Planning an outfit for a wedding of a different culture

Being invited to a wedding is an exciting thing, but planning your outfit can be stressful. This is particularly true if you have been invited to a wedding for a culture you’re not wholly familiar with. Take a look through this guide to make planning your wedding guest outfit easy no matter what culture.

The bride

It’s important to know how the bride might dress, as you don’t want to accidentally wear something similar! British brides often wear white dresses with long trains and an elegant veil. But how do our own bridal traditions compare to India, Japan, and China?


Depending on the region of India the bride is from can influence the type of dress she wears. 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.


Japanese weddings are expensive days indeed, with families spending around £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.


Many Chinese brides opt for a red dress for their wedding, as it is a colour linked to good fortune and warding off evil. 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. Brides may also wear a beautiful bridal crown for photos and for show during the day. 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.

The groom

Some groom’s outfits have traditional roots too. However, many of them are opting for a smart suit similar to how a groom in the UK would dress.

Groom attire in India

Like the outfits of their brides, Indian grooms have regional differences in their garments. 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.

Groom attire in Japan

Japanese grooms will usually wear tow outfits during the wedding day; a kimono for the ceremony, and a tuxedo after that. 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.

Groom attire in China

It’s traditional for Chinese grooms to wear an embroidered robe beneath a black silk jacket. 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.

The guests

There are a few things to be aware of before buying your outfit as a guest:

Dressing for an Indian weddings

You’ll want to pick something brightly coloured. 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.

For female guests, keep your shoulders covered and avoid anything too low-cut. 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. For men. 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.

Find out whether the wedding is to be held in a temple, as this can mean you need to have your head covered. 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.

Dressing for a Japanese weddings

Pairing men’s shirt with a black suit white tie is a traditional look for Japanese grooms. 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.

Dressing for a Chinese weddings

Just like you wouldn’t wear white as a wedding guest for a British bride, don’t wear red as a wedding guest for a Chinese 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. 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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