Indian Wedding: Part 2 (The Clothes and Jewelry)

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This is Part 2 of a 4-Part series. You can read Part 1 here.

B and I at a wedding in Australia; I'm wearing a sari.

B and I at a wedding in Australia; I’m wearing a sari.

Indian clothing and the accompanying jewelry are some of the best parts of attending an Indian wedding. Since I don’t go to many other Indian functions, going to an Indian wedding gives me the chance to wear beautiful, colorful, bejeweled clothes that I would never wear in my day-to-day life. In fact, the first few times I wore Indian clothes, I felt very self-conscious since I didn’t grow up wearing such sparkly, shiny, richly-textured outfits. I am also usually one of the few white people at these functions, and I felt a bit awkward wearing clothes that were not part of my cultural tradition. Luckily, the reaction I get most often from Indians is that of being impressed: some types of Indian clothes can be difficult to wear elegantly, and apparently I do it well. I’ll let you be the judge.

One of my favorite parts of going to an Indian wedding is seeing what everyone else is wearing. This is an Indian woman’s opportunity to go all out and wear her very best. The clothes are simply amazing and the variations of color, texture, and style are endless. I often see color combinations I adore, saris I envy, and jewelry I covet.

Indian weddings are quite formal events, so the clothing must reflect that. For the women especially, this means that they wear their most beautiful clothes, usually saris. A sari is a long piece of material, typically several yards in length, which can be made of just about any type of material, though the most beautiful ones are made of silk, chiffon, georgette, or another expensive fabric. One end of the sari is removed and made into a short-sleeved, midriff-baring blouse. The back of the blouse is usually low-cut, and can be quite simple or intricate; since it can be seen, the back of the blouse is much prettier than the front and more attention is given to its construction and design. The long material is tucked into a matching petticoat (which keeps it secured around the woman’s waist), then pleated and draped over one shoulder; this part of the sari is usually heavily decorated with embroidery, beading, jewels, etc. The craftsmanship and beauty of a well-made sari is something to be admired and appreciated. My mother-in-law has given me several saris over the years, and I have enjoyed wearing them on many occasions. I’ll admit, though, that I still can’t put on a sari by myself. It takes some practice and patience, and since I wear saris so infrequently, I usually ask my mother-in-law or another family member to help me out.

A lineup of family members at a wedding. My mother-in-law is in the burgundy sari on the far right.

A lineup of family members at a wedding. My mother-in-law is in the burgundy sari on the far right.

B and I at another wedding; I'm wearing a sari made from chiffon

B and I at another wedding; I’m wearing a sari made from chiffon.

Other types of Indian clothing that would be appropriate to wear to an Indian wedding include a salwar kameez, which is a long tunic over baggy, pajama-style pants; or a lehenga (or ghagra) choli, which is a long, pleated skirt and a fitted top with a long scarf-like veil. I usually wear saris to weddings, but I did where a lehenga to a wedding reception I attended in Australia, and recently, I wore a salwar kameez since I’m pregnant and that was my most comfortable option.

Me and H (even the kiddos wear Indian clothing!); I'm wearing a lehenga.

Me and H (even the kiddos wear Indian clothing!); I’m wearing a lehenga.

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Me and the girls; I’m wearing a salwar kameez.

Indian jewelry is intricate and lovely, and an essential part of an Indian outfit. I wear very minimal jewelry (and what I wear is quite utilitarian), so when I first started wearing Indian clothes, I tried to get away with wearing small jewelry. My mother-in law insisted that it would not look appropriate, and of course, she was right. I have learned to accept that if you are going to put on a beautiful sari, you need the jewelry to match. Typically, a woman will wear large earrings, a matching necklace, and a set of bangles on one or both arms. I usually wear a watch on my right wrist and bangles on my left. A woman may also wear a bindi; I’ve worn small sticker bindis, and they really do add beauty to the wearer’s face.

Indian brides usually wear a wedding lehenga (but they can wear a sari if they choose) which is always red, heavily embroidered and bejeweled, and one of the most amazingly gorgeous articles of clothing I have ever seen. I did not have an Indian wedding, so I never wore Indian bridal clothes, but I have gazed with awe at the beauty that these clothes confer onto the bride at every Indian wedding I have attended.

The bride and groom in their traditional wedding clothes surrounded by my family. I'm wearing a salwar kameez.

The bride and groom in their traditional wedding clothes surrounded by my family. I’m wearing a salwar kameez.

Of course, Indian men can also wear Indian clothing (see picture above), though most who attend these events wears suits. There are several variations of a tunic-style coat over pajama-style trousers; these outfits are quite handsome even if they are not as common. An Indian groom will certainly wear one, as will members of his immediate family and some who attend the wedding.

While the wedding itself is a formal occasion, and members of the bridal party and their closest relatives will be very dressed up, the reception is often the event where the clothes are at their finest. Perhaps this is because it is a celebration, or because there is more opportunity to see and be seen. Regardless or the reason, if you ever attend an Indian wedding and/or reception, you will see some of the most exquisite clothing and jewelry you could ever imagine.

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