Last month a dear friend of mine from grad school got married. Both the bride and groom are Indian, and since we'd been to an Indian wedding before we semi-knew what to expect—beautiful, colorful outfits, a morning ceremony and evening reception, and tons of delicious Indian food. In case you're attending your first Indian wedding, I thought I'd share a little more detail on what to expect:
What to wear to an Indian wedding: We all know that for a traditional American wedding, white is off limits unless you're the bride. For an Indian wedding, red is the color to avoid, as the bride will be wearing a stunning, elaborate red wedding dress called a lengha. For female guests, a suit or kurta along these lines would be appropriate. The women also change outfits after the ceremony, so you will need a second look for the reception (a kurta or lengha in a different color). Ask a friend who has been to Indian weddings to help you pick out your outfits, or find an Indian women's clothing/saree boutique that you can go to in person for help (if you're in the Bay Area, Berkeley has tons of them). Be sure to add jewelry for some extra sparkle! The more bling, the better. You probably already have bangles and large, dangly earrings on hand that would fit right in at an Indian wedding, or you can easily find jewelry appropriate for an Indian wedding on etsy. And you can add a bindi or tikka to adorn your forehead (in my opinion they totally make the outfit and make you feel like an Indian princess ;)).
In my experience the male guests usually just wear American suits rather than a kurta, but you should double check with the bride and groom. Inside the temple for the ceremony, everyone's heads must be covered. The temple will have cloths for the men to tie over their heads. The women's outfit should come with a matching long piece of fabric that you can drape around your head and over your shoulders.
Food at an Indian wedding: You may not eat dinner at the reception until very late (we didn't eat until 11pm), but you won't go hungry! There will be tons of appetizers at the beginning of the reception.
Timing for an Indian wedding: Double check with the bride or groom (or family of the bride/groom, if you don't want to bother them) on exactly what time you should arrive for the ceremony and the reception. For one of the Indian weddings we attended, we were told to show up at least an hour later than the invitation said, because no one would be there at that time. For the other wedding, we were told to please be punctual and arrive at the time on the invitation. It's a good idea to check so that you're not sitting around for an hour by yourselves before the wedding starts.
Those are my tips for attending an Indian Wedding! Hope they're helpful for you if you're attending your first one.