So, you’ve probably been invited to a Pakistani wedding and are about to attend the big event. The only problem is you have no clue what to wear at a Pakistani wedding and what to expect.
Don’t worry. This article will be a great help for anyone who is not familiar with the Pakistani wedding culture.
But before we get into it, let me just quickly explain to you Pakistani wedding 101.
Weddings hold great value in Pakistani culture as marriage plays a key role in the religion of Islam, and family is the core of Pakistan’s social life. Therefore, it’s not only two people getting married but two whole families.
Due to Pakistan’s rich cultural diversity and different preferences of families, Pakistani weddings can vary greatly in terms of events, duration, and way of celebration.
The wedding consists of pre-wedding celebrations like Dholki, Mayun, and Mehndi, which are all about fun, singing, dancing, music, and pampering the bride and groom.
A Pakistani wedding can last from 2 to 7 days, depending on each family.
The 2 main events are called Nikah and Walima. Each event has its own purpose and style, featuring numerous ceremonies and traditional outfits to look out for.
With tons of different styles in Pakistani fashion, it can get quite overwhelming to choose the right outfit, especially as a foreigner.
To help you make your day easier, I compiled all the necessary information that will assist you in getting the perfect Pakistani attire and understanding the ceremonies.
As a Pakistani local, I will explain to you all of these events and their ceremonies and assist you in finding the perfect outfit ideas.
Pakistan is a country that I love. Click to check my other articles on Pakistan. I also linked them all at the end of this article.
The wait is over, and the moment everyone has been impatiently waiting for has finally come. The wedding is about to begin.
Pakistani weddings start with several celebratory events before the initial wedding.
These include the Dholki night, Mayun, and Mehndi also known as Henna Night.
These pre-wedding celebrations are all about fun, singing, dancing, and pampering the bride and groom.
Meanwhile, they are also a symbol of care, happiness, and love for the couple and a way to share the joy of their upcoming future life.
Let’s jump right into it.
The Dholki Night
A Pakistani wedding mostly begins with a Dholki, usually held at the bride’s home.
This pre-celebration is typically held one or two weeks before the main wedding events and is traditionally celebrated by the bride’s side.
The bride’s whole family, relatives, and friends come together and enjoy the night by dancing and singing traditional songs while beating on a dholak drum, hence the name “Dholki Night”.
The ceremony commonly starts in the evening and is usually arranged at the bride’s home.
A beautiful swing sofa known as “Jhula” in Urdu is set up at the location where the bride will be seated.
The whole place, especially the Jhula, is decorated with many yellow, orange, and white colored marigold flowers.
Now, after all, guests arrive and are in attendance, the bride is brought in and seated on the swing sofa.
In front of the bride, you will be able to see lots of colorful embroidered cushions where close family members, relatives, and friends sit together and sing traditional wedding songs while beating on the dholak drum.
Everyone sings, dances, and has some delicious Pakistani food after the singing and dancing sessions.
Families serve Biryani, meat-based dishes, Naan, Pakistani sweets, and Chai.
Furthermore, famous Pakistani snacks like Gol Gappe, Rolls, Samosas, Chaat, and Pathure are also quite popular during pre-celebratory events like Dholki, Mayun, and Mehndi.
All 3 pre-celebrations, including Dholki, Mayun, and Mehndi, are quite similar in theme except for some slight differences in terms of ceremonies.
What to wear?
Apparel choices in Pakistani attire are endless. However, I have some tips to help you narrow it down and find the perfect outfit appropriate for a Dholki.
First things first, Dholki, Mayun, and Mehndi are pretty identical in terms of theme and colors.
It’s all about shades of orange, yellow, and green or poppy colorful outfits in general due to them being happy events.
While most people opt for vibrant outfits, you can also go for darker colors or lighter colors. It’s all up to you.
At Pakistani weddings, it’s a custom to wear traditional fancy clothes along with jewelry like jhumkas (earrings) and churiyan (Pakistani bangles).
It’s very common to wear traditional outfits like Shalwar Kameez, Frock, and Lehenga.
You can also go for a plain elegant outfit and dress it up with alluring jewelry and pretty shoes.
Up next is the Mayun event, which is typically celebrated at the bride’s home.
Mayun is a very traditional function that is also held one or two weeks before the fixed wedding date.
At this event, the soon-to-be bride is secluded from everything and is not allowed to do any chores.
Up until the wedding day, the bride is beautified with oil, a traditional skin-beautifying yellow herbal paste called “Ubtan” as well as many other beautifying treatments to make her glow on her big day.
Also, from this day, it is tradition for the bride and groom not to lay eyes on each other until the wedding day or to leave the house.
However, nowadays, many families celebrate nearly every event together regardless of traditions.
