Photo of a wedding pointed down at the feet of bride and groom

Anthropology in Fashion: Traditional Wedding Attire Around the World

Marriage is a widely known concept in many cultures around the world. It occurs either because it is a formal commitment or helps both parties financially. Sometimes it’s for the creation and support of children. Sometimes people marry just out of pure love. Weddings celebrate this occasion. The ceremony of two who become one, bound by their love and appreciation for one another. It’s to celebrate the beginning of a new era. And of course, you’d want to look your best on this special occasion – and so the traditional wedding outfits were born. They were a symbol of good fortune, happiness, and a new beginning. Wedding outfits vary all around the world, as each culture has their own belief about what symbolizes good fortune. In this article we’ll delve into the world of wedding attire around the world.

American wedding attire

Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra walking in their American wedding attire as Nick kisses the back of Priyanka's hand
American wedding attire. Photo credit: Jose Villa

Women

The wedding dress many people around the world know of is the American wedding dress. Crystals and pearls adorn this classic white dress made of satin and silk. Traditionally, the wedding dress should always be white. This tradition comes from the virgin bride who wears white as a symbol of purity. The dress is modest to portray this image.

Men

The commonly known tuxedo is the traditional wedding attire for men. While the tuxedo may seem like an easy to pick wedding outfit, a lot of thought still goes into the selection of the perfect suit to marry in. The traditional option is the black tuxedo, as it is timeless, sleek, and sophisticated. However, many opt to personalize their suit with colours that match the theme of the wedding. Some even wear white to match the bride. Oxford shoes compliment the tuxedo most. Loafers or suede shoes may also be suitable for the occasion. Men accessorize the look with cummerbunds, suspenders and cufflinks, which, even while being seemingly small, may be just the accessory to polish the entire look.

Indonesian wedding attire

Indonesian bride and groom in their traditional red and gold attire as they walk down the aislem
Indonesian traditional wedding attire. Photo credit: bridestory.com

Women

The Indonesian wedding attire is one of the most unique and beautiful outfits you’ll ever witness. There is a variety of ethnic groups within Indonesia. Thus, while their wedding attire may relatively look the same, they each have their own differences.

Their wedding dresses incorporate intricate designs, using velvet and satin fabrics, among other bridal fabrics. Indonesian designers create the embroidery by hand because it is so complex. The designers also sew beads and sequins onto the dress by hand. In the Minangkabau culture, their wedding dresses traditionally consist of the colours yellow, black and red. Yellow symbolizes nobility and represents the law and regulations. Black symbolizes the Earth – representing an infinite good mind. Red symbolizes the heart – representing affection and consideration. The bride’s dress is a loose fit and ends just above the knee.

In addition, the bride wears a headdress, called suntiang, to add a majestic look to the intricately designed outfit. The suntiang serves as a symbol of the responsibility the bride will hold after she marries. This is due to the fact that the Indonesian culture follows a matrilineal descent system. Women are higher in value and highly respected. Thus, becoming a bride bears an important meaning.

Men

The traditional men’s outfit includes a long-sleeved batik. Designers create this special shirt using hand-dyed batik fabric. The groom pairs the batik with a sarong, which is a skirt-like garment or wrap-around skirt used by men. Indonesian men wear this traditional attire on special occasions.

English wedding attire

Princess Eugenie in her white wedding gown and her husband, Jack Brooksbank in his traditional English wedding attire as they smile at the camera
English wedding attire. Photo credit: hellomagazine.com

Women

When an English bride is to marry, she wears a white dress, much like an American bride. However, history states the dress derives from the English. This is because the earliest recorded instance of a white wedding dress was when English Princess Philippa wore one to her wedding with the Scandinavian King Eric in 1406.

Traditionally, the bride has to wear a horseshoe on her wrist or sewn into the hem of her dress. This was practiced more in the old days but not as much in the present. The English also have a Victorian rhyme they follow on wedding days, even today:

“Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a silver sixpence in her shoe.”

People believe that if the bride wears each of these items, it will bring good luck to her and her husband-to-be.

Men

British grooms wear tuxedos just like Americans do. However, there are slight differences between the two. While British grooms may wear tuxedos on their special day too, some opt for the morning dress. The morning dress is usually for a more formal daytime wedding event. This outfit comprises a morning coat or half morning coat, waistcoat, and trousers. The groom usually wears a tuxedo on the evening of the wedding.

Indian wedding attire

An Indian groom in his gold sherwani looking at his bride who is wearing a traditional red sari and looking at the ground.
Traditional Indian wedding attire. Photo credit: pinterest

Women

The one we’ve all been waiting for: the beautiful Indian wedding attire. Elaborate embroidery and accessories adorn this colourful wedding dress called a sari. Designers create this dress with material such as silk, cotton, or chiffon. Magnificent jewelry embellishes the bride to compliment the beautiful attire.

Traditional bridalwear usually consists of the colours red and gold. Red signifies happiness and good luck to the married couple, whereas gold represents purity, opulence, class, or prosperity. In Indian culture, white is a symbol of mourning. Therefore, brides avoid wearing white on this special occasion. However, people are gradually accepting wearing the colour white at weddings as part of Indian wedding attire.

