So you were invited to an Indian wedding?

So you were invited to an Indian wedding?

-by admin

So… you’ve been invited to a spectacular event, up to 5 days full of dancing, eating, and fabulous dresses. But if you have never been to an Indian wedding before, you may not be aware of the nuances between each event and the appropriate attire. If you want to dress to impress and wear traditional Indian dress, we are here to help with a breakdown of each of the styles of Indian formal wear, the different events that make up a wedding, and finally what you should most likely wear in each circumstance.


Traditional Indian Ethnic Wear

There are several styles of dress that may be worn to a typical Indian wedding.

-Anarkali suit
-Other types of suits


The sari is a gown made from 5 to 9 yards of fabric that is wrapped around the body and draped over the shoulder. The midriff is left bare and a blouse is typically worn underneath. The sari can be a formal garment or an everyday one depending on the fabric, pattern, and color choice! There are numerous variations of draping them, but you can easily find a youtube video of a simple tutorial. Many options come pre-pleated making it much easier to put on. The sari may not be your first choice to wear to a wedding because of its complexity, but you will surely make a statement if you do!


The lehenga is a two piece formal outfit with a flared out skirt and a blouse often called a choli. The skirt may sit low on the waist or at the natural waistline, that is up to you! Blouses commonly are cropped so they show a bit of skin at the midriff but if that doesn’t suit you longer options are available. Be careful to not purchase one with too much embroidery as it can get heavy and keep in mind the color to as you don’t want to look out of place. But more on that in a bit.

Anarkali Suit

The anarkali looks a lot like a gown or dress, but is worn with a dupatta (similar to a long scarf) and sometimes churidars or leggings underneath. They are long and are often worn floor length. This may be a comfortable and stylish option for those unfamiliar with saris and lehenga cholis as it is simply worn as a long dress with pants and a scarf. They are becoming less popular in favor of the gown.


Gowns are basically what they sound like, a dress. They represent the bit of western influence coming into the east. Gowns are full length and often full skirt with lots of glitter and embroidery. Another simple and easy way for anyone to wear Indian fashion.



What makes a suit is just that there is a top and a bottom, and the bottoms are some style of pants. There are lots of variations of suits that are commonly worn. Generally the top is a kameez or a tunic paired with churidars, leggings, palazzos, cigarette pants, or even a skirt. This is a great option if you love to mix and match. You can get several pieces and mix them into your daily wardrobe!

Fabric, Color, and Embroidery

It is also important to consider the fabric, the color(s), and the type of embroidery. Each are significant not just in the comfort of your outfit, but in meaning. Wearing red to an Indian wedding would be like wearing white to a Western one

Fabric types

You will most likely find all styles of dress in silk, satin, brocade, georgette, or chiffon. There are also many variations


of each that affect the weight, look, and feel of the material. Silk also comes in raw silk form, which is useful for gowns with heavy embroidery work because it is a denser and heavier fabric that can hold the weight without tearing. It is important to consider the fabric in this way because a lighter fabric may be cooler and drape nicely, but if your design has a lot of beading and threadwork, it won’t last the night.

Color Choices 

As mentioned, red is an auspicious color in Indian culture so it is traditional for a bride to wear red.  It is important that you steer away from this color for the duration of the wedding. Black and white are also a no no. They either signify mourning or bad luck, so this is a great excuse to pop on some color! Each event will have its own sort of color scheme so keep that in mind too. For example, events during the day will be lighter colors with darker colors in the evening. Pastels are common in pre-wedding events with darker colors at the reception. You can also consider current trends. At the moment pastel blue and pink are very popular, and you will fit right in wearing them to any event. If in doubt about what is appropriate you can always ask the bride or another member of the wedding party, they will know best!

Embroidery Work

Embroidery is central part of any ethnic wear ensemble. Making patterns on fabric with thread and beading is an ancient art that we are fortunate to still have around today. There are many traditional styles that are common to find on bridal and formal wear. It is unlikely you will need to wear a design with much embroidery work unless you are very close to the bride or groom and their family, but it is good information to know when shopping around as you will see references to the dress’ style of ‘work’ a lot. There is zardosi, which is the use of metal wire to make designs. This work can be costly and make the gown physically heavy. Kardana work uses pipe shaped beads to make patterns. Kashmiri work is a delicate thread work that can add a lot of delicate texture to a piece. Mirror work uses actual pieces of mirror to add interest and can make a piece quite unique. There are also a number of other types you may run into; gota patti, aari, sequins, glitter, crystal, and various other thread work styles.


Mehendi is a pre-wedding ceremony of applying mehndi, or henna, to the bride’s hands and feet. It will usually take place at the bride’s home. Intricate designs are created either by the bride’s family or a professional mehndi artist to the palms, arms, and feet of the bride. It is said the darker the color the more the bride loves her husband! It is a common tradition to hide the husband’s initials somewhere in the design for him to try to find. If you are invited to this event, women wear bright colors like yellow and pink in simple and light styles. A nice anarkali, simple lehenga, or salwar kameez suit will work perfectly. Keep in mind you may also get covered in mehndi!


Another pre-wedding ceremony, sangeet is a night full of music and dancing. The bride and groom’s families come together and perform dances and skits for each other. There is a lot of laughter and fun; it is a great time to get to know each other.  As another pre-wedding ceremony, lighter and brighter colors are often worn. As this event involves dancing, it will be important your outfit is comfortable and moves. Many women wear big full skirts so when they twirl, it flares out and creates a striking image. A traditional sari may not be easy to wear, but a lehenga or anarkali suit is just the thing. Break out your best dance moves in something sparkly and fun!


This part of the wedding is considered optional. The cocktail is similar to what we know as cocktail parties. Both sides of the family come together for drinks and fun and everyone dresses glamorously. Many women will wear gowns to this event. But make sure to consider the time of the event, whether daytime or evening will determine how formal the dress is.


Wedding Ceremony

This part is the formal ceremony of the wedding. The bride and groom are legally married when this ceremony weddingcomes to a close.  It is a beautiful event that usually involves the bride and groom circling a fire and declaring their vows to each other. Be prepared to see a lot of unexpected things, like the groom riding in on a horse and the bride and groom fighting over who gets to put a garland on the other first. The bride will almost always wear red on this day. This is the most appropriate day to wear a traditional sari or lehenga. Again make sure not to wear black or white as they are considered unlucky or negative colors. If you are attending from the groom’s side you should be prepared for dancing so wear something comfortable.


The reception will take place either the day of the wedding or the day after. This part has no ritual significance and is just for the fun of dancing and eating. Both families and friends all get together to have a fun and glamorous night as a final hurrah to the new couple. This is a stylish and glitzy evening so go big with the glitter and don’t be afraid of trying something a bit unique and bold. It would be completely acceptable to wear a western style gown to this event.

Hopefully you now feel a bit more comfortable deciding what to wear on this fun occasion. Just remember to have fun and be yourself. If in doubt ask! And don’t forget you can find all your bridal and formal wear needs right here at!

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