Can You Wear a Short Dress to an Indian Wedding?

Indian women wearing different dresses for indian wedding

Different cultures have different expectations and preferences for their guests when it comes to a wedding. So, if you are attending your first Indian wedding, you may not know what’s acceptable and what isn’t.

So, is it acceptable for a woman to wear a short dress to an Indian wedding? It is not acceptable for a woman to wear a short dress to an Indian wedding. In general, people of Indian heritage tend to dress very modestly, so they would expect their guests to do the same. Otherwise chances of offending many people at the wedding including the bride and grooms families is highly likely.

One of the ways to ensure that you are dressing appropriately is to dress in classic Indian clothing. For traditional ceremonies, you can opt for a brightly colored saree.

A saree is a fabric drape that is elaborately tied which normally covers you from your shoulders to your ankles. Surplus fabric normally is left free. This can be used for covering your head while the religious ceremony is going on.  Sarees usually come in a lot of prints and colors.

If you’re fortunate enough to live in an area that has a large Indian population, you can go to an Indian, Nepalese or Pakistani market or bazaar.

If you aren’t comfortable with wearing a saree, since a lot of the styles will expose sections of the stomach, you can choose a dress that is colorful and long enough to cover your knees. You also should make sure that you cover your shoulders with a shawl that matches, since India’s very conservative.

So, in short, it’s not appropriate to wear a short dress to an Indian wedding. Even if you don’t go for traditional Indian clothing. It’s important that the dress you choose is long enough so that it goes beyond your knees and that your shoulders are covered.

Wearing a short dress to the wedding not only will be disrespectful to the couple but will make you stand out. If you aren’t sure what is expected at the wedding you’re attending, look at the wedding invitation. It might give you an idea of what they want you to wear.

What Should a Female Guest Wear to an Indian Wedding?

When you are looking for something to wear for an Indian wedding, it’s important to note that, although in many cultures white is considered the symbol for purity, it’s considered the symbol for death. So, you should avoid wearing white at all costs.

  • Outfit – A woman should wear a brightly colored outfit that at least comes past her knees and covers her shoulders. If her shoulders are bare due to it being a spaghetti strap or strapless dress, she should wear a shawl or a jacket with her dress. If at all possible, avoid strapless or spaghetti strap dresses.
  • Jewelry – One of the best things about Indian weddings is that you can wear a lot of jewelry to them. Women should look for ankle bracelets, gold necklaces (faux is fine), bangles and more. A lot of women in Indian culture wear rings in their nose. If her nose isn’t pierced, she can always get a jewel that sticks on to put on her nostril. The biggest thing to remember is that a woman should never wear more jewelry than the bride does. But this is usually almost impossible to do.
  • Makeup – One thing about Indian weddings is that they are very lavish. They’re filled with colorful, fresh flowers and there are many decorations. So, when she’s attending one, she should feel free to get dramatic and colorful with her makeup. It’s a good idea to choose a bold look for her eyes and add some colorful lipstick. Based on the local custom, women might be asked to wear Bindis. These are the colored dots that are in the middle of the forehead of Indian women. If a woman is offered this, she should embrace the custom and treat it with utmost respect. It’s a huge part of the Indian culture.

What Should a Westerner Wear to an Indian Wedding?

When attending an Indian wedding for the first time, someone from a western country may wonder what is and isn’t allowed. Here are some things that westerners should consider when they are choosing the attire as a guest for an Indian wedding.

  • Go Colorful – Bright colors are always important in an Indian wedding. Festive, bright colors are always stylish for Indian weddings, no matter the venue or the season. Many times, they choose the pastel colors during the day and go with jewel tones in the evening.
  • Become Familiar with Terminology – The two most common options that women have are sarees and lehengas. Sarees are long fabric pieces that are wrapped around her body. Lehengas are two-piece outfits including a top and a high-waisted, full skirt. For men, there are sherwanis, which are tops that are similar to coats.
  • Honor the Dress Codes – Even though it’s not always required that guests wear traditional dress, it’s important for them to read and honor the dress codes. These can often be found on the couple’s wedding website or invitation. As long as they are appropriate, alternative outfits are acceptable.  However, it’s essential that short and sleeveless dresses are avoided, since a lot of leg and shoulders aren’t shown in Indian culture.
  • Wear a lot of Accessories – Something for which Indian weddings are known is a lot of accessories. So, now is the time to get glamorous and wear the bling. Bracelets, big earrings, anklets, necklaces and more are encouraged. And, if a guest has a nose ring, now is the time to wear it because it’s very common in Indian culture for women to wear studs in their nose. if the guest wants to fit in and doesn’t have their nose pierced, there are stylish jewel stickers just for this reason.

What Should You Not Wear to an Indian Wedding?

Now that we have gone over what you should wear to an Indian wedding, let’s look at some of the things that are considered faux pas to wear to these weddings.

  • Certain Colors – Although some areas of India wear white, in other areas it’s considered a color for morning. So, unless a guest familiar with the customs of the bride and groom, it’s best not to wear white. Another color that guests should avoid wearing is black. Since most people are going to be dressed in bright colors, a guest wearing black will make them stand out. The third color that guests should avoid wearing to an Indian wedding is red. The reason for this is because it’s a color that the bride will often wear.
  • Short Dresses – Another thing that should be avoided when attending an Indian wedding is clothing that shows a lot of skin. If a guest is planning to wear their own clothing rather than buying traditional Indian clothing, that’s fine. However, it’s important that they know it’s not acceptable to wear clothing that shows a lot of skin. A dress should come down to below their knees, and if they wear a dress that leaves their arms bear, they should wear a shawl or jacket so that their shoulders are covered. The Indian culture is very modest, so it’s important that guests respect that in how they dress.
  • Something Really Casual – This should go without saying for just about any wedding, unless the bride and groom say it’s casual. But wearing casual clothing for an Indian wedding is a big mistake. No jeans, t-shirts, khakis, or simple suits. A guest wants to wear something that is dressy and that has embellishments. It’s also important to add a lot of accessories, such as jewelry and makeup.

Wrap up

Dressing modestly and in custom to the Indian wedding you’re attending is a pre-requisite for anyone attending. Be it a Hindu, Sikh, Muslim or even a Buddhist wedding, the same rules apply, that is to show respect by dressing modestly preferably in accustom to the traditional wedding attire worn by guests.

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