Attending a Traditional Indian Wedding? Here's Exactly What to Wear as a Guest
If you've received an invitation to a traditional Indian or multicultural fusion wedding, you're probably wondering what outfits are appropriate for guests. Choosing what to wear to an Indian wedding is an important task, but it doesn't have to be stressful. Indian weddings are known for their extravagance, traditional customs and rituals and celebration of love. As a guest, you'll get to immerse yourself in the culture for a day (or three).
If you're not quite sure what to wear as a wedding guest to an Indian wedding, you've come to the right place. We've gathered the top tips from industry professionals, along with shoppable outfit inspiration for every guest. Keep scrolling to learn more about the meaning behind traditional Indian wedding guest attire, then browse our favorite products that you can purchase or rent right on the spot.
In this article:
- What to Wear to an Indian Wedding
- What to Wear to Different Ceremonies
- Where to Shop for Indian Wedding Guest Attire
- Indian Wedding Guest Attire for Women
- Indian Wedding Guest Attire for Men
What to Wear to an Indian Wedding
When picking out your Indian wedding guest attire, color is an important factor to keep in mind. "The most essential part of the dress code for an Indian wedding is to definitely wear color," says Shawna Gohel, editor-in-chief of Maharani Weddings. "Bright, festive color is always in style for an Indian wedding no matter what the season or venue. We like to stick to pastels during the daytime and jewel tones at night," she advises.
Given the celebratory nature of Indian weddings, bright hues are encouraged—though some are traditionally off-limits. "Guests should try to avoid wearing red, since the bride typically wears red," explains Nilima Patel, owner of Crimson Bleu Events. "Guests can wear any other color except for black. It's definitely not a color you should wear at an Indian wedding."
Before shopping, guests are encouraged to familiarize themselves with Indian fashion terminology. Lehengas and sarees are the most common options for women. A lehenga is a two-piece outfit that includes a top (usually cropped) with a full, high-waisted skirt. A saree is a long piece of fabric, often made of silk, that's used to wrap around the body. Men are encouraged to wear a sherwani, which is a long coat-like top. "Traditional weddings can be broken up into different categories and different regions in India," says Patel. "Say if the family is from the west side of India, then they have a different attire that the women wear, which is traditionally a saree. If they are from the state of Punjab, then they traditionally wear punjabi suits [a three-piece outfit] or a lehenga. South Indian wedding guests typically wear a saree."
However, it's important to note that traditional dress is not always a requirement. While guests should always look for specific dress code requirements on the couple's invitation or wedding website, alternative outfits—like a bright-colored pantsuit or jumpsuit—can be appropriate as well. "Guests are invited to be themselves. There is no expectation for you to wear Indian clothes to an Indian wedding," adds Gohel. "If you are not comfortable wearing traditional Indian clothes, any cocktail dress or ensemble that you would wear to a Western wedding is suitable." Given the unique opportunity, however, to experience culture in its richest form, guests should consider wearing traditional Indian wedding attire if they feel comfortable.
What to Wear to Different Ceremonies
Typically, traditional Indian weddings last for three days. The first day includes a Ganesha Pooja, a Hindu ceremony that takes place at home with close family and friends. The second day is for the sangeet (or Mehendi ceremony), where the bride and groom are joined by their loved ones for an evening dancing and celebrating. This is often when the bride has henna tattoos designed on her hands and feet. The wedding ceremony takes place in the morning on the third day, and is followed by a reception in the evening.
Of course, with the popularity of fusion weddings, couples are putting their personal spin on tradition. Indian weddings may include all of these rituals, or just certain aspects. But in general, guests should dress formally for each ceremony they're invited to. "You will notice as the parties progress throughout the week, they become progressively more and more elaborate," Gohel explains. "You will want your outfits to follow the same suit, saving your most formal ensemble for the reception."
Dressing conservatively is important, especially for religious ceremonies. "Depending on the type of religious wedding ceremony you are attending, the dress code will vary," she says. "Some ceremonies will require covered shoulders and maybe your head, others will not. Typically the more traditional the venue—where the ceremony occurs in a mosque or temple—the more conservative the dress code."
The kind of ceremony can help dictate how conservative the dress code is. "If [the couple is] having a Sikh ceremony, women and men are encouraged to attend the ceremony with their heads covered," Patel shares. "If it's a traditional Hindu ceremony, then women can typically wear sarees or a pantsuit outfit. The reception tends to be a bit more lenient because you're there to celebrate and you want to be comfortable. Being comfortable is the most important thing at these weddings because it's easier to move around."
The final step is to add an accessory (or two). "Accessorizing is always key, especially with bracelets," Patel says. "We love to wear bracelets to match every outfit that we have. With jewelry, I always advise guests to get a piece that they can wear with other outfits too so you're utilizing it a few times throughout the year."
Ultimately, Gohel reiterates that guests are encouraged to take part in cultural traditions. "The Indian community absolutely loves when non-Indian guests embrace the culture and wear Indian clothes," she says. "Older women will be over the moon to help you tie a sari or fix your blouse. No matter what you choose to wear, make sure you can enjoy the food and dance the night away. This is what Indian weddings are known for."
