20 Traditional Wedding Dress Styles Around the World
Cultures as beautiful as the bride.
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Brides From Near and Far
Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a white dress to round out the American tradition upheld every year at weddings across the country. Though many women in the United States fantasize over pure white tulle and detailed veils, others around the world spend hours satiating a desire for color, elaborate stitching, headpieces and beading. These 20 traditional wedding dresses compliment the beauty in each custom, and the bride who wears them.
Pakistani women are visions in their veil, wide-legged pants and gharara – a brightly colored tunic. Brides can often be seen in gold, yellow, purple, pink or red, with jeweled accents from the veil twinkling in their hair.
Malay brides wear a crown on their wedding day, illustrating their importance in the sacred ceremnoy. Under it are two layers – a tudung, or a hijb, to cover her hair for modesty and a selendang, which is a decorative shawl that covers her headscarf. In an equally dazzling display, a bold sarong compliments her long-sleeved blouse.
There are several ethnic groups in Nigeria and each has their own special wedding day traditions, but one of the most recognizable belongs to the Yoruba, whose brides wear carefully woven cloth referred to as Aso Oke. The material is regarded highly and meant to demonstrate high-class taste. The bride’s attire often consists of five pieces, including a lacey, long sleeved blouse, waistwrap, shawl or sash, scarf and veil.
Located in the southern Phillipines, Yakan women wear wedding dresses with heavy but vibrant fabrics. Geometric shapes are weaved into her dress, bottoms and matching headscarf. A bamboo and flour mixture is used to draw diamonds and circles on the couples’ faces as a tribal form of make-up.
Korean brides wear a hanbok – the traditional dress style dating back thousands of years in history. Hanboks are customized for special occasions like weddings and brides often wear them in shades of pink or purple for the ceremony.
Both the bride and groom don traditional clothes known as Del. In Mongolia, the groom’s is a darker color while the bride stuns in brighter shades. The fabric choices are often lightweight, and have a beautiful balance of silk and cotton.
Indian weddings are known for their vibrant colors and those represented in the bride's dress hold great meaning. Common colors include red, yellow and green, which respectfully symbolize power and strength, prosperity and wealth, and a new birth.
Religions across Japan boast different wedding traditions. During one of the country’s most popular nuptial styles, known as a Shinto wedding, the bride wears a white shiromuku as pictured above. Similar to the west, white represents pureness and virginity, but differs as the color simultaneously represents a woman’s willingness to come into the marriage “blank” and open to her husband’s values.
Many weddings in Peru adopt the classic white dress style, but those in the countryside continue to uphold older traditions. Peruvian weddings are filled with color and the bride’s look is no different, consisting of geometric shapes outlined in red, yellow, blue, green, white and so on. A specially made, layered skirt will be prepared for the day and is designed to correspond with her husband’s custom poncho.
Indonesia is home to many different ethnic groups but its largest, represented by over half of the population, are the Javanese. Their weddings consist of three parts: Siraman, midoreni and the wedding ceremony. During the first, the bride is bathed in scented water by her family. On the second day, she must remain inside during the evening and receive friends and family before the third day, when she dresses in an elaborate batik cloth that overlays a decorative blouse and wraps around her waist.
Gold, gold and more gold. Ghanaian brides are often dripping in hints of yellow and gold, most of which are found in the traditional kente cloth their dresses are made from. Originally meant for kings, kente later adapted into being used for special occasions, like weddings.
Women in Poland follow the white gown trend and pair their dress with a veil known as a welon. Brides avoid open-toed shoes because superstitions dictate that their future wealth may fly from their toes if not enclosed.
Religious couples in Afghanistan uphold tradition by engaging in a nikah ceremony, where the bride and groom are taken to different rooms and asked if they accept the other as their husband or wife. Once both accept the marriage, the bride and groom are pronounced as husband and wife.
Yemeni weddings last five days! On the first, brides wear a face cover as they receives guests who bring roses and lay them before her. Similar to the Javanese, women in Yemen are then bathed. Her hands and legs are decorated with henna on the third day, and her body is similarly fashioned in jewels and gold for the fourth. The fifth day is devoted to the wedding itself.
Betrothed women in Tibet who take part in traditional ceremonies wear a layered, white dress made of wool with colorful aprons on top. Some may swap the apron for an equally vibrant robe.
While western cultures often associate red with devious behavior, the opposite is true in China where the color signifies happiness, life and a deterent of evil. With an addition of gold accents, Chinese wedding dresses often flaunt bold shades of red. In the north, most brides wear a red frock known as a Qipao, while southern brides wear two-piece Qungua.
Kikuyu people belong to an ethnic group in Kenya. For their weddings, the bride and groom wear brown tones that are highlighted by beads. More modern brides opt for a stylish and colorful Ankara print.
Weddings in Norway greatly resemble those you would attend in the U.S. or parts of Europe. Many brides wear a white gown, but there remains those who wish uphold the Norweigan bunad. The bunad is a traditional frock often designed with buckles, jewelry and floral imagery.
In Guatemala, the veil steals the show. It is believed that the longer a bride’s veil, the happier she and her husband will be throughout their marriage, and because of this, veils can be well over six feet long. Instead of a dress, women wear a Patzun Huipil – a tradition blouse often embroidered with flowers – and a similarly designed skirt.
When many think of Scotland, criss-crossing bands of green, red and yellow springs to mind. The traditional Scottish weaving pattern, known as tartan, has been upheld at weddings despite many brides adopting western styles. While a white wedding dress is customary, Scottish women add a tartan cape, train, bow or waistband to tie in their heritage.