Asian wedding style

Published date: 28th February 2019

As the world’s populations mix, meet and mingle elements we borrow from different wedding traditions. In what many would consider the normal British wedding you’ll already find things borrowed from US customs – the ring bearer and flower girl are far more typically American for example.

That cross-fertilisation has certainly influenced some Asian weddings – by which we mean here those of the sub-continent – in Britain: wedding cakes are now of importance; the groom often wears a suit whose cut is very British, though the cloth may be colourful; and where the Rolls Royce or Bentley play their part. For the stylish ‘indigenous’ (oh the clumsiness of those labels) British bride and groom there’s much to be learned from their Asian counterparts.

Anyone financing the event, look away for this paragraph. It is normal to have at least a couple of hundred guests, and some Asian weddings have been known to include 10,000, the festivities lasting days. The huge shindig to celebrate the marriage of steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal’s niece recently is said to have cost £50 million. Mr Mittal’s own daughter’s big day(s) cost an estimated £34 million in 2004. Beyond our pockets clearly, but the idea of a wedding lasting more than a day is interesting – why should people come (often from great distances) just for an afternoon and evening? The Asian wedding is about two families, generally very extended families, almost forming an alliance. They feast, they talk, they make contacts of value in future dealings. Eton for the masses.

‘British’ weddings tend to be rather black (or navy) and white affairs. Asian dos are more colourful. As ‘Asian’ may mean Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, Jain; or cover the different casts, countries and regions, clothing will of course vary. But for the European bride not keen on the full meringue a silk shahara (wide legged trousers worn with a matching top) in red and green, or any number of striking colour combinations, could appeal. Likewise the lehenga, the long pleated skirt richly embroidered. Or if you like simple elegance, it is hard to match a silk sari.

Sequins and pearls are not unknown on British white wedding gowns, but some Asian garments donned by brides put them to shame, with innumerable multi-coloured beads worked into the design, and even the occasional diamond sometimes incorporated. Brocade gives a lighter way of adding colour and pizzazz.

The good news for grooms here, as hinted at above, is that it isn’t just the bride who gets to wear cool stuff at Asian weddings. Those long flowing jackets, some reaching almost to the ground, have a fantastically smart line set off by the lack of collar, minimalist shape made up for by the magnificence of the cloths that may be used – gold, red, purple, silver, embroidered with intricate designs. Silk modji (slipper-like shoes) enhance the outfit, and tasselled stoles add a bit of additional colour or complexity.

Asian touches can be added less dramatically, but still stylishly, with invitations – many now available online – in ‘Asian’ designs, raised print, colourful, embossed with floral motifs for example.

Food plays a huge part at Asian weddings, in some cultures gifts of food playing a part in the lengthy ceremonial. I have mentioned before how enjoyable a curry buffet was at one wedding I attended, but this idea could be taken so much further with a huge banquet – and for the wimpish, not all Asian food is hot.

And then there is the cake, a European aspect given a decidedly Asian twist: it starts with the stands, some of which are crystal artworks; goes to the colour of the cake – plain white overtaken by purples, greens, reds…; and continues with the decoration – the somewhat clichéd two figures replaced by sugar-flowers that again are works of art in themselves. And from what we have seen the American-style stepped cake rather than the tiered British ones, each level held apart by columns, is the norm for Asian couples. That £50 million bash btw had a cake weighing 60kg.

We’re multi-cultural, and the British have never been shy to borrow from Asian culture: chicken tikka our national dish it’s said; polo the sport of the posh; and so many words – plenty that may come up at your wedding: cummerbund, punch, bangle, shawl, sorbet, shampoo and pyjamas among them. So why not incorporate a bit of Asian style in your wedding?

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