Attending a wedding is always a perfect day — relaxing with friends and family to celebrate the marriage of someone you know. Choosing a guest outfit for a wedding, no matter the wedding venue, is the hard part and 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.
The outfit of the bride
In the UK, the bride is usually wearing a long, white dress with a flowing train and veil. But how do our bridal traditions compare to India, Japan and China?
The bride’s outfit in India is often dependent on the region of the country that she is 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 and her garments will be carefully embroidered with an impressive design.
Pre-wedding, the bride and her bridal party are usually painted with henna on their palms, hands, forearms, and legs.
Japanese families go all out when organising a wedding and it’s not unusual for £75,000 to be spent on the big 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 five costume changes!
It depends on the type of the wedding as to what dress the bride will wear. At a traditional (Shinto) wedding, the bride wears a white kimono, but more recently Japanese brides wear a dress that has a traditional print.
A Chinese bride often chooses to wear red as it is considered to be the colour of good luck. 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 decorative headpiece is often part of the bride’s outfit, too. This is worn for photography or for show at a grand occasion. For footwear, a special pair of shoes is often worn that are embroidered with a symbol — for example, a turtle or a deer which symbolises happiness and longevity.
The outfit of the groom
Although many grooms choose to dress traditionally, a lot of younger grooms are opting for a smart suit with an non-iron shirt
Similar to an Indian bride, the men’s outfit depends on where they are from in India. Some husbands-to-be wear traditional dress, such as a dhoti which is a rectangular cloth tied around the waist. In other regions, they wear a sherwani (a long coat), a kurta (loose shirt that hangs below the knee), or a Western suit.
It is common for men to be painted in henna too — however, it is often hidden by their clothing.
A traditional Japanese groom will choose to wear a kimono for the ceremony and change into a tuxedo afterwards. 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.
The outfit of a Chinese groom is often a black silk coat over an embroidered robe. At a modern wedding, the groom sometimes opts to not wear the overcoat.
The groom also has to wear a statement headpiece for some photos — 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.
The outfits of the guests
Choosing an outfit as a guest can be difficult — ideally, you want to blend in with the other guests.
When choosing an outfit for an Indian wedding, the bolder the colour, 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.
To avoid being disrespectful, women should keep their shoulders covered and avoid low-cut tops and short skirts above the knee. 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.
Male guests wear traditional Indian dress. This is often 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.
Many Indian weddings take place in a temple and it is therefore important to remain respectful — this could mean covering your head. For this, women can wear a long scarf or pashmina and men are usually provided with a head cover such as a large handkerchief.
The main thing to keep in mind when choosing an outfit for an Indian wedding is comfort — they are usually long events and it is best to be comfortable.
In Japan, men were once expected to dress extra formally — this involved 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 are advised to wear a dress that covers the knee or a patterned kimono. It is best to avoid showing any shoulder as this can be deemed as disrespectful.
One thing to bear in mind is to avoid wearing red as this is often the colour that the bride chooses to wear. 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. Its also worth considering taking an umbrella so that your outfit doesn’t get ruined by any adverse weather conditions!