The Mayun ceremony is pretty similar to the Dholki one.
The bride wears a traditional Pakistani dress in yellow or orange combined with Pakistani shoes called “Khusse” and jewelry made from fresh flowers.
Friends and family gather at the bride’s home, where everyone celebrates her while singing cultural songs and applying Ubtan to her face and hands with love and care.
What to wear?
Yet again, bright colors like yellow, orange, and green are safe for color choices when it comes to such events.
Still, you can always tone it up or down as per your own liking or even head towards other colors.
Here are some great outfit inspirations perfectly suitable for a Mayun event.
Also, check my article: Pakistani Wedding Celebrations – Explained with Videos
Mehndi (Henna Night)
Ask any Pakistani about the most enjoyable and delightful wedding event he will say Mehndi. That’s for sure.
Out of all three pre-celebrations, Mehndi or the Henna party is the most important one.
The Mehndi function is typically held one day before the Nikah and is enjoyed with utmost happiness by both families.
Some families organize the event at home, but these days it has become quite popular to celebrate Mehndi events in wedding halls.
Moreover, Mehndi is traditionally celebrated separately by both families, but among present-day Pakistanis, especially the younger generation, it is celebrated by the bride’s and groom’s families altogether.
The theme for a Mehndi event is like you’re having a color bomb exploding in the room, covering each corner with bright poppy colors.
The ceremony begins with the bride and groom being brought and seated on the stage.
At the start, all of the sisters, female cousins, and friends carry beautifully decorated plates with candles and henna towards the stage and place them there.
After, a leaf is put on the hands of the bride and groom.
Then, all their loved ones come and put some henna on their hand, and a bit of oil on their hair and are gifted with traditional Pakistani sweets (“Mithai”) to eat.
This sweet little tradition is rounded up with money given by the guests alongside love and prayers from the elders.
The music and dancing make the Henna night so amusing and popular.
Siblings, cousins, and friends perform delightful choreographies they prepared weeks before the wedding.
Sometimes even the bride and groom step in and show some dance moves.
You get delicious food to eat and an entertaining time watching sweet ceremonies with lots of dancing performances accompanied by captivating music.
What to wear?
Traditionally, guests wear bright, colorful, and fancy outfits in pretty much any color you can think of.
Poppy colors like green, pink, yellow, orange, purple, or a combo are among the best choices for Mehndi outfits.
But you can also go for darker colors like indigo or black to create a contrast between you and the other guests.
Traditional Pakistani designs like Shalwar Kameez, Lehenga, Frocks, Sharara, and Gharara are most welcomed.
While girls prefer to wear eye-catching outfits, it’s very popular for guys to wear a well-fitted Shalwar Kameez paired with a gorgeous embroidered waistcoat.
On the other hand, you can also wear a Shalwar Kameez with a brightly colored shawl around your shoulders.
The Main Events
The actual Pakistani wedding consists of two main events, the Nikkah/Baraat and Walima.
The Nikkah is the most important one and is basically the core of the whole wedding.
While the Nikkah is celebrated more traditionally, the Walima or grand reception is a very formal, subtle, and light-themed event.
The Walima wraps it all up, and the traditional Pakistani wedding is over.
To learn more about general dress codes in Pakistan, please read: What to Wear When Visiting Pakistan? A Local Answers
The Nikah is the heart of a Pakistani wedding as well as any other Muslim wedding in the world.
This is what makes the wedding legal and official under Civil and Islamic law.
In Pakistan, the Nikah ceremony is either held as a separate event or celebrated on the same day of the Baraat (more on that below).
The Nikah ceremony is when things get real. It is a very beautiful and emotional moment for every bride and groom.
Some people choose to have their Nikah at the mosque, while others observe it at their homes or in a wedding hall.
If it takes place in a mosque, the ceremony will be segregated, and no music will be played.
However, in other venues, segregation depends on the family’s religiosity and cultural level.
For the Nikah, there must be at least two male witnesses or one male and two females that can attest that the couple is getting married out of freewill without any force.
The ceremony also includes the declaration of Meher, an Islamic obligatory gift from the groom to the bride.
Besides the bride and groom themselves, the Wali also plays an important role.
Wali, meaning guardian, protector, helper, or custodian in Arabic, is typically represented by the father of the bride.
He is the one who “gives away” his beloved daughter upon her consent.
Once all of these requirements are met, the Nikah is the most commonly performed by the Imam (religious leader).
He will recite prayers and verses from the Quran and ask the bride and groom three times if they agree, upon which they will say “Qubool hai” (“I agree”).
The Nikah ceremony is wrapped up with beautiful prayers for the couple and sometimes even a short sermon (Khutba) about the meaning of marriage.
Last but not least, close family members, friends, and relatives come and congratulate the newly-wed couple.
