Dressing for weddings in different cultures

It’s always exciting to receive a wedding invite; the stress only begins when you need to decide what to 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.

The bride will be wearing…

If you think of a bride in the UK, a woman in a long white dress probably springs to mind. But how do our own bridal traditions compare to India, Japan, and China?


Women from different regions in India dress differently. 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 color, her garments will be carefully embroidered with an impressive design.

It’s common for the bride and her party to have henna painted on their skin too.


It’s not uncommon for families to spend around £75,000 on a wedding in Japan! Therefore you can expect everything to be elaborate. It is often the parents of the couple who organize 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!

A traditional Japanese wedding is called a Shinto wedding and for one of these ceremonies, the bride wears a white kimono. More recently though, Japanese brides wear a dress that has a traditional print.


In China, red is the color of good luck. This is why the bride is usually dressed in this color. 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 is usually given a crown to wear too. This is worn for photography or for a show at a grand occasion. For footwear, a special pair of shoes is often worn that are embroidered with a symbol — for example, a turtle or a deer which symbolizes happiness and longevity.

The groom will be wearing…

Although men from different countries do have traditional dress codes to adhere to, many of them are deciding to wear a smart Western suit in modern weddings.


It’s the same traditions for men as it is for women in India in that it depends which region they’re from as to what they wear. Some husbands-to-be wear traditional dress, such as a dhoti which is a rectangular cloth tie around the waist. In other regions, they wear a sherwani (a long coat), a kurta (a loose falling shirt that hangs below the knee), or a Western suit.

Often, men also have henna on their bodies but it is not as exposed.


It’s tradition for the Japanese groom to be wearing a kimono for the main ceremony before changing into a tuxedo for afterward. 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.


It’s tradition for the Chinese groom to wear a black silk coat over an embroidered robe. 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 will be wearing…

Guests must be careful when they decide what to wear to a wedding in a different culture as there might be traditions and symbolism to be aware of.


It’s normal for guests to go bold at an Indian wedding. Wearing vibrant colors will mean you fit in with the Indian guests. Guests should avoid white or black as these are colors 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 color.

It is considered disrespectful for women to bare their shoulders. A jewel-tone dress with a shawl is one appropriate outfit. The Indian female guests will most likely be dressed in colorful sarees or Anarkali suits. Jewelry is important for women too, choose a statement piece for around your neck with matching earrings and bangles.

You can expect to see men wearing tailored kurtas with a pajama 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.

If the wedding is to be held in a temple, be prepared to cover your head. 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.

The main thing for an Indian wedding is to dress for comfort as it can be a long and drawn out event.


Men used to be expected to be dressed very formal for a Japanese wedding, with a black suit and white tie. Now, however, the dress code is more flexible and it is acceptable for men to come dressed in suits other than black with various colored ties. However, it is advised to avoid white clothes with black ties.

Knee-length dresses are recommended for women guests or a colored kimono to take on a traditional look. It is best to avoid showing any shoulder as this can be deemed a disrespectful.


Always avoid wearing red because this can be seen as trying to outshine the 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. Colors to avoid for men and women guests include black and white, as these symbolize mourning and black are considered to be the color of bad luck.


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