Dressing for a wedding in a different culture
Dressing for a wedding in a different culture
It’s exciting when you receive an invite to a wedding! You’ve been selected as someone that the happy couple want to share their big day with. But what do you wear? Choosing 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.
There are many traditions behind the outfit of a groom. However, many modern grooms are deciding to wear a smart suit instead of their traditional dress.
Men from different areas of India generally dress differently for their wedding 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.
Similar to the brides, men also get painted with henna. However, the patterns aren’t as elaborate and they’re often not on show.
A traditional Japanese groom wears a kimono for the actual ceremony and a tuxedo for the after celebrations. 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.
A traditional Chinese groom wears a black coat made from silk over an embroidered robe. Younger grooms however are wearing the robe without the overcoat however.
For certain ceremonies, the groom must wear a statement headpiece. This is usually an elaborate hat which is black with red tassels. Some younger generations are not following the traditional dress code and simply wear a tuxedo or a Western-style business suit.
Brides in the UK often spend months choosing the perfect dress — usually white. How do our own bridal traditions compare to India, Japan and China?
Similar to the grooms, it depends what region in India the bride is from as to what outfit she wears. In some region a saree is the garment of choice and in others it is a lehenga. A saree is a piece of clothing that looks like a long drape and a lehenga 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.
Ahead of the wedding, the bride and the ladies in her bridal party are painted with henna. Their hands, forearms and legs are all painted with patterns.
A Japanese wedding is an extravagant affair and will generally cost close to £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 5 costume changes! For the ceremony, at a Shinto (traditional) wedding, the bride wears a white kimono. However, sometimes the bride chooses to wear an impressive dress that is printed with a Japanese design.
The bride dresses in the colour that is traditionally associated with good luck — red. 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.
The bride wears a pair of shoes that are symbolic too. For example, they could be embroidered with a turtle or a deer which symbolises happiness and longevity.
The family and friends
As a guest at a wedding of a different culture it is important to be aware of the local traditions so that you don’t accidentally offend anyone.
At an Indian wedding, you can play it safe with bold and bright 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.
Similar to at most weddings, women should take care to dress respectively. 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 a similar outfit to the groom. They 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.
Parts of the wedding usually take place in a temple — guests are often asked to cover their heads because of this. 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.
At traditional Japanese weddings, guests are expected to dress very formal with 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.
For women guests, a knee length dress and kimono is a good choice for a traditional outfit. It is best to avoid showing any shoulder as this can be deemed a disrespectful.
When dressing for a Chinese wedding, women should avoid wearing red. This is because it can be seen as stealing the limelight from the bride who will also be dressed in this colour. It’s best to wear pink, peach or purple instead, as these are all symbols of new life and happiness. A formal dress is suitable for a Chinese wedding.
Other colours to avoid for both male and female guests is black and white. These are symbols of mourning and bad luck.