Indian Wedding Traditions: The Guest Guide

  • Publication date: 03/18/2024
  • Updated: 03/19/2024

Indian weddings span anywhere from three to five days and include many pre and post-wedding events. Each event has significance and elaborately celebrates the union of two families. With hundreds of guests, lavish venues, intricate attire, and delectable food, Indian weddings are quite the extravaganza. As a guest, you’ll be immersed in new customs and rituals. Understanding Indian wedding traditions will ensure you feel comfortable, informed, and able to honor the bride and groom on their special day.

What Should I Wear to an Indian Wedding?

Photo @vaahaofficial

Deciding what to wear to an Indian wedding can seem daunting, especially for first-timers. But following the requested dress code is key to showing respect while looking your best. Indian weddings usually have dress codes indicating the formality and traditional style of attire expected.

For Women

Photo @toraniofficial

Most commonly, Indian wedding invitations will request traditional Indian clothing like saris, lehengas/cholis, or salwar kameez. Opt for ornate fabrics like silks or chiffons and embellished with beads, sequins, mirrors, embroidery, or gold thread. Avoid wearing white, as that color is reserved for the bride alone. You may also see “Indian formal” which means wearing an elegant Indian-inspired gown or cocktail dress. Lastly, a “semi-formal” dress means you can get away with a Western-style formal dress or cocktail dress. Just avoid anything too revealing or casual.

For Men

Photo by @as.seenbyravi

Men should wear traditional Indian formal attire like a kurta-pajama set or sherwani. Choose silk kurtas embellished with embroidery or gold accents. Pair with formal pants like churidars. If the dress code is “Western formal,” an elegant suit is appropriate. For semi-formal, dress pants, button-downs, and sports jacket works. Avoid wearing pure white or black, as those colors are reserved for the bride and groom.

How Long Is an Indian Wedding?

A traditional Indian wedding celebration can span 3-5 days with different rituals and parties each day. Just the wedding ceremony alone usually lasts at least an hour but can go several hours depending on the number of customs included. The reception events and parties that follow the ceremony, like dinner and dancing, can also last for hours well into the late evening.

When you RSVP, be prepared to attend multiple extended wedding events over several days. Traditional Indian weddings provide an immersive cultural experience!

What Are the Main Events at an Indian Wedding?

Indian weddings involve many traditional events and ceremonies leading up to the actual wedding day. Each celebration has great cultural and religious significance, so attending them provides an immersive Indian wedding experience. 


Sangeet @storiesbyjosephradhik.jpg
Photo by @storiesbyjosephradhik

The Sangeet is a lively Indian pre-wedding party with dance performances put on by family and friends to celebrate the couple. It’s a night filled with music, dance, food, and fun!


Baraat andrewbayda_wed.jpg
Photo by Andrew Bayda

The Baraat is the groom’s wedding procession where he arrives at the ceremony riding on a decorated horse or elephant accompanied by his groomsmen and family dancing and celebrating through the streets.


Jaimala dipak_studios.jpg
Photo by @dipak_studios

The Jaimala is the exchange of flower garlands between the bride and groom to symbolize their acceptance of one another as spouses. This usually takes place at the wedding altar.


vidai jaimeecmorse.jpg
Photo by @jaimeecmorse

The Vidaai is a tearful farewell Indian wedding ceremony for the bride as she leaves her family to join her husband’s family. It is an emotional time and an important transition.


recep tathhastu_weddings.jpg
Photo by @tathhastu_weddings

The Indian wedding reception includes a grand dinner, cake cutting, dancing, blessings for the new couple, and celebration with all the guests.

What Are Some Significant Indian Wedding Traditions?

Photo by @amritphotography

Indian weddings involve many meaningful and often elaborately performed traditions and rituals. Witnessing or partaking in these time-honored customs will give you a profound appreciation of Indian culture. 


Intricate henna tattoo designs are applied to the bride and groom's hands and feet in the days leading up to the wedding.

Sath Phere

The couple takes seven revolutions around a sacred fire to solidify their Indian marriage vows and commitments.

Joota Chupai

The bride's sisters playfully steal the groom's shoes after the ceremony and exchange them for money as a prank.

Kanya Daan

The father presents his daughter's hand in marriage through a blessing ritual.

What Type of Food is Served at Weddings in India?