The jewelry worn on this memorable day is of great importance to the Indian community as well. It not only enhances one’s beauty, but symbolizes wealth, status, and power. The jewelry also signifies that the bride is to become part of the husband’s extended family.

Indian bride in her stunning red and gold sari
Traditional Indian wedding dress. Photo credit: twitter.com

Men

Indian grooms commonly wear a traditional garb called a sherwani on their wedding day. It is a coat-like garment reaching below the knee and featuring a vertical button-down in the middle. This clothing provides an imposing royal look to the groom. Alternatively, the groom can wear a kurta pajama which is a looser and more comfortable fit for the day. Designers often customize the kurta or sherwani with heavy embroidery and bright colours that contrast well with either the bride’s outfit or the wedding theme. Either way, the groom will stand out just as well as the bride does. The husband-to-be may pair the sherwani with a bottom garment called salwar. These are loose-fitting trousers which narrow to a cuffed bottom. Furthermore, the groom accessorizes the outfit with a neckpiece, turban, brooch, or cuff links to add a semblance of royalty to the finished look.

Indian groom wearing a gold sherwani and red turban, scarf and pants as he looks to the side
Traditional Indian wedding attire for the groom. Photo credit: Tanya Bhatia

Native American Wedding Attire

A bride wearing a colourful Southern Cheyenne wedding dress as she stares off into the distance
Native American traditional wedding attire. Photo credit: youtube.com

Women

One of the most unique and stunning wedding dresses is the bridalwear of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes. This is the Southern Cheyenne buckskin dress. Designers use elk hide and deer hide to create this buckskin dress. The dress is a pure white shade and decorated with colourful beads. These beads are usually red, yellow, black, and white. They represent the different people of the world. Traditionally, long white strips hang from the sleeves, as well as the bottom of the dress. On the skirt, beads form curves which represent the mountains. Small silver cones also hang on the bottom of the dress in order to scare away bad spirits.

An off-white southern Cheyenne wedding dress adorned with colourful beads
Southern Cheyenne wedding dress. Photo credit: enstocks4i.top

Men

In the Cherokee tribe, the groom’s wedding attire consists of a red shirt, paired with black, white, or tan pants, and moccasins. Ribbons adorn the red shirt. They hang off the sides and across the chest, forming a chevron pattern. These ribbons may consist of red, blue, white, and/or green shades.

Ghanaian Wedding Attire

Ghanaian bride and groom sitting on a couch in their traditional Ghanaian wedding attire
Traditional Ghanaian wedding attire. Photo credit: fashionpoliceng.com

Women

Many people know the Ghanaian wedding dress for its culturally rich attributes and vibrant colours. Traditionally, weavers create Ghanaian bridalwear with a type of fabric called kente. This is the traditional fabric of the Ashanti empire which allows the bride to feel like royalty on her wedding day. It used to be made of silk, although now it is made from cotton and rayon.

The colours of this dress are traditionally red, green, and yellow. These are also the national colours of Ghana. For this reason, brides enjoy using these colours to add cultural flair to their wedding dress. Each dress has its own elaborate pattern and design best suited to the bride’s preference. Many choose one which represents love. Moreover, the outfit consists of a headdress – called tekua – which resembles a crown. This could either be made of gold or beads. Furthermore, the brides accessorize with any beads or gold jewelry of their choice.

The most beautiful part of Ghanaian wedding outfits is that, while all wedding dresses may be colourful and possess intricate patterns, the style of the dress is all completely up to the bride – whether she’d like a loose-fitting gown or one that shows off her curves.

A Ghanaian bride walking down the stairs in her colourful wedding gown
Ghanaian wedding dress. Photo credit: enstocks4i.top

Men

Regarding Ghanaian wedding attire, the grooms have a variety of choices for their weddingwear. Some opt for the wrapped kente outfit. This is a good way to match the bride’s look, both giving off a culturally rich feel. Another option is the agbada. This is a flowing wide-sleeved robe that stops just around the knees and pairs well with matching trousers. The more popular option is the kaftan. This is a top which accentuates the groom’s physique. The kaftan is mostly a neutral colour such as white, although the groom may use other colours as long as they compliment the theme of the wedding. It will also feature a touch of his wife’s kente, perfectly contrasting the bride’s dress. They certainly do make for beautiful pictures.

A Ghanaian groom in his teal kaftan making his bride laugh in her colourful kente dress
Ghanaian wedding attire for the groom. Photo credit: pulse.com

Swedish Wedding Attire

Swedish bride and groom standing in a field of grass in their traditional Swedish folk wedding attire
traditional Swedish folk wedding attire. Photo credit: 4mshop.tw

Women

The Swedish folk wedding attire is a tradition mainly followed by Swedish people in the countryside. The bride wears a dress called vanga. This dress signifies festivity. It is a black silk taffeta dress, decorated with white or gold lace, along with glass pearls and paper flowers. The dress consists of three layers of wool skirts which cause the dress to make a bell shape. A golden or bronze crown completes the entire look, giving the outfit a royal touch.

