New York Apparel Peopling of New York, Spring 2015

New York Apparel

Wedding Attire

Bridal Blending

By: Zaris Mota

In the melting pot of New York City, interracial and interethnic marriages have become more common. In fact, according to the 2010 census, interracial marriages in the United States have increased by 28 Percent in the last decade. The data showed that 10 percent ofcensus married couples, and 18 percent of non-married relationships, were composed of different ethnic or racial groups. In New York alone nearly 10 percent of the heterosexual population were married to someone outside of their race. One of the more superficial implications of this trend is that the weddings must now incorporate the fashions and traditions of several unique cultures. East meets West fusion weddings, which feature brides from India, China, and Vietnam, are particularly interesting because their traditions and forms of dress vary so drastically from the American traditional form.

American weddings have their roots in Western fashions, which inspire typical imagery of women in  floor-length white gowns and men in black tuxes. However, that customary style of dress is entirely based off American Anglo-Saxon roots. The culture of wearing white wedding gowns did not become popular until 1840 when Queen Victoria wanted to incorporate white lace into her wedding dress. After she received a lot of publicity for her gown, women across the Western world imitated her heavily. From that, the myth was born that a white gown would signify a pure-hearted and virgin bride but even that perspective was a bit misconstrued because that viewpoint descends from white dresses originally worn at christenings and confirmations.

Eastern Cultures, such as the ones I previously mentioned (India, China, and Vietnam), did not subscribe to the same English fashions that America did. Even today these countries feature stark differences in terms of the color (mainly in that they have color), shapes (most of the dresses feature layers, and form-fitting, yet modest, silhouettes), and the accessories (including styles of hair) they choose to wear on their wedding days. India, however, is a huge country where the cultural forms of dress tend to vary slightly from culture to culture so I will point out those subtle differences along the way while describing the wedding fashion under the general umbrella of Hinduism. Then, I will provide a brief overview of the Chinese and Vietnamese wedding traditions. Finally, I will provide five examples of Fusion Weddings which I took from bridal blogs and wedding photographers. For more information about the individual weddings, and more photos, please click on the couple’s names.


Indian weddings feature a great amount symbolism and rely heavily on vibrant imagery in order to translate that message. Indian wedding sarees as opposed to American wedding dresses are usually red to symbolize fertility and emotional strength which were characteristics commonly valued in young women and brides; because white sarees are traditionally for mourning, Indian-American brides tend to opt either for a traditional wedding saree or a colored western wedding dress. Other bold and vibrant colors such as orange, burgundy gold and green are featured in the décor and in the accents of the saree and tapestries hung throughout the room. In terms of accessories Indian brides wear Mehndi tattoos, (temporary tattoos made of henna) as a means providing good omens to the bride and the groom. The belief is that the darker the mehndi, the more loved the bride will be and the longer their relationship will last. American weddings do not really have anything similar in regards to that form of symbolism so Indian-American brides tend to always incorporate that into their Americanized weddings. Indian brides also must wear their hair up or in a long braid to the side depending on what region they are from. They follow that tradition mainly to accommodate their mandatory 16 pieces of jewelry, called the Solah Shringar, which American weddings do not have. Although the Indian culture is complicated and rich with tradition, fusion weddings tend to heavily simplify the practice or incorporate very few western traditions.

Fusion Hindu Wedding: Cathleen and Kurt


Cathleen and Kurt’s Wedding

This wedding is between a Black-American woman of Haitian descent and a Hindu American man of Indian and Moroccan descent. In this wedding, because the woman has a predominately western background, the Hindu culture takes somewhat of a backseat. She opted for a traditional white wedding dress, however she did wear the large earrings and bangles that are common in a Hindu wedding. She also did the wedding Mendhi, which is a totally necessity for blessing the marriage. The groom, on the other hand was a bit more loyal to his culture. He opted in favor of the American tradition of “something blue” rather than the more common red and gold tones. However he used the silks and vibrant shades that are essential in the translation of Hindi traditions. He also kept the traditional wedding turban and the Sherwani. His bridal party also wore the Sherwani in bright blue while he wore his in white to match his bride.

Fusion Hindu Wedding: Koel and Sanjeev


Koel’s Wedding Bouquet

This wedding is between two American Born Indians so it is mostly traditional. As you can see from the picture the bride is wearing the full Solah Shingar, her hair is up and her wedding saree is yellow, orange and red. However a very subtle way she has managed to Americanize her wedding is by using roses in her bouquet. Traditionally, Indian wedding bouquets have brightly colored marigolds and jasmines. Her reception was also mostly white with colored lanterns, which is nearly unheard of in Indian weddings where the reception venue is usually draped in bright colored tapestries.


