What to Wear to an Indian Wedding
Updated: Oct 7, 2019
Invited to your first Indian or South Asian Wedding and a bit worried on what to wear or which fashion options to choose? Every weekend I meet folks just like you, so I put this comprehensive photo guide so you can quickly understand the outfits for each event and average prices.
What do you wear to an Indian wedding?
Mehndi: You should wear a colorful kurta. (long shirt)
Sangeet: A suit or a Jodhpuri (Indian blazer)
Wedding Ceremony: A different colorful kurta and a turban if you're close to the groom (they'll give you one if they want you to wear one, called a "pagdi")
Reception: A suit.
What not to wear to an Indian Wedding?
Wedding Ceremony: Don't wear all white or any black.
Reception: Don't dress fancier than the groom or bride.
Many first timers at Indian weddings simply buy one kurta and think they're good.
Then they attend the event and either feel overdressed or underdressed, or unsure why everyone is looking at them strangely because they're wearing all white. (we wear that at funerals in parts of India). There are actually a lot more straightforward guidelines to consider about color, cuts, average prices and what not to do when choosing your outfit.
"NEVER WEAR ALL WHITE TO ANY OF THE HINDU EVENTS."
What to wear to an Indian Wedding as A Guest
You want to wear colorful and happy colors for both men and women.
1. Can you wear ALL WHITE to an Indian wedding?
Answer: TRY AND AVOID! But some South Indian folks have a Lungi (like a longer Scottish kilt) in which they do wear white. I would avoid though unless stated otherwise.
2. Can you wear black to an Indian wedding? Answer: It depends!
No to the mehendi. It's meant to be a colorful affair.
Yes to the Sangeet.
No to the wedding ceremony. (you might see older guys wearing black suits but try not to. If you go Indian anywhere, please wear your Kurta here)
Yes to the reception or any suit will do.
3. Can you wear red?
Yes, but if the bride is wearing red on her wedding ceremony, try not to match it.
4. Can I just wear a suit or cocktail dress?
Yes, but these days with such cheap options on Amazon, don't be that annoying guest who came in jeans or didn't even care to spend $50 on an outfit when the hosts are probably spending $150 per event to have you there. Embrace the customs and be a part of the festivities, otherwise don't be a buzz kill.
5. When in Doubt, just do what's on the Invite or Emails or Wedding Website!
Ultimately every wedding will have their own themes and styles and customs, so if the invite says something specific feel free to check out guidelines with other guests or your host!
Detailed Info By Event, How to Select and Sample Prices
Indian wedding guest attire isn't as complicated as what the families have to wear. Thank goodness! This is a short read so my aim is to simplify, that's it.
Before we begin, you probably also have no clue what a lehenga or sherwani is. I'm also going to guess you have no idea about prices either. That being said, rather than a big long post about what each outfit means, I'm just going to tell you price ranges and what you'll probably need.
A lot of white people/non-Indians make the mistake of buying something crazy over the top, then they look even fancier than the groom! Don't do that!
You can easily send your outfit option to your buddy before buying to check if it's fine, OR if you're close to them you might be part of the groom party and he'll organize it for you.
If you're attending a Hindu wedding as a guest, and you're colleagues of the bride/groom at a big fortune 500 or something...these outfit are perfect for "Hey, I got swag and I did it right!" AKA Guest territory!
You can wear this at the mehendi, sangeet or actual wedding ceremony.
What to Wear to a Mehendi or Indian or a Hindu Wedding Ceremony a a Male guest?
A kurta (long shirt) and a bandi (vest) are your safe bets. These are generally the swag that's in for 2019-2020. (Pink is done to death so try to avoid).
What is a Kurta?
Kurta: the top Full Sleeve shirt part. Normally a solid color but occasional minimal patterns fine.
Bandi: the vest, can be pretty much any pattern/style. Above have patterns, the one I am wearing below is solid.
Churidar: the pants
Yes you'll need them.
No you'll probably never wear them again.
Yes they're supposed to look like the waist can fit 3 people.
If you buy using the amazon links above they should come with the MC hammer pants that taper around your calves.
The Pants by themselves shouldn't cost more than $25 to $35 tops.
PRO TIP: If you're reading this well after 2019, another great tip is to simply look on Instagram for #indianWedding, see some curated professional photographer's pictures, check the tags for the designer of the clothes and figure out what you like from there. Then you can easily get someone online in India to make it for you, or just take the images to your local shop and they'll show you stuff that looks the part.
