There’s nothing we love more than a good wedding tradition, and the Indian culture knows how to do them right. Among one of the rituals in their three-day (sometimes more) wedding celebration is the mehndi party, a ceremony held before the wedding in which henna designs are applied to the bride’s hands and feet—as well as the hands and feet of her closest female family and friends, while they share their secrets for a happy and fruitful marriage for the duration of the event.
To create henna, an artist applies paste in delicate designs on the hands. After drying, it flakes off, leaving the skin stained with the artwork. The longer the paste stays on, the darker the stain becomes. It’s said the depth of the color in the bride’s henna—and the longer it lasts—indicates just how much the groom will love her. Traditionally, the most intricate henna patterns are applied to the bride to set her apart from everyone else. It can feature anything from lace patterns and nature-inspired elements to the groom’s name (which he has to locate) and depictions of animals and Hindu gods, as well as symbolic designs that signify blessings, luck, joy, and love.
Priyanka Chopra's wedding-day mehndi even featured a tiny guitar on her upper right hand as a tribute to her musical groom. But there’s more to henna than its beauty. Its natural herbal medicinal remedies are supposed to cool the nerve endings of the body, helping relieve the bride of stress before her big day—all the more reason to carry on with the mehndi party. Its herbaceous properties don’t prevent us from gazing at the stunning intricacies of a good henna pattern, though.
We’ve rounded up 17 henna designs that we just can’t take our eyes off of.
A Multicultural Approach
While Sarah is Chinese, her husband is Indian. She hid the Chinese double-happiness character in her palm to marry their two cultures together for their colorful multicultural wedding in New York. She even set up a henna artist in her wedding’s lounge area where guests could get henna as well.
Get Everyone Involved
“Before the wedding, we had a mehndi [henna] party," says bride Sarada. "The wedding party and my close relatives came together, and we had our hands and feet adorned with traditional designs." Her bridesmaids chose minimalistic patterns stemming from just one finger and circling around the wrist for her at-home wedding in Tennessee.
Sonia received her henna during a traditional mehndi party with 40 female family members and friends before her Hindu and Christian Nashville nuptials. The red design matches her saree with gold detailing, which her mother-in-law had hand-made in India.
Megha's intricate henna tattoos covered the majority of her arms and legs—the entire process took almost eight hours to complete. She adorned the gorgeous results with her mother's personal jewelry pieces for her mountainside celebration in Colorado.
Consider Outfit Changes
The dainty lacework of Maanasa's mehndi art perfectly mirrored the designs on the sunny, buttercup-hued sari she donned for her Hindu ceremony. But it also absolutely stunned alongside the lace detailing of the wedding dress she changed into for her lakeside nuptials in New York.
A Floral Affair
Nayha's delicate mehndi design matches the intricate floral embroidery on the bridal lengha she wore for her garden-inspired wedding in Memphis. Her husband, Zubin, wore a sherwani with metallic accents that matched her floral ensemble. He continued the matching theme by even getting a mehndi of his own—Nayha's name and two little hearts prominently placed on his left hand.
Don't Forget the Feet
Although the henna on Simi's feet (which features a matching set to that covering her hands and arms) was mostly covered by both of her lenghas, they are on full display in this getting ready portrait. We would have loved to see the gorgeous designs making little appearances as she twirled the night away at her NYC wedding.
Against the Grain
Kaabia rocked super-detailed mehndi artwork with a bespoke beaded lengha in ivory—a color that is traditionally considered inauspicious for Indian weddings; but this bride's whimsical beach wedding in Vietnam was uniquely of her own making.
Tahsina's henna designs make for a jaw-dropping complement to the richly-hued blue lengha with gold detailing she wore for her Bengali wedding in Long Island.
Be True to You
It goes without saying that Seema Bansal, the co-founder of Venus et Fleur, would incorporate rose motifs in her bridal henna. The intricate designs featured a large bloom on the palm of each hand and smaller blooms on the front and back of each finger, as well as a rose-adorned mandala on the back of each hand. Her fingertips were completely covered in a pink-hued henna to match every one of her six dresses for her lavish Miami wedding.