Just Saying Culture: The Timeless Art of Bridal Mehndi Designs

Weddings are almost always rooted in tradition. A wedding symbol that has endured the test of time in South Asian cultures is a special form of bridal body art known as Mehndi. Many of you know of mehndi designs by means of the popularized term, “henna tattoo.” But did you know that this body art has a great association with weddings?

Mehndi designs – An intricate mural of nature’s healing power

Mehndi is a rich paste made out of dried leaves of the henna plant. These leaves are ground with oil on stone, giving them an earthy color. This herbal art form is applied to the hands and feet of new brides a few days before the wedding. Many brides hire professional artists to create mehndi designs of their choice, while some may prefer family members adorning their hands. The deep dark colors of the mehndi design contrast with the skin of the bride, giving her a look of bridal grandeur head-to-toe.

Why do women wear mehndi on their wedding day?

In Arabian, African and Indian tradition, mehndi is considered to be auspicious, bringing in good luck, fortune, marital bliss and fertility. Scientifically, henna has strong soothing properties. When applied on nerve endings, it calms the bride and takes the edge off the excessive wedding stress. The medicinal value of the paste prevents the bride from catching viral fever and other minor illnesses. It’s believed that the darker the mehndi shades, the deeper will be the bride’s connection with her spouse.

What varieties of mehndi designs are out there?

Primarily two types, based on how intricate you want the designs to be - Indian and Arabic!

Indian mehndi designs are heavily decked up with curvy symbolization of peacocks, flowers and bride-groom faces. Even the fingertips are elaborately covered in thick paste. Often, the designs go all the way up to the elbows and knees, sometimes even to the shoulders and back. Arabian mehndi designs are by far simpler in sight and slightly blacker in shade. Emphasis is given to showing more skin through the art work. Common design elements are stars, vines, dots of various sizes and birds.

Ultimately, it is up to the bride to decide how much henna she’d like to apply. Nothing is ever too less or too much! Did you know that nowadays, brides with a flair for bling ramp up their style quotient by decorating mehndi designs with sequins, glitter, crystals and even diamonds?

The Indian bridal shower a.k.a the Mehndi ceremony

Mehndi application is a huge deal in Indian weddings – SO huge that they have an entire day-long ceremony devoted to it! Female friends and family members gather at the bride’s home in a joyous celebration of song and dance, just like at Western bridal showers. A similar, but smaller function is hosted at the groom’s house where the groom also gets a few mehndi designs done on his palms.

Fun with mehndi designs!

As pretty as they are, mehndi designs are not just for their visual appeal or herbal properties! It is tradition to creatively hide the alphabets of the groom’s name within the complicated lines of the mehndi of the bride’s hand. The groom has to find it in a game which acts as an ice-breaker for most couples.

Mehndi is not just an art form, but an essential element in South Asian weddings, bringing friends and family closer to the bride and groom on their special day.

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