The guide to styling correctly for a wedding in a different culture
The most important day of the bride and groom’s life, the day of marriage, and it’s a pretty special day if you are invited to witness the marriage of two people that you are close to. Though once the excitement dies down, the ‘what to wear’ panick will kick in. Choosing a guest outfit for a wedding in the UK is hard enough, but what about if you’ve been invited to a wedding of a different culture? Together with Charles Tyrwhitt, retailers of timeless menswear, we look at how the dress code of a wedding changes depending on the background of the newlyweds.
What will the bride be wearing?
The biggest talk of any wedding is always what the bride has chosen to wear, brides are known in the UK for their flattering white dresses, accompanied by a long train and veil. But how do our own bridal traditions compare to India, Japan and China?
In India, the lady’s dress depends on the region of India that they’re from. 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.
Japanese weddings are very elaborate and it is acceptable for families to spend close to £75,000 on a wedding day. 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 5 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.
In China, it is likely that the bride will be dressed 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.
A bridal crown is part of the wedding costume for some brides too – it is worn for photography or for show at a grand occasion. 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.
What will the groom be wearing?
It’s not only important for the bride to have the perfect outfit, it is also important for the groom to look his best. The men often have traditional dress codes that they are expected to follow – however, many of them are opting for a smart suit similar to how a groom in the UK would dress.
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 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.
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.
In China, the husband-to-be traditionally wears a black silk coat over an embroidered robe. 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.
What should the guests wear?
It can be difficult to choose an outfit as a guest, as there are many traditions and symbols that you may be unaware of and you don’t want to offend anyone.
At an Indian wedding, the bolder your outfit is the better. 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.
Women guests should not bare their shoulders, wear low cut tops or short skirts as this can be seen as disrespectful — 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.
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.
Guests might also 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.
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.
At a traditional Japanese wedding, men were expected to be dressed very formally with 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 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.
When dressing for a Chinese wedding, avoid wearing red as this can be seen as trying to steal the limelight from the bride. 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.