Header image courtesy of Dollar Gill (via Unsplash)
Indian weddings are undoubtedly grand and lavish events that celebrate the union of two individuals and their families. There is nothing like an Indian wedding when it comes to fashion and festivities. From the sheer number of rituals and traditions to the extravagant fashion choices, North Indian weddings have it all.
With respect to the diverse heritage and culture, it is always important, especially for outsiders, to recognise wedding traditions and dress appropriately for each celebration. When attending a North Indian wedding, foreigners are often encouraged to wear traditional clothes and participate in the festivities. Often lasting three to four days, North Indian weddings have different dress codes for each celebration. Here is a fashion guide on what is typically worn to North Indian weddings and how you should dress up for the festivities.
Each day at a North Indian wedding is filled with lavish celebrations. For almost every event, guests are encouraged to dress in a certain colour or style. Women traditionally wear a lehenga (लेहंगा), sari (साड़ी), or salwar kameez (सलवार कमीज).
A lehenga is a three-piece set that includes a dupatta (दुपट्टा; scarf), blouse (ब्लाउज; crop top), and the lehenga (लेहंगा; a voluminous skirt) itself. Lehengas are a popular option because they are stylish, chic, and much easier to wear than a sari.
A sari is a two-piece set with a blouse and a long, beautifully embellished, piece of cloth draped around the body and over the shoulder. Although extremely classy, sarees are hard to wear and often require additional help in styling.
Women can also dress more casually for minor events and choose to wear a salwar kameez—a two- or three-piece set with a long kurta (कुर्ता; top), pants, and a dupatta (optional). For events with a Western dress code, women often choose to wear ball gowns and other formal wear. On the other hand, the wedding fashion etiquette for men is far less complicated. Men usually either wear a western suit, sherwani (शेरवानी), Jodhpuri suit (जोधपुरी सूट), or kurta (कुर्ता) to wedding events.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s delve deeper into what you should wear to different North Indian wedding functions. To compliment the shade of haldi (हल्दी; turmeric), the colour scheme for the haldi celebration revolves around yellows and oranges. Guests are encouraged to dress in vibrant colours to accompany the couple and their family. The dress style for the Haldi ceremony is less formal in comparison to some other events as it is usually a messy—but enlightening—event.
For the mehendi celebration, women dress in bright flowery or pastel colours. Some choose to wear lehengas while others may wear a salwar kameez, but regardless, the outfit should be flowy and easy to move around in. Short sleeves are preferred so that the mehendi can be applied comfortably without staining your beautiful clothes. Men tend to wear dazzling kurtas or Nehru jackets to this event.
The Bollywood-style sangeet party is the most fashionable event of the celebration. Depending on the theme of the night (Western or traditional), men and women dress up in their finest clothes and come together to celebrate the soon-to-be couple. For Indo-Western options, women wear extravagant ball gowns and dresses with matching heels and jewellery. In a Western setting, men stick to the classics and often wear tuxedos or formal suits with complimenting dress shoes.
For more traditional themes, women often wear heavily decorated lehengas or sarees to the party while men dress in kurtas or sherwanis. As the Sangeet party is an evening event, attendees usually wear darker colours like royal blue to match the aesthetic. A similar dress code is followed for the reception (wedding after-party) which takes place on the day of the actual wedding.
The lively baraat and phere is an event filled with dance, excitement, and tons of laughter. To match the energy of the event, guests are encouraged to dress in radiant colours like amber orange, parrot green, and baby blue.
The grandeur of the Indian wedding spirit is truly embodied by the bride and groom’s majestic royal looking outfits, especially the ones they wear on the day of the wedding. While the groom handsomely dresses in a silk sherwani with matching jootis (shoes), the bride’s crimson lehenga or sari is gorgeously embellished with hand-made designs of gota patti, hand embroidery, dori, pearls, zari, zardosi, and sequins.
North Indian wedding fashion is more than just clothes; accessories are a true game-changer. A wedding outfit is practically incomplete without proper jewellery and accessories. Pairing a precious kundan or gold jewellery with your lehengas and sarees is the perfect way to glam your wardrobe up. You should definitely dress each outfit up with a combination of different accessories; large earrings, necklaces, and bangle sets are commonly worn by guests and family. You’ll also see the bride wearing a traditional nath (नाथ; nose ring) and maang tikka (माँग टिक्का; headpiece) on the day of the wedding.
North Indian weddings are known for their wide palette of vibrant colours. As a guest, you should probably avoid wearing black or plain white clothing during wedding celebrations; these shades are not typical wedding colours and are often considered inauspicious. If you’re really keen on dressing in a neutral monochromatic aesthetic, try opting for classy beige or golden alternatives. During the official wedding ceremony, try not to wear shades of crimson or red as the bride and her close family typically dress in those colours.
Many people choose to customise their traditional outfits by getting them tailor-made, but you can also buy ready-made ones at boutiques and stores; they are not very hard to find, especially in India. If you’re not so keen on buying multiple outfits for the wedding, you can also rent them. Renting wedding clothing and jewellery is a new market and has become increasingly common in recent years.
North Indian wedding fashion is a representation of status, wealth, and power. More than an excuse to dress up, North Indian wedding fashion symbolises rich culture, tradition, and heritage. Additionally, guests and family dress up to show honour and respect to the newlywed couple and their respective families.
A lot of time and energy goes into planning fashion choices for these weddings; each outfit is intricately designed by local artisans and without them, the North Indian wedding would lose its reputation of being lavish and royal. North Indian weddings are an extravagant event one must attend at least once in a lifetime—if you’re fortunate enough, you might even be able to dress up for the glamorous celebration more than once!