding!
Look at this dazzling lehenga that would be perfect for a sunny day! It’s serving me starbursts, pink lemonade, and the first blooms of spring… just divine for an Indian wedding celebrating love! Who wouldn’t want to wear this?
Red, as mentioned earlier before, tends to be reserved for the bride and groom, so opt for literally anything else!
While we’re not here to dictate what you wear, you can absolutely wear a Western-fashioned dress as long as it checks all the boxes… but you do run the risk of sticking out like a sore thumb, and potentially being looked at awkwardly.
Also- please, don’t wear jeans. It should seem like a no-brainer, but unfortunately, it has to be said. Jeans are way too casual for an Indian wedding, and their culture deserves the respect of wearing outfits that aren’t something you’d find on Casual Friday at the office.
Where to Shop for Indian Wedding Guest Attire
Now is the time to familiarize yourself with your local South Asian community if you haven’t already. Indian-Americans live, work, and play all over the US, so if you’re lucky enough to have access to the Indian community, that would be your best place to start.
Ask where you could find a local Indian tailor or boutique to discuss fabrics, fits, and accessories. For the best wedding attire, your ultimate goal is to look expensive (while sticking to a budget, after all), so you’ll want to look coordinated and tailored, which employees of Indian boutiques can help with!
If you’re nowhere near an Indian market, try a local Pakistani or Nepali market if there’s one nearby! They will usually have clothing- but whatever you do, even when you’re feeling stuck, don’t bug the newlyweds about your clothing! They have enough on their hands.
Alternatively, you can also go online. Get your inspiration from a variety of Indian-style blogs, or Indian fashion influencers! Many online retailers offer saris, but your best bet would be to get your outfit tailored, as buying clothes online is risky.
You can also check out rental services online like Riya Collective or Saris and Things if you’re not sure if you want to commit to a sari (or maybe you want to commit to too many- I’ve been there), this is another awesome option!
What to Wear to Different Indian Wedding Ceremonies
Woo, buckle up! Indian weddings are chock full of intimate ceremonies over several days, and as such, you obviously can’t wear the same thing three days in a row! However, you might be invited to just the last day of the events, or a specific part of the celebration.
A safe rule of thumb: daytime activities typically call for more casual, looser garments in lighter fabrics and colors. Think pastels, crop top lehenga, and linen wide-leg pants with a matching kurta jacket.
For nighttime, you can go for something more opulent in a darker jewel tone with more glitzy accessories. Think about a more dramatic silhouette or a sharply tailored suit with an Indo-Chine mandarin collar.
Let’s get into a brief overview of the ceremonies and what to wear to each.
Caveat: India is a huge country, full of diverse communities, religions, and customs. Be sure of the culture of the Indian wedding you’re attending, because it’s not a monolith- there may be ceremonies we cover below that you may not observe, and conversely, you may be privy to a special moment that we didn’t list.
Just remember, the more traditional the venue, the more conservative the dress code.
This semi-formal ceremony typically involves the couple, their families, and the bridal party, so if you’re invited, wear something modest, traditional, and comfortable.
Mehendi (Body Art Ceremony)
The bride will be getting her hands and feet tattooed with henna, which can take hours due to how intricate and complex the designs are. This jolly event is for wedding guests as well, because you’re welcome to partake!
If you’re going to a daytime Mehendi party, look for outfits that aren’t too restrictive or made out of super heavy fabrics – a festive lehenga with a cute pastel pattern like this one would be super cute!
Sagai (Engagement/Ring Exchange Ceremony)
The Sagai typically takes place in the evening and is followed by dinner. It represents the official “asking” for the bride’s hand in marriage, and gifts and various jewelry are also exchanged.
Typically for the evening events, you’ll want to ramp up your look with something fancier, so a piece that is more appropriate for nighttime will serve you well- and maybe it’s time for that statement necklace to join the party!
I love the upscale look of this gorgeously elegant green and gold dress- you can show a little leg while still being demure. Pair this number with some gold accessories, and you’re good to go!