Where to Shop for Indian Wedding Guest Attire
Shopping for traditional wedding attire is often easiest at local boutiques. But to get inspired, it's best to start online. "Instagram is a great tool for looking for different brands," says designer Sunaina Khera. "A little bit of research is good before starting to shop. You'll get familiar with brands, their aesthetics and price ranges. Based on that, you can step out to shop."
From there, Gohel recommends that guests check out local boutiques to try on outfits before purchasing. "Most large cities have a dedicated Little India where you can find clothes, jewelry and other Indian accessories like bindis," she suggests. "Online there are many options, but two trusted names we recommend are Royal Indian Closet and Maneka's Closet."
Patel also encourages her clients to check out rental services. Sites like Riya Collective and Saris and Things allow shoppers to rent a traditional ensemble for weddings instead of purchasing a brand new outfit. And as of 2022, ASOS launched a collection of traditional South Asian wedding outfits for men and women.
Indian Wedding Guest Attire for Women
From traditional lehengas to bright jumpsuits, we've found the best Indian wedding guest attire options for women. Shop our top picks below.
Saris and Things Belle of the Ball Trendy Crop Top Style Lehenga in Grey and Gold
If you're excited to embrace traditional Indian culture, consider wearing a lehenga. This sparkly grey crop top and lehenga set is a fashionable choice for a cocktail reception or sangeet ceremony. The embellished grey top complements the voluminous silk skirt adorned with sparkly gold accents.
Maya Linear Embellished Lehenga Crop Top and Embellished Lehenga Maxi Skirt in Pink
ASOS has a stunning range of women's lehengas for wedding guests as part of their South Asian Wedding Collection. Best of all, you can mix and match pieces with the brand's other traditional styles. The embellished fabric of this pink lehenga crop top and maxi skirt set will make you feel like a vision on the dance floor.
Sani Husna Lehenga in Blue
Not only can you rent this beautiful blue lehenga for four to eight days, Rent the Runway will also supply you with a guide to help you style the outfit yourself in the stylist notes. The georgette fabric is accented with detailed embroidery for a captivating Indian wedding guest outfit for women. (For first-time RTR customers, use the code KNOTRENTAL to receive 25% off your first rental when you spend a minimum of $75.)
City Chic Trendy Plus-Size Attract Jumpsuit in Dark Violet
It's okay to forgo a lehenga or saree if you'd rather stick to something more comfortable—especially if you're attending a fusion wedding. This bright violet jumpsuit is an elegant and stylish outfit alternative for wedding guests. Accessorize with gold jewelry and sparkly heels for a standout ensemble.
Neha & Tarun Katan Silk Saree Set in Green
This green and gold saree for wedding guests is an excellent choice for traditional ceremonies. The saree is crafted from pure Katan silk and features zari boota embroidery throughout. A contrasting brocade blouse completes the outfit. It's available in sizes XS to 6XL, or you can have it custom-tailored to your specific measurements.
Indian Wedding Guest Attire for Men
Whether you're committing to wearing a traditional sherwani outfit or you'd rather stick with a suit, look for an outfit that's formal yet bright. Below, we've rounded up our favorite Indian wedding guest attire options for men.
New Look Slim Suit Jacket and Slim Suit Pants in Indigo
This bright blue suit—complete with a slim suit jacket and pants—is a great alternative to traditional Indian attire. The rich indigo hue is perfectly appropriate for a multicultural fusion wedding ceremony. It's also crafted from a lightweight fabric for weddings all year round.
Sulphur Kurta Set in Silk With Resham and Mirror Abla Embroidered Yoke Design in Yellow
For men's Indian wedding attire, go the traditional route with this yellow kurta set. The kurta is crafted from silk and is adorned with zari and mirror work on the collar and placket. It also comes with coordinating beige pants to complete your Indian wedding outfit.
Saris and Things Sari Indo-Western Sherwani in Cerulean Blue
If you don't want to buy an outfit, you're in luck! Consider renting this authentic sherwani for all of your traditional Indian wedding attire needs. The set comes with a sherwani coat, matching black bottoms, and a dupatta and shoes can be added upon request.
SKAVIJ Men's Tunic Art Silk Kurta in Turquoise
Believe it or not, you can find traditional Indian wedding attire for men on Amazon. This two-piece tunic set consists of embroidered kurta—with long sleeves, a long hemline and a mandarin collar—and coordinating pants. Choose from an array of bright colorways for your outfit, including Turquoise, Gold, Blue and more.
The Black Tux Shawl Tuxedo in Emerald
If you'd rather stick to a suit, opt for a jewel-tone ensemble like this emerald suit from The Black Tux. The suit jacket has a single-button closure, a shawl collar and sophisticated double side vents. If you don't traditionally wear color, renting is a great way to still dress appropriately for the wedding without breaking the bank.