Attending a Traditional Indian Wedding? Here's Exactly What to Wear as a Guest

Plus, shop our favorite options on the spot.
sarah hanlon associate editor the knot
by
Sarah Hanlon
sarah hanlon associate editor the knot
Sarah Hanlon
Associate Editor
  • Sarah is an Associate Digital Editor for The Knot, with special focuses in fashion, pop culture and wedding trends.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Sarah was a contributing writer for Bravo at NBC Universal.
  • Sarah has a degree in journalism and resides in New York City.
Updated May 20, 2020
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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, tradition 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 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, and browse our favorite products that you can purchase (or rent) right now.

In this article:

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 can be appropriate as well. "We see a lot of women, especially at fusion weddings, wearing a pantsuit or something that is very comfortable or flowy and may not be traditional dress," says Emily Truax, director of marketing at Château Élan, a resort in Georgia that frequently hosts traditional and fusion Indian weddings.

"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. "We always encourage guests to embrace the culture," says Truax. "Immerse yourself in it for the day. That's one of our favorite things about working on site with these weddings—getting to embrace that culture and honor the tradition."

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 to 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 2020, Rent the Runway launched a collection of traditional Indian wedding attire outfits for women.

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.

Classic blue wedding suit

This blue suit is a great alternative to traditional Indian attire. The blue hue is perfectly appropriate for a wedding ceremony.

ASOS DESIGN wedding slim suit in Blue Stretch Cotton, $110 for the jacket, $48 for the pants, ASOS.com

Yellow kurta top and beige pants

Go the traditional route with this yellow kurta top and beige pants. This set is available for a four-day rental, making it ideal for those who only need it for one use.

Riya Collective Krishna Mehta kurta in yellow and beige, $100 for a 4-day rental, RiyaCollective.com

Embellished blue kurta tunic

Believe it or not, you can find traditional Indian wedding attire for men on Amazon. This tunic is a great option—just pair it with a pair of slacks you already own.

Shatranj Men's Indian classic collar long kurta tunic in Navy Blue, $36, Amazon.com

Green sherwani men's set

If you don't want to buy an outfit, you're in luck. Consider renting this authentic sherwani for all of your wedding attire needs.

Saris & Things Indo-Western sherwani for men in Cerulean Blue, $209 to rent, SarisandThings.com

Emerald green tuxedo

If you'd rather stick to a suit, opt for a jewel-tone ensemble like this one from The Black Tux. If you don't traditionally wear color, renting is a great way to still dress appropriately for the wedding.

The Black Tux shawl tuxedo in Emerald, $145 to rent, TheBlackTux.com

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.

Blue two-piece lehenga

Not only can you rent this lehenga for four to eight days, Rent the Runway will also supply you with a guide to help you style the outfit yourself.

Sani Husna lehenga, $80 for a 4-day rental, RenttheRunway.com

Green embroidered wedding guest dress

Perfect for a fusion wedding, this ASOS design combines modern fashion with traditional inspiration. The jewel green shade is an excellent choice for an Indian wedding.

Frock & Frill embroidered long sleeve maxi dress in Emerald Green, $235, ASOS.com

Pink and gold two piece lehenga

If you're excited to embrace traditional Indian culture, consider wearing a lehenga. Rent this pink and gold set to embrace authenticity on the wedding day.

Saris & Things Divine crop top lehenga in Pink and Gold, $139 to rent, SarisandThings.com

Blue embellished lehenga

You'll love wearing this lehenga to an Indian wedding. The embellished fabric will make you feel like a vision on the dance floor as you celebrate the marriage of your loved ones.

Riya Collective embellished lehenga in Blue, $125 for a 4-day rental, RiyaCollective.com

Yellow Bollywood-inspired saree

Pair this hand-embroidered saree with its corresponding blouse if you'd like, or wrap it over a cocktail dress you already own to incorporate cultural flair into your wedding outfit.

Alisha Fashion Studio Bollywood style designer saree, $56, Etsy.com

Purple belted jumpsuit

It's okay to forgo a lehenga or saree if you'd rather stick to something more comfortable. This bright jumpsuit is a great outfit alternative.

City Chic Romance jumpsuit in Amethyst, $119, CoEdition.com

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