If you’ve received an invitation to attend an Indian wedding, then you might be wondering what to wear, what to bring, and—honestly—what to expect. No two Indian weddings are alike, but they are always filled with lots of tradition and culture. You’re truly in for a unique experience. With all the amazing food, beautiful colors, and incredible music, we know you are going to have an amazing time.
We want you to focus on having a great time, which is why we’ve put together this guide for you. We’ve got all the information you’ll need as a guest. Keep scrolling to see the eleven things to expect when attending an Indian wedding.
1. It’s A Long Celebration
Indian weddings can last up anywhere from three days to a full week, depending on the ceremony. There are pre-wedding rituals leading up to the 2 to 3-hour long marriage ceremony. If you’ve been invited to an Indian wedding, make sure you bring enough outfits for all the days—and definitely bring comfortable shoes. You’ll also want to make sure you read which events you’ve been invited to. Some guests are invited to all events over the course of the wedding while others may only be invited to the last day.
2. You’ll Want To Dress Conservatively and Appropriately
For Indian weddings, it is best to dress both conservatively and appropriately. Before you buy an outfit, check with the couple and ask for their expectations. If they say to wear something traditional, then you’ll want to wear traditional Indian wedding attire. If that’s the case, you can rent these outfits from companies like Riya Collective and Saris and Things.
Some couples are comfortable with traditionally western wedding attire, then aim for color. Indian weddings are filled with color so you’ll want to stay away from bland black and white looks. Plus, white is seen as a mourning color and black is bad luck, so definitely steer clear of these colors. We recommend a colorful suit or a colorful dress.
Regardless of what you choose, you’ll want to dress on the conservative side. Avoid showing off too much of your legs, shoulders, or cleavage. Instead, go big and show your personal style through jewelry, colors, and patterns. Keep in mind that you’ll want your most formal outfit to be for the wedding day/reception.
3. The First Two Days of Events
The first day includes a ceremony known as the Ganesha Pooja—an intimate Hindu ceremony that takes place with close family and friends only. The second day is for the sangeet, or Mehendi ceremony, and will often have guest participation. The sangeet is a night of dancing where all the guests will join the bride and groom to celebrate their marriage and the union of two families. This is also traditionally when the bride is adorned with henna tattoos on her hands and feet.
4. The Hindu Wedding Ceremony Is On The Third Day
After the first two days of wedding events, the third day is reserved for the Hindu wedding ceremony. This ceremony, which is typically held in the morning, can last anywhere between one and a half to two hours long, and then begins the reception. The entire third day can last 16 hours, so make sure you stay hydrated and wear comfortable shoes.
5. Saptapadi: The Seven Steps
Saptapadi literally translates to seven steps and this part of the ceremony is very important. The couple walks seven full circles clockwise around a fire pit. This represents the seven sacred vows and promises that they are making to one another. Each mantra is then recited to the couple. There isn’t normally an exchange of vows performed at these weddings. Think of the seven steps as like the couple’s ‘vows’ that they will hold during their marriage.
6. Attending an Indian Wedding: You Should Get Involved
Yes, we do mean dance, laugh, eat, and be merry. Indian weddings are a huge celebration and the last thing you’ll want to be doing is sitting at your table. Don’t be afraid to get up and partake. If you don’t know what is going on, ask! Besides dancing and eating, you’ll also be expected to participate during steps in the ceremony as a show of blessing the couple. Getting involved as a guest shows your love for the couple.
7. There Will Be Lots Of Food
Get ready for lots of food. Indian weddings have a huge feast for everyone to enjoy. When you first enter the wedding venue, you’ll be treated to appetizers and snacks. Don’t be coy—you’ll want that snack so you’re not the person in the audience with the stomach growling.
Once the wedding is over, the main course will be served. As far as what to expect, there are regional variations for foods. For many West and South Indian weddings, vegetarian food is served. But for many North and East Indian weddings, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian food is served.
8. There Might Be No Alcohol
You read that right. Traditionally, alcohol is not served at Hindu weddings, especially if the wedding is held at a temple. More modern Indian weddings sometimes include alcohol during the pre-ceremony festivities and the reception. Alcohol won’t be present during the ceremony, though depending on the couple’s religious beliefs. When in doubt, politely ask them before the wedding.
9. Give The Gift of Money
After the wedding ceremony, the reception party is where the couple receives blessings and gifts from everyone at their wedding. If you’re wondering what to get the couple, a traditional wedding gift is money. This is the most thoughtful gift as it helps the couple to start their lives together. Find an embroidered bag or lovely pretty envelope, write down some best wishes, and place the money in. Always give money in an amount that ends in one. This is very important as one is a blessing that wishes them prosperity and good fortune.
10. Red Is A Traditional Color
Indian brides don’t wear white on their wedding day. Instead, they wear red and gold to symbolize fertility and commitment. However, more modern Indian brides are often opting for other rich saturated colors like pastel florals, bright yellow, or even a bold blue.
11. Don’t Dance With The Bride
Okay, so at many weddings, it’s normal to head to the dance floor and dance with the bride—especially if she is your friend. However, at traditional Indian weddings, men should resist the urge to dance with the bride. In Indian culture, brides shouldn’t dance with other men on their wedding day.
We hope this guide has helped you understand a few customs and traditions and will help you get ready when attending an Indian wedding. We want you to focus on having a wonderful time celebrating the couple, dancing, and eating. And if you want to see some Indian weddings, check out this intimate wedding at the Villa Artimino, this colorful Indian wedding, and this modern Indian wedding.