Dress appropriately for a different culture’s wedding

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Receiving an invitation to a wedding is always an honour and an exciting one at that! But planning an outfit for the wedding can be quite stressful, and even more so if the wedding is from a culture you’re not familiar with. What colour should you wear? What styles may be deemed inappropriate? Take a look at our guide below to ensure your guest outfit is perfect for the occasion.

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What the bride may wear

For British brides, weddings usually call for white dresses, long trains, and a delicate veil. But how do our own bridal traditions compare to India, Japan, and China?

In India

Indian bride’s dresses can different depending on the region. 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.

In Japan

Japanese weddings are often luxurious events, with families known to spend in excess of £75,000. 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! 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

Red is the go-to colour for Chinese brides, owing to its ties in that culture to good luck and protection. 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.

For photos and for show, a bridal crown if often worn too. 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.

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What the groom may wear

There are many traditional outfits for grooms. However, many of them are opting for a smart suit similar to how a groom in the UK would dress.

In India

Indian grooms also have regional-specific traditions when it comes to their outfits for the big day. 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.

In Japan

Most Japanese grooms will wear a traditional wedding kimono during the ceremony before swapping to a tuxedo for the rest of the day. 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

Chinese grooms usually wear an embroidered robe under a black silk coat. 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.

Outfits for guests

Let’s examine what the guests of these wedding would be expected to wear.

Indian weddings

It’s all about bold colours. 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, be sure to cover up your shoulders and avoid short-cut skirts and low-cut tops. 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, so choose a statement piece for around your neck with matching earrings and bangles.

Now, let’s take a look at the menswear options. 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.

For weddings held in a temple, you may need to have your head covered too. 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.

Japanese weddings

Traditionally, male guests would wear a black suit, a men’s formal shirt, and white tie for a wedding. 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.

Chinese weddings

In the UK, wearing white to a wedding is frowned upon as trying to outshine the bride; the same goes for wearing red at a Chinese wedding. 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.

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