A Look Into the World of Henna Wedding Traditions
If you’ve ever been to an Indian wedding and wondered why the bride’s arms and feet are covered in intricately designed tattoos, you’re in luck. These are called henna tattoos and are predominantly a part of traditional Indian wedding celebrations. In this post, we’ll take a deep dive into what henna means in Indian weddings and other cultures, its current place in society, and how millennial weddings are reinventing this age-old tradition.
The Symbolism And History of Henna in Weddings
Before henna had a place in weddings, it was first used to adorn the body for unspecified purposes in Mesopotamia and Egypt. It’s difficult to know exactly where henna started being incorporated in wedding traditions since people from India, Middle East, and Africa have been using it for more than 5,000 years already.
However, Indian weddings have definitely popularized the art of henna. It’s also known as mehndi and is done traditionally during the part of the Indian wedding celebration where the bride is entertained by other close female relatives. It is also known that the bride receives the secrets to a lasting and happy relationship from her closest family members and friends during this ceremony.
Henna tattoos are believed to provide blessings, joy, and luck, but more importantly, it also enhances a bride’s look. Oftentimes, brides ask henna designers to cheekily hide their future spouse’s initials in the design. There are symbolic designs that often denote positive qualities — but these differ per culture, region, and country.
As we’ve mentioned, henna in wedding traditions transcends cultures and geography. Countries including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Palestine are all known to use henna during weddings. Henna can also be found in Tunisian weddings, where their henna parties last for up to 7 days, as well as in Sudan where it symbolizes a married woman’s devotion for her husband.
Henna’s Place in The Modern World
These days, Henna tattoos and designs have found their way into western culture with Vogue pointing out that many celebrities, including Rihanna and Beyonce, have adorned their bodies with this ancient art. As such, modern henna designs in non-Muslim or non-Hindu settings have also evolved to complement clothing and act as body jewellery. Thankfully, women in the west who choose to have henna designs in their bodies are seen to appreciate the art, rather than appropriate it. More and more artists are sharing their skills in henna — helping carve this traditional art’s place in the modern world.
How Modern Millennials Apply Henna
Millennial brides who partake in the traditional mehndi festivities choose to have more control over the placement and design of their henna tattoos. Some mehndi patterns can display portraits of royalties, loved ones, and other figures that have a place in a bride’s heart. And other than just being on their arms and legs, some tattoos can be placed on the bride’s neck, collarbone, or even back if they dare to show off more on their wedding day.
The mehndi can dictate what the bride will wear on her special day. For brides who want to adorn their upper bodies, a backless dress or one with a deep neckline can show off their beautifully made mehndi. Brides can alternatively opt for a short dress, see our list of 20 Show-Stopping Short Bridal Dresses and Minidresses, perfect for a thigh-high mehndi! Kaftan maxi dresses will also work perfectly if you choose to follow tradition and are a little conservative. Just be sure to opt for short sleeves or even better, sleeveless outfits to show off your mendhi.
Modern brides have incorporated henna in their wedding traditions in fun and new ways. As seen in our post ‘Bollywood Beach’ henna designs can be used in weddings as a party favour by having your guests design their own henna cookies or even design the cake in intricate mehndi patterns. Ultimately, modern brides who want to incorporate henna in their wedding traditions are free to do so as long as they’re respectful of this millennium’s old tradition and what it means to many people.
Written by Allie Cooper for B.LOVED