What Not To Wear to an Indian Wedding

We’ve all heard that, when attending an American wedding, you should never wear white (or anything close to white) so as to avoid distracting from the bride’s dramatic color contrast with everyone else at the wedding.

Guess what? You probably shouldn’t wear white to an Indian wedding, either. There are practical reasons for this, chief among them: henna and turmeric, which are both a huge part of Indian weddings and which stain everything in sight a deep red or vibrant yellow. There are also traditional considerations to take into account. In most parts of India, Hindus view white as a color of mourning. Widows and widowers in India often wear only white for the rest of their lives, in honor of their deceased spouse. That’s not exactly the vibe you want to bring to an Indian wedding.

What else should you steer clear of? Anything too revealing, whether that means you’re rocking a miniskirt or a super low-cut top. The wedding ceremony occurs in the presence of the Almighty, and we’re guessing you wouldn’t usually show off your decolletage at church. Also, there are always modest, elderly Indian people there, most of whom seem to have traveled impossible distances just to be present for this wedding. Let’s try not to shock them by displaying your impressive thigh gap. Consider a pashmina if your dress is very low cut.

Lastly, remember that the bride will probably wear red to the wedding ceremony. If you have a choice between red and navy cocktail dresses for the weekend, reserve the red dress for the reception, and opt for navy for the ceremony. Just like in an American wedding, you should try not to detract from the bride on her big day by wearing red (or bright pink) during the ceremony. Brides will usually change for the reception, so you’re clear to wear red for that event.

Pantone Color of the Year: Greenery

Pantone’s color of the year for 2017 is “Greenery,” a shade of green so divine that we feel like becoming gardeners just to experience more of it. But the sad reality is that we don’t have green thumbs, and that means we need to turn to retail therapy to get our Greenery fix. Here are our favorite finds that will make your wedding a Greenery-inspired wonderland:

Green earrings are so sweet for your flower girl’s gift, or as a special treat for your bridesmaids.

This glamorous gold and green cuff would be a perfect accessory for your sangeet lehenga.

Do the men in your wedding party feel adventurous? Could you convince them to wear bow ties? Because This. Is. The. Best.

Who says your wedding shoes have to be gold or silver? We like the idea of mixing it up with some studded green sandals.

Scarves are always in style, and infinity scarves are particularly hot right now. These make a lovely gift for the women who attend your mehndi, and bonus: they’re totally affordable!

Bindis are always fun, whether for yourself or as gifts for the women in your life. These sweet green sparkles would liven up anyone’s look!

 

What’s your favorite way to inject Greenery into your wedding, readers?

What to Wear to a Mehndi: American Clothes

We’ve covered mehndi parties a lot on this blog, but we’ve never looked at them from the perspective of a non-Indian person wanting to attend one and not knowing what to wear. So here you go!

Mehndi parties are a relatively casual event in the grand scheme of an Indian wedding. This is an event where most of the guests will have a colored paste applied to their hands, then wait patiently while the paste dries so they can resume normal activities. This is probably not the time to break out your floor-length BCBG Max Azria knit evening gown, unless the invitation says otherwise.

This is likely a time for a cocktail dress or sundress, and we’d lean more towards sundresses. If it’s winter when you’re attending a mehndi party, a sundress obviously won’t work for you, but you could probably wear a sweater dress or nice tunic with leggings and fit in just fine.

  

   

If you’re considering venturing into Indian clothes territory, this is a good time to discover the kurti, which is an Indian-inspired flowy top that pairs well with jeans or leggings. You can find kurti-adjacent tops by many American designers, like the ones we found below; think tunic tops and embroidery.

   

 

 

What to Wear to a Mehndi: Indian Clothes

Indian weddings are a marathon of joyous occasions, a feast of color, and a whirl of festivities. One of the first events to kick off an Indian wedding is usually a mehndi party. We’ve written before about what to expect at a mehndi party (here) and what kinds of shoes you might want to wear to a mehndi party (here). Now we’re here to talk about what to wear to a mehndi party if you’re planning on rocking Indian clothes.

Mehndi parties tend to be more casual than the other elements of an Indian wedding. It’s not uncommon to see guests — or even brides! — in jeans or shorts for this event. After all, henna can be messy, and you don’t want it to ruin your nicest sari. Take cues from the wedding invitation, check the website for information about attire, or ask the maid of honor what is proper attire for the party. However, when in doubt, it’s better to be over-dressed than under-dressed.

