We all love to receive a wedding invite — the fact that the special couple wants you to be there to share their day with them is a nice note. But being a wedding guest doesn’t come without preparation. Choosing a gift is hard enough, but what about an outfit? Selecting 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 does the bride wear?
In Western countries, we usually see the bride wearing a white dress, often accompanied by a long train and veil. But how do our own bridal traditions compare to India, Japan and China?
What the lady wears in India depends on where she’s 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.
One of the bridal traditions in India is also for her and her bridal party to have hennas drawn on their palms, hands, forearms, and legs.
Did you know that Japanese weddings are very extravagant? Many families spend close to £75,000 on the 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 five costume changes!
It’s common for the bride to wear a white kimono at a traditional (Shinto) wedding, however, more recently Japanese brides wear a dress that has a traditional print.
It’s red that is the colour of good luck in China. It’s believed to warn-off evil spirits, which is why the bride is often dressed in a red garment. 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.
Although brides often wear a tiara in the UK, in China, it is normal for the bride to wear a crown as part of their bridal attire. It 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.
What does the groom wear?
As you may have seen, in the UK, the groom and his groomsmen will often wear a traditional suit on their wedding day. However, in other cultures, the men often have traditional dress codes that they are expected to follow. More recently though, many of them are opting for smart black suits similar to how a groom in the UK would dress.
Where the Indian groom is from determines what he will wear. 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 falling shirt that hangs below the knee), or a Western suit.
It’s popular for the men also to have henna on their bodies but it is less elaborate and often hidden.
The traditional dress for a Japanese groom is a wedding kimono. An outfit change is common — the groom often changes into a tuxedo after the ceremony. 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.
You can expect to see a Chinese groom wearing a black silk coat, layered on top of an embroidered robe in traditional ceremonies. However, often in the modern day, the overcoat is not worn.
Similar to the bride, the groom has to wear headwear, just like the bride. However the male’s head piece 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’s the dress code for guests?
If you do attend a wedding of a different culture, you should be respectful of their traditions and symbolic clothing.
In India, weddings are big occasions, so don’t be afraid to go bold. 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.
You should bear in mind that too much flesh on show is a bad idea. 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.
For male guests, you can be expected to 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.
Throughout the temple ceremony, guests may be asked to cover their heads as a sign of respect. 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 drawn out event (it could be three days long!) so make sure you are wearing something loose and comfortable.
For a traditional Japanese wedding, you can wear a black suit and white tie. But at more modern-day weddings, the dress code is more flexible and it is acceptable 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.
Consider knee-length dresses and kimonos as these are respectful. It is best to avoid showing any shoulder, as this can be deemed as disrespectful.
Although red is considered a symbol of good luck, guests should avoid wearing red as it could be seen as trying to take the limelight away 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.
Stay clear of black and white, as these symbolise mourning and black is considered to be the colour of bad luck.