For the Sangeet
You can wear royal navy blue or black even.
Suits are fine, but again for the non-relative guest, these dark kurta and bandi combinations work great, or the stylish cuts as well on the right. Nice touch with the hanky too!
For the wedding Reception wear a suit
Which you already got I assume is fine. Just don't wear a full on tuxedo, as again, that's for the groom to shine in.
How Much do Indian Wedding Clothes Cost in America?
One set of the kurta and pants will run you between $60 and $150 USD if you buy in America, maybe half that range in India depending on the quality.
You can get two of the Kurta outfits and you're covered for 2/3 of the events, the other event likely you'll just be fine with a suit or tuxedo.
Here's an example of something overpriced.
You can get that in India for like $150 retail, so I would assume in America you should target $250/$300 tops.
But wow, it does look nice though (always try to buy silk or cotton/linen).
Size Guide for Men
5'8 and 165 pounds: Get a size 38 Kurta.
5'10 and 180 pounds: Get a size 40 Kurta.
6'1 and 200 pounds: Get a size 42 Kurta
(basically the same as a blazer size).
What to Wear for Girls at an Indian Wedding
Oh man, this you could write a book on. But this image should cover most of it:
Again, if you're not super close but good friends/colleagues with the groom or bride, you will need:
one lehenga (a top with a long full length skirt) and then
one evening/western cocktail dress.
Price Ranges for the Ladies:
Between $80-$500 USD per outfit.
First time Indian wedding guests, don't spend more than $120-$200 please!
You can also ask your Indian friends to borrow something.
In fact I would suggest you borrow (if you don't plan to attend many Indian functions) if you're comfortable, unless you really want to doll up.
Otherwise that 15 feet of fabric is going to collect dust next to your Costco purchases of the last 10 years.
Just dry clean it when you give it back!
Size Guide for Women
Saris don't come in sizes so you'll just buy the fabric. Somebody will dress or drape it on your during the wedding and tuck away the extra bits.
Lehenga you will use your waist size to choose and then likely have to alter it for flare (those are lehenga's in the dance picture above.)
How to know if you're getting a good deal, good fabric or getting ripped off?
Look at :
major retailers online or in person that have big locations,
a lot of reviews
come by word of mouth reference.
Ask for fabric certificate if they have (e.g. No retailed in the US would risk a lawsuit if it says 100% silk on the tag).
But the best way, is to either ask your Indian friends to take you to one of the shops in your area...OR better yet, next time their mom/dad goes shopping ask them if you can tag along.
Just don't make it all about you - they'll tell you if you're getting quality and a good price, then do your fittings and bounce!
Can I just wear my formal American wear to an Indian Wedding?
Of course you can. Indian people especially in America don't force anybody to wear stuff they don't want to in 99% of the cases, and you'll see other Patels or Shah's or whoever in Suits/Western clothing also. Older uncles also just wear a polo shirt and jeans.
What should Baby and Kids wear to an Indian wedding?
Children's kurta and sherwani type of clothes should be about 50% the cost of a full size adult and can easily be found online. Search "baby kurta" or "children kurta"
The sizes are:
12-24 Months, etc..
Do I Have to Wear a Turban at an Indian Wedding?
Of course not. These days it has no religious significance, it's simply a style choice that is also cultural like a Scottish quilt. But you will see plenty of Asian/America/Spanish folks also wearing it to have fun with the festivities, so don't think you'll be alone!
If you think you're not going to attend too many Indian weddings anytime soon, then you're better off buying something simple on Amazon using the links above as guiding recommendations.
If you do however anticipate going more and more, or want to mix and match your Indian clothes with others, then head to the shops in person.
The good news is that many Indian pant sizes can be one size fits all.
I can guarantee you the online stuff is perfect for a once or twice wear, similar to H&M or Zara, but the crazier/heavier/embroidered stuff does in fact feel like you're a million bucks.
And you'll look amazing!
Ajay Manaktala is an expert on Quora for Indian weddings, travels the world DJ'ing and consulting for Big Fat Indian weddings and has spent 20 years in the Industry knowing the ins and outs of what makes the south Asian spectacle truly remarkable. In this post he explains for first-timers how to quickly and easily chose the best clothes.