Keep in mind that henna is a greenish paste that is piped onto your hands like frosting. While wet, the henna is staining your palms a deep red in the pattern that your henna artist has chosen. However, if wet henna touches your clothes, or your face, or the carpet, it will stain that, too. Even damp henna will transfer color to other objects. In other words, this is not the day to break out the $500 sari, unless you live the kind of life where a $500 sari is your cheapest sari, in which case we’d like for you to adopt us.

As a rule, we’d suggest something on the more casual end of the Indian clothes spectrum for a mehndi party. We love a salwar kameez or anarkali for the ease of movement and comfort level. Both involve a long top and pants, with an optional dupatta accessory. Examples:

   

Another casual alternative is to mix a kurti with jeans, shorts, a skirt, or leggings. This is the most versatile option, still looks dressy enough for a party, and has an Indian fusion aspect to it, which we love. Examples are below:

  

 

What do you think, readers? Are we right on track? Do you prefer to wear lehengas or saris to mehndi parties instead of more casual options? Or do you think Indian clothes in general aren’t necessary for such an informal event? We want to hear from you!

How To Wear a Sari

Do you want to wear a sari but don’t know where to start? Hooray! We’re here to help.

Step 1: Buy a sari. We recommend something that is lightweight, preferably made of chiffon or georgette material. Lighter saris are easier to wear for beginners, and they’re good for warm weather.

  

Step 2: Buy a petticoat. You will need to wear this underneath your sari. A petticoat is a plain, solid color, cotton skirt that ties with a drawstring.

They are generally one-size-fits-most. If you are particularly tall or short, or particularly thin or heavy, you might need to special-order a petticoat. But in our experience, women ranging in sizes from 4 to 14 can share off-the-rack petticoats. Big relief for those of us who like Girl Scout cookie season a bit too much.

 

Step 3: Buy a blouse. Saris are essentially just really beautiful pieces of fabric, like a toga. However, unlike a toga, you will wear a separate blouse with your sari. The blouse is meant to be seen, at least a little. Most blouses fasten in the front using hook-and-eye closures.

Saris usually come with a “blouse piece,” which is a 1-2 yard piece of fabric that matches the sari and can be sewn to make a blouse. However, it is hard to find a tailor who knows how to make a sari blouse from scratch. Plain sari blouses in standard colors (black, gold, silver, red, etc.) can be purchased online for a reasonable cost and usually track normal American sizing. These are a good option, and can be used with multiple saris!

  

Step 4: Make sure the sari has a “fall” sewn in. This is a 3-inch strip of fabric sewn to the inside bottom of the plain end of the sari to protect the sari from your feet while you walk. Without a fall, the sari could fray or tear easily if you accidentally step on your sari. With the fall, the sari is protected … a bit.

Step 5: Obtain a few large safety pins.

Step 6: Wrap your sari. Put on your blouse, put on your petticoat, and start wrapping yourself in fabric. We like this video by Good Indian Girl for a basic tutorial on how to “fold it.”

There are several options for wrapping your sari, but the most traditional method involves wrapping from right to left so you end up with the decorative sari piece (pallu) draped over your left shoulder. Secure your folds with a safety pin just below your waist, and secure your pallu to the back of your left shoulder with one additional safety pin.

Sehrabandi

The sehrabandi, or sehra for short, refers to the face-covering headdress that many Hindu grooms wear to the ceremony. This headdress looks rather like a miniature hula skirt that is tied around the groom’s head and which shields his eyes during his baraat and the wedding ceremony. In a way, this is like a veil for the groom. The sehrabandi is tied to the groom’s head during a ceremony known by the same name. The groom’s sister or female cousins usually ties the sehra on his head, but in some cultures this differs.

The sehrabandi may be made of flowers, beads, or thin cords, and usually is some combination of white, gold, and silver in color. The veil is thought to protect the groom from evil, which is a nice sentiment. In some cases, the sehra will be removed before the wedding ceremony, mostly because it’s a mild annoyance to the groom.

Not all Hindu wedding ceremonies will involve a sehrabandi. This practice is most common in Punjabi weddings.

Shoes

Let’s talk about shoes. Specifically, your wedding shoes. An Indian wedding involves several events, some of which may be combined or omitted entirely, but here’s the basic gist:

  • Mehndi
  • Sangeet
  • Haldi
  • Ceremony
  • Reception

The footwear requirements of each event is different, so let’s talk about what you should expect and consider some ideas for footwear that is both practical and special enough to be designated “wedding shoes.”

(1) Mehndi

If you’re the bride, you will be seated for most of this event. In fact, you will be stationery, in one place, imitating a statue for probably 5-6 hours while artistic experts in the world of henna decoration adorn your hands, feet, arms, ankles, and maybe even your legs with intricate mehndi designs. This is an event during which you should probably not plan to wear shoes.