Photo by @b.r.a.m.s.k.i

Food is an essential part of any Indian wedding. The menus include a variety of traditional Indian cuisine spanning savory dishes, snacks, sweets, and beverages. Common foods include:

  1. Biryani - Spiced rice dish layered with meat or vegetables
  2. Samosa - Fried pastries stuffed with potatoes and spices
  3. Tandoori Chicken - Chicken marinated in yogurt and spices and grilled in a tandoor
  4. Dal - Lentil curry stew
  5. Naan - Soft, leavened flatbread freshly baked in a tandoor
  6. Gulab Jamun - Deep fried milk balls soaked in rose syrup
  7. Chai Tea - Spiced black tea with milk
  8. Mango Lassi - Sweetened mango yogurt drink

The food is usually vegetarian or offers vegetarian options out of respect for Hindu customs. The spices and complexity of flavors take center stage at an Indian wedding feast.

How Many Guests Attend an Indian Wedding?

Photo by @movieingmoments

Indian weddings usually have massive guest lists of hundreds of people. Only close family and friends will receive individualized invitations. Most guests will receive a "save the date" notice rather than a formal invite. Don't be surprised if you're one of a huge crowd at an Indian wedding!

What Are Appropriate Gifts for an Indian Wedding?

Photo by @cineloveproductions

Finding the perfect Indian wedding gift can seem difficult, especially if you are unfamiliar with their culture and traditions. Focus on gifts that honor Indian customs and provide the new couple with symbolic blessings.

Cash Gifts

Monetary gifts presented in fancy envelopes are customary at Indian weddings. Place your cash or check inside and personally present it to the bride, groom, or their parents during the wedding events.

Gold Jewelry

Gold is symbolic in Indian tradition. Gifting a piece like earrings, a necklace, or a bracelet is considered very auspicious.

Wedding Registry Gifts

More modern couples may register for household items or honeymoon experiences. Check their wedding website for registry details.

Is an Indian Wedding Highly Symbolic?

Yes, Indian wedding traditions are ripe with religious and cultural symbolism. Rituals like exchanging garlands and circling fire represent commitment, harmony, prosperity, and more. Witnessing the symbolic ceremonies will help you understand their significance.

Can I Take Photos at an Indian Wedding?

You are generally welcome to take photos at wedding events like the Sangeet, Baraat, and Indian reception. However, refrain from taking pictures during any private prayer ceremonies or when the bride and groom are seated at the wedding altar. If you are ever unsure about photos, ask the wedding party or family members before snapping pics.

Is Alcohol Served at Indian Weddings?

Indian weddings traditionally do not serve alcohol, out of respect for elders and religious beliefs that discourage drinking. However, some modern Indian weddings will offer a full bar or cash bar at the reception. If alcohol is served, drink moderately to avoid offense.

Can I Bring a Date to an Indian Wedding?

Indian weddings are usually open to all invited guests' spouses and partners. If your invitation allows a plus one, feel free to bring your significant other. Just be sure to indicate them on the RSVP or wedding website so they are accounted for.

What If I Don't Know Anyone at an Indian Wedding?

Don't worry if you don't know many other guests. Introduce yourself, mingle during reception events, or chat with the bride and groom's parents who you may know. Befriend other wedding guests and family members who can make introductions. Indian weddings are very social, so you'll make new connections!

How Can I Be a Respectful Guest at an Indian Wedding?
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As a guest at an Indian wedding, you want to honor the couple while showing respect for the cultural traditions. Though the celebrations appear elaborate, many customs hold deep religious and sentimental significance. By learning etiquette tips, you can participate without causing offense.

  1. Dress modestly according to the requested attire
  2. Avoid public displays of affection
  3. Cover your head at religious ceremonies
  4. Don't take photos during private prayer rituals
  5. Ask before taking pictures if you are uncertain
  6. Participate in ceremonies when invited by the family
  7. Have fun and embrace the culture!

Following these simple guidelines shows your sincerity in wanting to appreciate the meaning behind Indian wedding rituals. Allow the wedding to broaden your cultural horizons by fully immersing yourself. When in doubt, ask the bride and groom or their family members how you can best take part respectfully. Keep an open mind and heart to see the beauty in traditions different than your own.

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Natali Grace Levine Editor-in-Chief

Manages The Wezoree's content strategy
Writes and edits articles for the Inspiration Blog