How to meet the dress code of a wedding in a different culture*

It’s an exciting time when an invite for a wedding comes through the post! You’ve been selected as someone that the happy couple want to share their big day with. But what do you 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.

What might the husband be wearing?

Many traditional grooms follow the dress code set by their ancestors. However, some modern grooms decide to wear a smart suit instead of their traditional dress.


The traditional dress for the husband-to-be differs by Indian region. 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 men’sformal shirt and Western-type suit.
Often only associated with women, men actually get painted with henna too. However, the patterns aren’t as elaborate and they’re often not on show.


Traditionally, a kimono is worn for the ceremony by the Japanese groom. For the after celebrations, they then change into a tuxedo. 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.


Traditionally, a silk black coat is worn over an embroidered robe. Younger grooms however are wearing the robe without the overcoat however.
For special ceremonies, a different dress is required and for this, the groom should wear a statement headpiece. This is usually an elaborate hat which is black with red tassels. Some younger generations are not following the traditional dress code and simply wear a tuxedo or a Western-style business suit.

What might the bride be wearing?

Brides in the UK are recognised by their impressive white dresses. How do our own bridal traditions compare to India, Japan and China?


Similar to the male traditions, it depends what region the bride is from as to what she wears for her wedding. In some region a saree is the garment of choice and in others it is a lehenga. A saree is a piece of clothing that looks like a long drape and a lehenga 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.
Before the wedding, the bride gets painted with henna. Her hands, forearms and legs are all covered with patterns.


A wedding in Japan is a grand affair — it can cost close to £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 5 costume changes! For the ceremony, at a Shinto (traditional) wedding, the bride wears a white kimono. However, sometimes the bride chooses to wear an impressive dress that is printed with a Japanese design.


The bride usually wears red as this is considered good luck. 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.
A pair of specially designed shoes are worn too. For example, they could be embroidered with a turtle or a deer which symbolises happiness and longevity.

What might the guests be wearing?

If you are attending a wedding of a different culture, you should try and dress traditionally out of respect and to avoid offence.


Go for bold and bright colours at an Indian ceremony. 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.
Women should dress respectively and cover up at an Indian wedding. The Indian female guests will most likely be dressed in colourful sarees or anarkali suits. Jewellery is important for women too, choose a statement piece for around your neck with matching earrings and bangles.
Male wedding guests dress similarly to the groom. They often wear 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.
Some of the wedding could take place in a temple — guests are often asked to cover their heads because of this. 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.


Traditionally, Japanese guests dress overly formal. 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. A safe option for female guests is a knee length dress and a kimono. It is best to avoid showing any shoulder as this can be deemed a disrespectful.


Female guests should avoid wearing red. This is because it can be seen as stealing the limelight from the bride who will also be dressed in this colour. It’s best to wear pink, peach or purple instead, as these are all symbols of new life and happiness. A formal dress is suitable for a Chinese wedding. Other colours to avoid for both male and female guests is black and white. These are symbols of mourning and bad luck. 


Thanks for reading.
Leah xoxo

*Collaborative post

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