Think about it this way: if you wear shoes to the event, and you start by having your hands decorated with henna, what happens when it’s time to switch to your feet? You have wet henna on your hands, and you need to take off your shoes, which means you’ll have to enlist a family member to do the work for you. Why not skip the awkward auntie-by-foot encounter altogether and leave the joote at home? Don’t worry, you can still make the rest of yourself fancy.

(2) Sangeet

The soon-to-be-married couple is going to sit for a bit and then dance the night away at this pre-wedding meeting of the families. Wear something comfortable but spectacular. Your mehndi designs will be nice and dark, your nails will (presumably) be manicured, you will be dressed to the nines — you want your feet to look good.

But remember that Indian weddings are marathons, and you should be prepared to dance the night away several nights in a row, which means that your cute sangeet shoes should also be comfortable!

    

(3) Haldi

Do. Not. Wear. Shoes. You are about to be covered from head to toe in a creamy yellow paste that will discolor anything and everything it touches. Unless you want your favorite Rainbows to suddenly be bright yellow, don’t wear them.

(4) Ceremony

You’ll want to wear shoes to your ceremony that are easy to put on and take off without looking, and without assistance of your hands (or anyone else’s). If it isn’t obvious to you yet, we’ll go ahead and say it: A Hindu Wedding Ceremony Is A Pooja And You Should Not Wear Shoes During It. In other words, you’ll enter the ceremony wearing shoes, take them off to get married, and then put them back on before you exit the venue.

You might also want to consider wearing flat shoes for the ceremony (and having your outfit fitted to you as though you are wearing flat shoes), because otherwise your sari or lehenga will be pooling on the floor during your ceremony. That’s not great for pictures–it’s hard to capture the magnificence of your lehenga when it’s rumpled and crinkled, and you won’t be able to easily see the mehendi on your feet while you take your seven steps or do your pheras around the fire–and it’s downright dangerous. Hindu ceremonies include fire, which means that you want to keep extra fabric away from agni as much as possible

    

(5) Reception

Go big, or go home, baby. You are going to be dancing and standing most of the night, so train your feet for the pain of 4″ stilettos all night, or wear your favorite comfy flats. We love the idea of wearing showstopping heels for the beginning of the night and changing into flip flops, Chucks, or Toms for the dancing part of the evening.

  

Jutti

Jutti (or jooti, joote, joothe, or jaat) are the elf-like shoes that are traditional for men to wear with Indian clothes. Often called “Punjabi jutti,” this type of footwear is traditionally found in northern India, especially in the Punjab region.

The shoes are relatively simple in construction, featuring a flat wooden or cardboard sole, and sizing can be very hit-or-miss (To ensure you’re buying the right size jutti, you might be asked to trace your foot on a piece of paper and send it to the person buying your shoes for you!). The fronts of the shoes give them their elfish appearance, with a turned-up toe and usually some measure of embroidery or other special detail.

In the days of Cole Haan and Nike, these shoes are usually only worn for special occasions like weddings, and even then only for a short period of time.

Want to buy a pair? Here are some of our favorites:

 

(Ladies, you can buy jutti, too!)

   

Sunday Links – March 19

Have you celebrated St. Patrick’s Day two weekends in a row? Are you regretting that 2 AM Guinness? Are you shocked at the pile of green beads adorning your bedside table? No worries, readers, this is a safe space. And now, for your Sunday morning links:

Not sure you want to go through the trouble of having an engagement photo shoot? Here’s why you should.

Flower girl baskets are used once and then donated to charity. Why not give your flower girl something practical to use to distribute petals now and then hold her toys and fake makeup later? Martha Stewart has some great suggestions for tiny purses that will serve both purposes.

IKEA’s new JASSA Collection is everything you need to decorate for your mehndi, sangeet, wedding, and life.

These blue Valentino heels make us want to go shopping and buy all of the things. Other things we love about this wedding: men in teal moccasins, photos on his and hers swings, milk and cookies favors.

    

Fashion Flash: Go Green

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, H+G readers! We’re feeling inspired by these gorgeous green looks from Kalki Fashion and Shyamal & Bhumika:

In the spirit of all things emerald, we picked some green gifts and accessories that we think would be perfect gifts for your wedding party. What do you think?

Bridesmaids will love these enchanting emerald chandelier earrings!

How cool (and practical!) would these green mirror aviators be for an outdoor wedding?

Want your groomsmen to wear matching ties to the reception? Done.

Picture a sea of bridesmaids in green floral silk robes getting ready for your big day!

No one would say “no” to standing in green Converse shoes during the ceremony.