Haldi (Turmeric Paste Ceremony)
Haldi, in Hindi, means turmeric. Turmeric is believed to have holy and auspicious properties, as well as beautifying effects.
A messy and delightful tradition, during this ceremony, guests will line up to apply the yellow paste to the bride’s body.
Wear something yellow for the Haldi if you want to be trendy- a casual palazzo suit or a modern jumpsuit would be appropriate!
This beautiful Haldi outfit is perfect for a fun and lighthearted ceremony, just be careful to not get turmeric on you, as the stains are nearly impossible to wash out.
Jaimala (Wedding Garland Exchange)
The Jaimala is one of the more important wedding rituals where the groom might arrive on a white horse, followed by a loud drum (dhol) line and his entourage.
The bride will arrive wearing her red lehenga, and the atmosphere will be filled with firecrackers, loud drumming, and much celebration.
You’ll see beautiful fresh flower garlands being exchanged as well as other gifts.
This is an event where you’ll want to look your very best! Men, you’ll want to wear comfortable shoes as you may be on your feet for some dancing.
Saptapadi/Pheras (Seven Vows Ritual)
How romantic are these vows? The newlyweds will promise nourishment, prosperity, strength, knowledge, longevity, progeny, and togetherness to each other.
The couple will walk seven rounds to symbolize each promise. Typically the Saptapadi starts around midnight and ends close to 4-am- so wear something comfortable that you can sit in.
Sangeet (Dance Party)
The Sangeet is when people get to turn up!
Guests may be expected to perform a short dance routine to get the party started – so bring your confidence.
A big dance party means you’ll want to wear something festive and decently comfortable so that you can flex those bhangra moves!
This regal number is perfect for partying the night away during Sangeet! Bling is also a good choice here- so sequins and glitter embroidery will be perfect!
What Accessories Are Appropriate for an Indian Wedding?
Oh boy, this is the best part. I’ve already mentioned how easy it is to glam up your outfit (for both males and females) with bright colors, glitter embroidery thread designs, or sequins… but let’s talk accessories! For Indian weddings, this is key!
You’ll see jewelry being exchanged. You’ll see the bride dripping in gold and family heirlooms. So, take a page out of the book and opt for bangles and bracelets. You can find a few pieces you love that will easily match with your lehengas or pantsuits.
Glittery earrings and necklaces, floral hair accessories, or even a beaded handbag will earn you some thumbs up. You may even be given a bindi, which is worn on your forehead between your eyebrows. Embrace the beauty!
Modern Rose Cut Dangly Gold Earrings
I love the look of clustered symmetrical shapes- with diamond shapes, squares, and teardrops all arranged so nicely, these earrings would bring out the glitz and glam with any outfit!
South Indian Kundan Earrings
Look at the detail on these! With clusters of pearls and dreamy goldwork, the older Indian community will completely embrace your look if you show your appreciation by wearing cultural clothing- bells and whistles and all!
Let’s talk shoes. You’ll need to wear something you can move in that won’t cause blisters or pinched feet.
Heels that are too high or too pointy will have you cursing them three days later, and you don’t want to spend the festivities looking like a clumsy newborn deer.
Handmade Rose Gold Beaded Indian Ballet Flats
Flats are always a good choice, ladies! You’ll want to move around freely and the beaded detail on these babies means you’ll have everybody you run into wanting to take a closer look. Plus, how cute is that drawstring potli bag?
Indian weddings are an unforgettable time, and being invited to one is a great honor.
But, if you’re dealing with a case of imposter syndrome, just know you’re not alone. It’s common to want to do right by your Indian friend, especially if they’ve invited you to something as intimate as their wedding.
Choosing what to wear is important, but it shouldn’t be insanely stressful. Indian weddings are known for their extravagance and traditions, but as an outsider or observer, do your best to mind the customs and err on the safe side while embracing the culture!
Just use common sense when planning your outfits. As long as you wear something appropriate, tasteful, and colorful, you’ll be in good company.
Just don’t forget to partake in as much of the food, music, and dancing as you can while you’re there, and treasure the sights and sounds!