A lot of focus tends to be given to the bride-to-be’s wardrobe, so much so that the groom’s repertoire can end up playing second fiddle. But in all honesty, why should brides have all the fun? An Indian wedding with its plethora of pre-wedding festivities and parties is the perfect opportunity to bring out your inner sartorialist, and dabble with a range of traditional menswear. Not sure what to wear for every key event leading up to the ‘I dos’? We have the answers for you.
Meet the Expert
If you are just starting out with your wardrobe planning, look at singer Nick Jonas, who married actor Priyanka Chopra Jonas in an intimate palace wedding in India, for inspiration. For the mehendi (henna party), he wore a self-embroidered cotton kurta and churidar in ivory. The sangeet—which is essentially an evening of dance performances and revelry—saw him in jewel tone silk sherwani jacket with a matching kurta underneath. And for the Hindu ceremony, it was a classic beige sherwani set with a turban (safa) and embroidered stole to match. Not sure what these silhouettes mean? We break them down for you below.
Simply put, the kurta is a tunic that is often favored for pre-wedding festivities. Made in fabrics ranging from cotton and linen to silk, it has the potential to be dressed up or down with ease. Traditionally full-sleeved and calf-skimming, designers are now experimenting with length and proportions to give it a more modern feel. Play with prints and solid colors for daytime festivities like wedding lunches or the mehendi, or embroidery for evening soirees like the sangeet. While typically worn with a churidar (traditional legging-style trousers), you can also wear them with ankle-length cotton trousers.
Kunal Anil Tanna recommends a vibrant, quirky shirt-style kurta, which can even be layered with a textured bomber jacket (should the weather permit it) for the mehendi. Since the function typically takes place outdoors during the daytime, Kunal Rawal is in favor of pastels and subtle hues like white, salmon or mint.
The Bandi or Nehru Jacket
A bandi set is the real MVP of an Indian traditional menswear wardrobe—it can instantly dress up a simple kurta, can be mixed and matched to be worn in multiple ways, and is high on comfort. Talk about a one-and-done staple!
The Nehru jacket (named thus as it was popularized by former Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru) is essentially a hip-length tailored coat with a mandarin collar, and comes in a variety of prints, colors, textures, and embroideries. It can be layered over a contrasting print or a muted hue kurta. You can wear a solid color over a loud print or go tone on tone.
Take a cue from Kunal Nayyar’s recent Diwali look, and go all black in a rich fabric like silk or brocade for the sangeet. Since the sangeet will be all about movement—the groom is expected to make more than a fleeting appearance on the dance floor—comfort ought to reign supreme when picking your look, and a bandi fits the bill.
The Bandhgala Suit
The Bandhgala is India’s formal suit. It's also called the Jodhpuri since it was born in the princely state of Jodhpur in 19th century. Often known as the ‘eastern tuxedo,’ this suit consists of a structured, closed collar jacket that falls below the waist; worn with slim trousers or breeches. Brides tip? Keep the top two buttons of your bandhgala open for a slick look. The bandhgala is a favorite choice with grooms for events like the sangeet, reception, or engagement because not only is it formal, but also incredibly royal. Think of it as a fitting replacement for a classic three-piece suit.
Tanna feels a layered open bandhgala with a tunic and trousers is a winning choice for a modern sangeet look. Choose a deep, evening-ready hue or tonal embroidery to dress it up. A thoughtful addition? A pocket square that matches the print, color, or motifs on your bride’s outfit! Some grooms even add a string of gemstones to accessorize their sangeet look.
A sherwani is a button-down knee length jacket worn over a kurta, paired with a churidar or salwar (flared trousers), most popular with grooms for the wedding ceremony. You can opt for one in a textured or simple suiting fabric, or opt for one with embellishments and embroideries.
Rawal recommends a deconstructed sherwani that promises the ease of a Nehru jacket for the wedding day, or a sherwani in a neutral palette, with embroidery based on your personality. “The images of your wedding day will be framed and kept in your house forever. You don’t want to look back and wonder why you wore something that did not resonate with you," he says. "Pick classic pieces and classic colors. A trend-free, season-less look is what you should be after.” Tanna, too, advises an elegant sherwani layered over a soft pastel kurta and slim trousers, with a draped dupatta (stole) to elevate the ensemble.
An achkan is a coat similar to the sherwani, but the difference lies in length. An achkan is shorter, and less flared at the waist then the sherwani. It is favored for the more trimmed, structured look it offers.
Indian brides have a lot of customary additions to their wardrobe, such as the shola shringar or the 16 ornaments to be worn on the wedding day. While grooms do not have as many pre-requisites, different communities have their own rituals surrounding the outfit. The kilangi or sarpech is a common addition—a bejeweled ornament added to the turban on the wedding day. These are often made of uncut diamonds and feather accents.
In traditional Sikh weddings, the groom wears a kirpan or the ceremonial sword as a sign that he is taking on the role of the protector for his wife and family. Rawal explains how they factor in traditions in their groom’s outfits too. For instance, for the saptapadi or the seven pheras (rounds) around the sacred fire. “For this, the newlyweds have their garments tied together— typically the bride's veil and the groom's stole. To increase comfort, we modify the length of the man’s stole so that the couple can walk comfortably as they take their pheras.”
Weddings are also the occasion when grooms don’t shy away from jewelry—be it multiple strands of colored gemstones, a bejeweled brooch, or uncut diamond buttons for your jacket or rings. Mojris or juttis are the footwear that best complement this attire. “Some grooms even wear a kamarbandh (cummerbund) and that determines the embroidery and pattern of the entire wedding outfit,” adds Tanna.
It’s a myth that the groom is limited by choice in comparison to his bride. There are various modern takes on traditional Indian wear available now. It’s easy to curate diverse looks for every event on your wedding calendar. Indian menswear was once simple and safe, but that’s not the case anymore. As younger designers enter the market, they have given wedding occasion wear a true facelift by marrying traditional silhouettes with global appeal and modern twists. Grooms themselves have honed their fashion sensibilities, no longer afraid to step out of the mold for their celebrations.
Rawal, who has dressed some of the biggest Indian celebrities for their weddings, agrees. “Grooms weren’t as involved in the process of purchasing and styling their own garments as they are today. Now, men are far more informed. In fact, they even come in with Pinterest boards and know exactly what piece is from which collection!”
He asserts the royal ‘maharaja’ look which was once popular is cliché and passé now. Outfits that match one’s personality are the norm du jour instead. “Today’s grooms want to know whether a garment is handmade in India or machine-embroidered," he says. "They are looking for versatile separates and multi-tasking buys they can style in different ways and wear for varied occasions.”
A few tips to approach choosing your wedding attire? Versatility is key. Keep the silhouette and color palette for each look distinctly different, so you don’t end up with a same ol’ wardrobe. Consult your designer on how you can re-wear and repurpose your wedding outfits in a dressed-down manner post the wedding. It’s all about making your outfits last.