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Style Tips for Saris

What to know about the traditional garments for traditional Indian weddings

BY LAUREN PARRAN

CTW Features

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When people think of a traditional weddings, they often think of a bride walking down the aisle in a beautiful white gown while guests in dapper suits and formal dresses stand for her procession commenting on how beautiful she looks.

But when it comes to a traditional Indian wedding that image may be just a tad off. Bold and bursting colors drape the bride, who is traditionally garmented in a very embroidered and stone detailed red sari with henna covering her hands and jewelry adorning her. "Colors are very important. You're supposed to wear vibrant colors," says Shamaya Shahid, a sales associate at Hello Sari in New York who grew up attending Pakistani weddings with traditional garments.

Indian weddings celebrations are about four days long and full of traditional events like putting henna on the bride and feeding the couple sweets. For many of these celebrations, traditional clothing may be worn, but the lavish clothing won't appear until the day of the actual wedding ceremony. "With Indian clothes, you have so many choices and so may degrees of how fancy it is or how extravagant it is," says Priyanka Prakash, founder of Fifth Avenue Events, a New York event-planning firm that focuses on South Asian culture.

Women usually wear one of three types of garments to Indian weddings. A salwar kameez, popular all over India, is a dress that can be worn casually or dressed up. The simple garment is easiest for women dressing up in Indian fashion for the first time, says Prakash. Girls or young women wear lehengas, which consist of a skirt, top,and veil. Finally, there are saris typically worn by young and older women.

Prices for saris can range from $50 to $500 depending on its make, Shahid says. When shopping there are a few things to take into account. "If you're the bride's sister you're expected to dress better than the other guests. If you're a normal guest you're expected to dress nicely but not too heavily," she says. Also, check fabrics to see if they're synthetic or pure and an OK length. "You don't want it to be too long," Shahid says.

Unlike traditional western weddings where guests steer away from wearing the same color as the bride, guests at Indian weddings can wear any color they want, even red, the traditional color for the bride. "In our culture red is symbolized as happiness.; red means prosperity and success," Shahid says. But guests, like the bride, should steer away from black and white, she adds, as they reflect mourning and negativity.

If the couple wants everyone to be in traditional Indian attire for the wedding, there are certain cues for guests to look out for. The events leading up to the wedding ceremony will be very traditional to set the standard. "If you want to go the extra step, there are very creative ways you can go about telling your guests in the invitation," Prakash adds.

"If you've never worn any Indian clothes it is especially fun to try wearing them," she says.

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