Chinese wedding practices place a great emphasis on bringing luck and good fortune to the bride and the groom. The wedding dresses in China differ slightly between the North and the South; however they share the similarity of being red with silver and gold embroidery. The color red in China is meant to symbolize good luck and drive the evil spirits away. The difference is that in the South the gold is used to embroider a dragon or a phoenix onto the two-piece “Qun Gua” gown. In the North, on the other hand, the bride wears a one-piece dress called the “Qi Pao” in which the gold and silver embroidery is decorative. Traditionally brides will also wear a red veil to hide their face from the groom until they are married. She should also wear her hair in a bun because they consider that to be the style of a married woman. Other than that, Chinese brides have a lot of freedom in regard to their dress. Traditional rituals like the tea ceremony, and traditions regarding the wedding cakes are a larger part of Chinese wedding culture than the dress. The tea ceremony is an extremely important ritual, equivalent to the vows in American weddings. The ceremony involves kneeling to the heaven and earth, to their ancestral tablets and their parents, and then to each other. They also present tea to the parents and all the relatives in order of seniority. The Chinese wedding cakes are also very different from American wedding dresses because they are baked with a dragon and phoenix imprint on the surface.  The cakes have fillings made of lotus seed paste, red bean paste or green bean paste.

Fusion Chinese Wedding: Carina and Max


Carina’s Western and Chinese Gowns

Carina is Mongolian/Chinese, while Max is Russian/Canadian. Her wedding is very typical of modern Chinese weddings. Today, it is normal for Chinese brides to conduct Western wedding ceremonies where they wear white gowns and veils and then they switch into their traditional cultural gowns for the reception and tea ceremony. Carina is wearing the Qi Pao. The way Carina chose to incorporate Chinese culture into a Western style wedding was by using red as her main bridal color. It is seen in her bouquet, decoration and make-up. Carina and Max also opted in favor of a western style wedding cake. However, they maintained the essence of a Chinese wedding by participating in the tea ceremony and incorporating the protection and luck offered by the color red. She also wore a bun throughout the wedding.


Vietnamese weddings are similar to Chinese weddings because they are both influenced by Confucian principles. Vietnamese brides wear the red “Ao Dai.” The ao dai, is a high-collared, floor-length gown with high slits on the side. It has two layers. The top layer is usually sheer on the chest plate and embroidered, while the bottom layer is a solid colored silk, traditionally in either red or gold. A Vietnamese bride will also wear her hair up. She will use three combs, which will be gifts from her mother, each symbolizing something different. The final comb, however, comes with the mother’s blessing of the marriage and is said to bring good luck. On her wedding day, the bride will wear what is called the Khan, which is a saucer shaped headpiece. Another significant difference in Vietnamese weddings is that the bridal party will also wear the Ao Dai in different colors. The groom will also wear a black ao dai (the top layer paired with silk trousers). They also participate in the tea ceremony in the same way as the Chinese.

Fusion Vietnamese Wedding: Valarie and Shyam


Shyam-and-Valerie-Optimised-for-Social-Media-1274 Valerie’s Dress Changes (Red: Vietnamese; Gold: Indian)

This wedding is interesting because it features an American born couple of Indian and Vietnamese descent. Valerie’s approach to incorporating all the cultures was to have three separate traditional ceremonies. The couple respected the traditions of their individual cultures entirely by having five-days of nuptials, which they wrapped up with a traditional white Western wedding. This is an extravagant approach that none of the other brides took but makes sense when you’re trying to maintain the integrity of three very different cultures. Especially since Indian weddings are very intricate and, as we saw with the Haitian/Indian wedding, the watered down version is nowhere near as satisfying as the real tradition.













Fusion Vietnamese Wedding: Hang and Bory


Cambodian and Vietnamese Fusion Wedding

This wedding between a Vietnamese woman and a Cambodian man, both American-born, portrays probably the most seamless fusion of all these examples. The first difference you will notice between her wedding and a traditional Vietnamese wedding is that she is wearing a white ao dai, and a tiara instead of the khan. Beyond that, there is no red in her bridal party, dress or decorations. She confines the red to an alter in her venue, full of traditional and cultural items. While her wedding screams American first and Vietnamese second, when it comes to the all important tea ceremony she uses red Vietnamese flags and traditional tea sets so she doesn’t disrespect the ceremonial aspects of the wedding. She also makes her bridal party wear the ao dai. Her husband is not Vietnamese so he does not wear the ao dai, khan, or even a dark suit. He wears a light grey and white suit instead. Her reception is also entirely western and she even wears a traditional white wedding dress. She does a good job of exemplifying how the cultures can blend without being lost entirely

Fusion weddings, which incorporate American western aesthetics, with extremely different eastern traditions, demonstrate how we can meld and melt into each other while maintaining our individual cultures. Respecting each other’s differences while working toward a common culture is what America is all about. These brides exemplified several degrees of blending to provide an example for how American wedding aesthetics can blend with aesthetics that are valued overseas.

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