You know how it goes – you’re told to avoid boys your whole life until you hit a certain age and then your parents start freaking out about why you’re not married yet. Luckily for me, my stellar personality and discovery of laser hair removal helped me land a good man. I was able to enjoy being engaged for exactly 1.5 days before the whirlwind of wedding planning began, the families got involved, and what I wanted to be a midsize chubby ceremony has become five days of the big fat Indian wedding.
Never mind the inevitable exhaustion; this meant I would need five spectacular outfits! So in the hopes of looking back at my wedding pictures in 10 years and being like, “Damn girl, you look fine in that lengha!” I journeyed from my hometown of Bangkok to India for my bridal shopping.
Now that I’ve emerged from the madness, frazzled but a little bit wiser, I wanted to share some tips about making sure you get the outfit(s) of your dreams for your Indian wedding:
How should I prepare?
- You probably should be engaged before beginning your wedding shopping; but if you’re not, no worries! Simply ask a nice auntie to refer you to her son, and if your horoscopes align, you’ll be shopping for your wedding in no time.
- Compile images of Indian outfits you like. Keep a very open mind though because your family will offer all their opinions on what color is auspicious, how much cleavage you can show, and that no, it’s not acceptable for a bride to carry a flask in her sari.
- If you don’t know much about Indian designers or what’s cool in Indian fashion nowadays (like me when I started), check out Pernia’s Pop-Up Shop and Exclusively, which has some of the best curated and up-to-date collections. You can purchase online from both of these sites, but I found it more helpful to use them to assess how much Indian outfits cost. Which leads me to…
- Set a budget. Seriously. If you’ve ever been shopping in your life, you already know how hard it is to rein in your spending once you’ve gone overboard. Decide how much you want to spend on each outfit and stick to it. I didn’t even know what a “lakh” meant before I went to India, but trust me, you’ll be hearing it a lot.
- If you find yourself gravitating towards certain designers, reach out to them to make an appointment in advance. You can actually sit face-to-face with a big-name designer (and/or their store representative), and they can be your best ally. They can customize (almost) anything you want, and this is the best way to ensure you stick to your budget and get what you want.
But where should I go in India?
- Now is the time to put your research to good use. I opted for Kolkata and Delhi because the majority of the designers and stores I liked were based in these two cities.
When in Kolkata…
- Kolkata is Indian bridal heaven, and the clothing options here start off at a more reasonable price. This city has also bred some of the most amazing designers. I visited 1) Sabyasachi, which is a no-brainer if you go to Kolkata. He has two stores in the city: a dark, edgy bridal boutique and a second flagship outlet with beautiful saris so make sure you go to the correct one; 2) Ritu Kumar, another designer with roots in Kolkata, known for her traditional lenghas with intricate work; and 3) Anamika Khanna, who is all the rage right now with her quirky dhotis and jackets, mix-and-match sets, and funky Indo-Western flair.
- Other non-designer and multi-designer shops in Kolkata that I liked were Sansita, Sasya and Simaaya. There are tons of other shops that don’t start with “S”, one of them being Vedam, which has a great range for men too (don’t forget about the groom).
When in Delhi…
- Personally, I found the selection in Delhi to be flashier compared to Kolkata. Even designer collections are slightly different between the two cities to cater to the tastes and spending habits of buyers.
- You will find almost every high-end designer in Delhi, and then some. DLF Emporio mall houses some of the most prestigious (read: expensive) Indian designers. If you can easily afford anything from here, please send me a message and let’s be best friends. Otherwise, the mall has multi-label stores Ensemble and a branch of Ogaan (the flagship Ogaan at Hauz Khas Village in Delhi is also awesome), which are definitely worth checking out.
- Block D of Defence Colony (or Def Col as the locals call it) boasts a row of shops worth visiting including JJ Valaya, Dolly J and Pitarah.
- Stand-alone stores in Delhi that have designers and non-designers include Aza, Evoluzione and Carma.
Any final thoughts?
- Why yes, I thought you’d never ask. Whether you spend a few days or weeks in India, pretty soon every outfit will start to look the same, collectively merging into one big ball of net, chiffon, embroidery, rhinestones, beadwork… Stay calm, take a step back and go for the outfit you can’t stop thinking about.
- Brace for numerous nicks and scratches on your arms, face and back when trying on tons of Indian clothing. This is the result of the heavy work on the outfits, and I wish someone had told me to be more careful when tugging the tops over my head.
- There will be moments of confusion and despair but try to buy everything you need for your wedding and beyond during this trip. That’s because you won’t want to look at an Indian outfit again for a long, long time after this!