Men

The men’s wedding outfit is very similar to the traditional Swedish wedding outfit of the 19th century. The elegant wedding costume consists of a white shirt, a bright red vest, and a long black or white coat. Furthermore, the groom pairs the previously mentioned clothes with breeches, woolen socks, and traditional shoes. Traditional red embroidery adorns the shirt – called “skjorta”. Designers create the skjorta with white linen. Sometimes, the groom completes the look with extravagant cravats, walking sticks, hats, and other accessories.

Tunisia Wedding Attire

A Tunisian groom in his traditional cream wedding attire kissing his bride who is wearing her traditional gold wedding dress.
Traditional Tunisian wedding attire. Photo credit: 4mshop.tw

Women

In Hammamet, Tunisia, there is a traditional wedding dress made with gold. The largest part of the dress is the kmejja, which is worn at a bridal henna party. This is much like a dress which ends below the knees – and is completely gold. The kmejja is complimented with detachable embroidered sleeves called jabda. The outfit is further accessorized with a gold cap called a koufeyya. A headdress called prenshkeya is worn over the koufeyya. Lastly, a gold veil, called khtamra, is worn to cover the bride’s face.

Traditionally, the dress consists of two colours: green and yellow. Green symbolizes life, whereas yellow symbolizes materialistic aspects such as money or financial well-being. Designers create this outfit with main elements such as gold, silver, sequins, and badla wire. Thus, the dress is heavy and weighs about 10 kilograms (22 pounds).

Tunisian bride showing her traditional gold bridal outfit
Tunisian wedding dress. Photo credit: Wael Bouyahya

Men

Tunisian grooms usually wear a loose garment called a jebba. This is a long and wide robe with long sleeves. The garb covers the majority of the body, excluding the face, neck, hands, and feet. Traditional embroidery adorns this opulent robe to exude the atmosphere of dignity and wealth. Underneath the jebba, the groom wears a white shirt layered with a vest called “farmla” and topped with a jacket called “mentane”. The groom pairs these clothes with loose bloomers called “sarouel” and a silk belt. Finally, the husband-to-be wears traditional shoes, called “balghas”, with this respectful outfit. While designers create the jebba with fabrics such as linen, silk, or wool fabric, Tunisian grooms generally wear silk jebbas on special festive occasions such as weddings.

Tunisian groom standing in front of a blue door in his white jebba
Tunisian wedding attire for the groom. Photo credit: tumgir.com

Cultural significance of traditional wedding attire

While wedding attire differs all around the world – as seen above – ultimately, they all carry the same meaning. They are worn to symbolize a new era in the couple’s lives. Simple details like the colour of the fabric and the intricate patterns the beads form represent all that their loved ones wish for the life they are to live now.

Aside from those facts, the wedding attire allows those who wear it to feel truly happy and at ease. The outfits are symbols that they will be safe and loved in the years to come. Most importantly, on a day as significant as your wedding day, wedding attire allows you to feel like the most beautiful and respected person in the world.

For these reasons, many customs remain the same throughout decades, if not centuries. Many wedding traditions have stuck around for this reason too. Hopefully, these customs and traditions continue to bring comfort and happiness to those who practice them.

References

Brennan, S. (27/09/2017) “A Natural History of the Wedding Dress” daily.jstor.org

Team Chw. (13/10/2017) “Wedding traditions in England” countryhouseweddings.co.uk

Carabella. (05/08/2020) “Traditional Wedding Dress | Cultural Weddings” weddingestates.com

Weddingsallovertheworld. (n.d) “Indonesian wedding traditions. Gold and gems are key pieces for every bride in Indonesia” weddingsallovertheworld.com

Great Big Story. (30/09/2020) “What Wedding Dresses Around the World Look Like” youtube.com

Beluschenko, A. (07/07/2021) “30 EXCITING INDIAN WEDDING DRESSES THAT YOU’LL LOVE” weddingforward.com

The Maharani Dairies. (n.d) “Bridal Jewellery Trends For The Modern Indian Bride” themaharanidairies.com

Mirza, S. (28/09/2019) “Wedding Special: How to wear white at an Indian wedding” Hindustantimes.com

Vastramay. (02/10/2020) “Wedding Attire for Men: The Guide for Indian Outfits” vastramay.com

Fashion Policeng. (03/06/2019) “This Ghanaian Bride’s Traditional Wedding Dress is as Vibrant as You’d Expect” fashionpoliceng.com

Entsie, B. (05/11/2020) “10 trending Kaftan outfit ideas for grooms-to-be” pulse.com

Weddingsallovertheworld. (n.d) “What did Swedish grooms wear in the 1800s? Example of vintage Swedish wedding attire” weddingsallovertheworld.com

Magsino, I. (29/08/2021) “Everything a Groom Needs to Know About Wedding Suits for Men” vogue.com

Lanieri. (24/01/2020) “What to wear to a wedding: the groom’s guide” lanieri.com

Aaanativearts. (n.d) “Cherokee Wedding Attire” aaanativearts.com

Nationalclothing. (30/04/2021) “Tunisian male jebba is one of the oldest Tunisian cultural garments” nationalclothing.org

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