What to wear?
In terms of colors, you can pretty much wear any color you like. Yet, I will give you some guidelines to help you ace your Pakistani outfit.
How you dress at a Nikah is very important, especially if the event is held at a mosque. I advise you to dress formally but modestly.
Men and women are encouraged to cover their legs and arms. Also, women may be asked to cover their heads in the mosque.
Men typically go for traditional wear like neutral-colored Kurtas paired with a Shalwar or a trouser.
On top of that, it’s quite fashionable to wear a waistcoat or Prince coat on top of it, which creates a very traditional yet formal and elegant look for a Nikah event.
If you want to find out about some of the most famous Pakistani clothing brands, click to check my Pakistani Fashion article.
The Baraat is probably one of the biggest events in a Pakistani wedding.
The word Baraat refers to the groom’s side who has come to take the bride with them.
The event comes right after the day of Mehndi and includes the Nikah (unless it’s held as a whole separate event), Fauji Band (a Pakistani military band playing the drums and other instruments), little traditions like Doodh Pilai, Juta Chupai, and the Rukhsati (departure of the bride).
The Baraat event is organized by the bride’s family and starts with the arrival of the groom and his whole family at the wedding venue.
It is a grand entry with loud traditional drum music. The groom’s brothers and cousins dance in a circle with utmost joy and enthusiasm.
Lots of ten Rupee notes are thrown in the air, which is eagerly collected by the kids.
But personally, I’m not a big fan of this “money-throwing” tradition.
Afterward, the Nikah is performed, and the bride is brought to the stage by either her sisters, brothers, or parents.
Then it’s time for the small traditions like Doodh Pilai, where a royal blend of milk, saffron, almonds, pistachios, and green cardamom is given to the groom by the females of the bride’s side.
In return, they ask for money, which can sometimes get really funny.
Some grooms try to give them a penny and call it a day.
Suggested Reading: Pakistan’s Top 21 Fashion Designers You Need To Know
The same goes for Juta Chupai. The girls steal the shoes of the groom and will only return them after negotiating a good price.
Relatives and friends congratulate the couple, give lots of prayers and good wishes, and present them with money and gifts like decor items, home appliances, jewelry, and watches.
After a huge Pakistani feast, it’s time to bid farewell to the bride at the time of her Rukhsati.
This is a very emotional moment for her as she leaves her beloved family, home, and childhood memories behind to start a new chapter of life with her husband.
Some families also release two white pigeons before Rukhsati.
The couple then leaves in a lavish car or even in a Tanga (two-wheeled horse-drawn carriage) decorated with fresh flowers.
What to wear?
The Baraat is a big event for both families.
Guests, especially close family and friends, opt for heavily embellished traditional wear along with heavy jewelry that perfectly compliments the outfit.
Similar to the women, men go for traditional Pakistani attire as well. A full on black Kurta and trousers or Shalwar Kameez twinned with a Prince or waistcoat looks really nice.
Other dark colors like a really dark blue, deep maroon, or dark gray would also look quite charming. But you can definitely wear lighter shades like white, for example.
I’ve also seen some people wearing two or three-piece suits, but on average, and in my opinion, as well, this style works best for the Walima event.
Your Pakistani wedding adventure will end with a Walima.
A Walima is a grand reception held by the groom’s side to share the joy and celebrate the new union of the couple.
Compared to the Baraat, a Walima event is much lighter, and formal.
The music is kept lower, and it creates a much calmer and more comfortable atmosphere overall.
On a Walima function, there isn’t really a ceremony to it.
After the couple enters the wedding venue and gets to the stage, all their loved ones come to congratulate them.
They receive lots of love and prayers from their elders, family, friends, and other well-wishers.
It is very common to give gorgeous flower bouquets and money to the bride and groom.
You can also present them with any gift of your choice, like a watch for the groom, jewelry for the bride, decor pieces, or anything else they might like.
What to wear?
The Walima is a very formal, subtle, and serene event that gives the perfect opportunity to glow in some of the prettiest shades of color.
For the girls, it’s best to look out for beautiful light, pastel shades, or other whimsical colors that are candy to the eye.
Try to go for designs like flowy feminine frocks and maxi dresses, lehengas, ghararas, and shararas.
Along with the right amount of jewelry and easy-going makeup, you’re ready to shine.
On a Walima, it’s much like a custom for gents to wear formal western wear like two or three-piece suits paired with perfectly polished formal shoes and nicely done hair.
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written by Asma Schleicher and edited by Efe Genit. Asma is a creative writer with German and Pakistani roots. She is an analytical writer with a degree in business administration.
She mostly writes about cultural, travel, and fashion-related topics reflecting her real-life experiences. You can also check Asma’s profile on Upwork.