Should I buy a second dress to attend a multi-day wedding?
August 21, 2018 9:39 AM   Subscribe

I'm invited to a Hindu wedding that takes place over two days (an evening reception followed by a morning ceremony). Should I wear a different dress for each day?

The dress code says Indian or Western formal. The first day is the baraat plus cocktails/dinner/dancing; the second day is the ceremony and lunch (no reception afterwards). I already bought a floor length, Western-style gown-- would I need to get another one? I'm trying to decide on:

a) formal gown on day 1, different formal gown on day 2
b) less formal dress ("cocktail attire"??) on day 1, formal dress on day 2
c) same formal dress on both days
d) something else?!?!

I'd like to be able to wear the same dress on both days, but I don't know how horribly rude that would look! I'm also not sure how elaborate or traditional the wedding will be. Other details:

- The first day starts in the afternoon and goes 7 hours to the night
- The second day is 5 hours, breakfast through lunch
- The bride's family is South Indian and the groom's is North Indian; they're both 2nd gen
- I'm not South Asian
- We're all in the U.S.

There's a mehendi the day before and I'll wear something more casual to that. My date is planning to wear the same Western-style suit on both days. Thanks so much!
posted by spaet to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Can you just wear something you already have for the first day and something new for the following one? I would say wearing the same clothing isn't customary, but if soneone did that at my wedding I would think they were being frugal, not rude. Probably depends on the values of the family in question.
posted by crunchy potato at 9:48 AM on August 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

I went to one of these and the next-day morning part was more casual. I wouldn't wear a floor-length formal gown to a morning wedding - I would either wear a more casual dress you already own or, if you don't have one, get one.
posted by something something at 9:51 AM on August 21, 2018 [9 favorites]

I can't advise you on what would be appropriate for this wedding, but I should think it would be a good idea to bring two dresses from a practical perspective alone. On that first day you're going to be spending seven hours in your dress, during which time you will be eating, drinking, and dancing in it. Even if you manage not to spill anything on your dress, you will almost certainly still want to put on a fresh dress the next morning.
posted by orange swan at 9:52 AM on August 21, 2018 [48 favorites]

I don't think there is anything wrong with asking the person who invited you to their wedding about what would be best. I agree that it sounds like formal for the night before and more causal for next day sounds right, but they're the experts! Ask them.
posted by ancient star at 10:03 AM on August 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

I agree with orange swan -- wearing the same formal dress on both days seems really impractical. Even if the dress is still stain- and rip-free at the end of the first night, it is not going to be clean or fresh the following morning. Women's formalwear tends not to breathe well at all, so it is likely to be at least a little ripe at the end of the first night.

I would be reluctant to buy a second gown (two new gowns that will get worn very infrequently?!) but I would definitely explore my closet to see what appropriate outfits I might be able to put together, and then visit a thrift store or hit the sales if I needed to.

As for which day to wear the gown, ASK!
posted by schroedingersgirl at 10:10 AM on August 21, 2018 [5 favorites]

I don't think you have to buy anything. Wear dress pants and a nice blouse one day if that's what's on hand. I'd wear two separate outfits, just because one will likely be dirty by day two and also because it's part of the social contract of events.
posted by Kalmya at 10:24 AM on August 21, 2018

Definitely wear a different outfit on each day. It's impractical and kind of strange to do otherwise, especially when the second outfit can be something that you already own. If you have any Indian or Pakistani friends they would probably be happy to lend you something. These options are considered "legitimate"- you are not expected to necessarily wear a brand new outfit, unless you are part of the immediate family.
posted by cacao at 10:41 AM on August 21, 2018

Yes, different outfit! When I went to a wedding with this structure, I wore a cocktail dress for the first night and a garden party dress for the morning ceremony.
posted by snaw at 10:44 AM on August 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: South Asian here. If this is anything like the family weddings I've been to, the expectation would be two different dresses. You don't have to buy another -- look at Rent the Runway, or borrow from a friend. A less formal dress for the daytime ceremony is fine, but it should still be at least knee-length or you risk scandalizing someone's grandma.

PS if no one has told you this: bright colors are A-OK and even preferred! (But not red; red is for the bride.)
posted by basalganglia at 10:47 AM on August 21, 2018 [14 favorites]

Best answer: Indian here - seconding a) getting a second dress b) having it be something you own, or something borrowed from an Indian or Pakistani friend - a sari, if you're comfortable wearing one, is pretty one-size-fits-all AND most of us are absolutely delighted if a non-Indian guest wants to wear one (and willing to help you pin the dratted thing properly in place).

I would suggest wearing the gown for the first night and the sari/other nice-but-more-casual dress for the actual ceremony. When my cousin got married all the white girl guests were in nice cocktail dresses for the ceremony.
posted by Tamanna at 10:50 AM on August 21, 2018 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks so much everyone, I'll definitely plan for two outfits! I was scared of being underdressed for the super important ceremony, but I'm feeling more reassured now :) I already have something formal for the reception and I can hopefully dig up something nice/semi-formal for the ceremony. Thanks everybody!!
posted by spaet at 10:57 AM on August 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

Spaet, FWIW, you will be underdressed - but that's because South Asians at weddings are ridiculously, outrageously overdressed (the Desi lot at the aforementioned wedding looked like an M&M factory had exploded), but we don't expect non-Desis to join in the madness - you will be fine, and perfectly appropriate, in a knee-length cocktail dress. Add sleeves or a shrug if you're super worried about giving someone's aunty the vapours, but don't sweat it.
posted by Tamanna at 11:19 AM on August 21, 2018 [6 favorites]

Asked and answered, but just chiming in as another desi that yes, two outfits. Also, wearing EVERY PIECE OF GOLD JEWELRY YOU OWN is a perfectly acceptable way to make either/both outfits more dressy. And perhaps I can also underscore that Indians don't assume that black is more formal. A shift or sheath dress in a vibrant color with gold jewelry and nice shoes would be great.
posted by BlueBlueElectricBlue at 12:57 PM on August 21, 2018 [4 favorites]

Don’t wear light blue or red; I always get a super positive reaction to wearing orange (and yes, ALL the gold - especially bangles). A fancy Kurta or Sari on the second day would be appropriate. (I am super careful about cultural appropriation but the Desi community loves sharing their awesome clothing that is also very comfortable). Enjoy the dancing!
posted by saucysault at 1:05 PM on August 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

If you're in Seattle, you can borrow my sari.
posted by Margalo Epps at 2:10 PM on August 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Another South Asian chiming in to say that two dresses are better than one - wear the formal gown to the evening event and a cocktail/ party dress to the daytime event. Vibrant colors are great, and like my fellow desis upthread have said, you can't go wrong with bangles. Buy some to match your dress and add gold or silver to accentuate the lot and you can't go wrong. Also make sure your shoes match the dress - sandals with some embellishment are usually perfect.

South Asians at weddings are ridiculously, outrageously overdressed (the Desi lot at the aforementioned wedding looked like an M&M factory had exploded), but we don't expect non-Desis to join in the madness

posted by Everydayville at 2:20 PM on August 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My fellow South Asian Mefites have steered you in the right direction! Don't wear the same dress to both events. Avoid red (which is what the bride wears, but pink/orange/maroon are fine), black (sombre) and white (white is for funerals, although white with a vibrant print would I think be fine).

And yes - if you put out the word that you want to borrow a sari, I'm sure members of the wedding party will be happy to lend you one and help pin it on - I've never been to a wedding where the sight of a non-Indian guest in a sari was greeted with anything other than cries of delight. If not, of course, a nice vibrant dress will go down a treat.
posted by Ziggy500 at 3:53 AM on August 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

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