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) nuptial 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, fruitful marriage.
To create henna, an artist applies paste in delicate designs on the skin. After drying, it flakes off, leaving the top dermal layer stained with the artwork. The longer the paste stays on, the darker the stain becomes. Some even believe the depth of the color in the bride’s wedding henna design—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 lace patterns, nature-inspired elements, their beloved’s name (which they then have to locate), depictions of animals, Hindu gods, and 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.
Below, we’ve rounded up 29 wedding henna designs that we just can’t take our eyes off of.
Pop Culture Iconography
Harneet's hands were covered in a traditional, swirling henna design from front to back for her intimate backyard wedding in Vancouver. But the iconography on each palm is what's really caught our attention. A camera on one hand honors her own passion for photography while a lightsaber (!) on the other hints at the groom's love of Star Wars.
Bride Lula's floral henna takes on a scalloped design that's absolutely divine. We love how she paired the depth of the henna color (especially down on her fingertips) with the striking gold jewelry and nude nails. And those blue accents? Swoon.
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 for guests to get henna as well.
Sarada's gorgeous wedding henna design starts at her cuticles and crawls all the way up her arm to her elbow. We love how it creates the illusion of a chic lace glove. Her bridesmaids chose minimalistic patterns stemming from just one finger and circling around the wrist for the at-home wedding in Tennessee.
Mehndi designs on the forearms typically last longer than those on the palms or fingers as they're exposed to less friction or fading agents like soap and water.
This lace-like masterpiece is so realistic it's almost indistinguishable from the embellishments of the bride's sari. But, Saba’s hands weren’t the only things to flaunt beautiful henna that looks like lacework—her invitation suite also included henna-inspired details. The results were a delightful blend of themes throughout every aspect of her New Orleans fête.
Henna paste is made from natural ingredients, which provides few options when it comes to color. Whether by stroke of luck or some intentional ingredient mixing, Jean's red design perfectly matches her gold-detailed sari, which her mother-in-law had hand-made in India. This bride received her wedding henna during a traditional mehndi party with 40 female family members and friends before her Hindu and Christian Nashville nuptials.
This bride’s wedding henna design is so beautifully done. It illustrates a full-on narrative befitting the celebrations. The love story depicts her and her groom coming together when the palms are adjacent. And as the story goes, they lived happily ever after.
Mandalas are one of the most common symbols in wedding henna designs. The word translates to "circle" in Sanskrit as it represents unity and wholeness. The addition of the fishnet-like pattern on the fingers gives this bride a sultry, gloved look.
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. If several outfit changes are a part of your big day, we suggest choosing a henna design that complements all of the ensembles.
Bride Stuti's glam henna is on full display on the backs of her hands and wrists. Some believe that this placement offers protection for the bride and the marriage. We adore how the saturated, burnt-orange color adds so much dimension to the breathtaking design.
While some brides incorporate illustrations representing themselves and their beloved, Tania upped the ante with custom portraits on the palms of her hands. Along with traditional henna motifs, she also added her and her groom's names to her wrists in a bracelet-like fashion for her weeklong Knanaya wedding. And yes, her wedding henna design lasted past the very last day.
Despite each bride boasting her own custom designs, the two individual patterns come together beautifully. Both brides had each other’s names hidden in their henna. Can you spot the inscriptions?
A Minimalist Approach
Minimalism and mehndi art rarely intersect, but we'd say this asymmetric design comes pretty close. The om symbol on the right palm is a spiritual representation of the self as the union of mind, body, and spirit. Bride Victoria even had her groom's name hidden amid the piece for her San Francisco nuptials.
A Regal Flourish
Bride Seema’s henna mirrors the delicate gold embroidery on her opulent brocade. The dainty designs on her fingers incorporate tiny lotus blooms to match the Sahasrara on her palms, which represents unity. The fabulous trim adds a regal touch to the final look.
Although the henna on Simi's feet (which features a matching set to that on 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.
Depending on the culture, using religious symbols on henna design for the feet can be considered disrespectful.
A Matching Set
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, even got a mehndi of his own—Nayha's name and two little hearts prominently placed on his left hand. Now that's romance!
Handfuls of Roses
It goes without saying that Seema Bansal, the co-founder of Venus et Fleur, would incorporate rose motifs in her wedding henna design. The intricate details 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 henna to match every one of her six dresses for her lavish Miami wedding.
Kaabia rocked super-detailed mehndi artwork with a bespoke beaded lengha in ivory—a color that is traditionally considered inauspicious for Indian weddings. She continued the against-the-grain theme with a whimsical beach wedding in Vietnam that was uniquely of her own making. The palm placement of her henna, however, didn't break form a tradition. The placement is said to symbolize the wearer's openness to receive blessings.
Florals are just as intrinsic to weddings as they are to bridal henna art. They represent beauty as well as new beginnings—all good ways to start off a marriage. Bride Toral opted for a full trifecta with vines and leaves (and added a garland of baby's breath to match) for her modern wedding in Santa Barbara.
Toral continued the lush garden theme onto the backs of her hands, leading up to the wrists and forearms. Stunning latticework henna detailing emphasized the floral motif while incorporating a new element not found on the palms. The continuity tells a beautiful visual narrative all its own.
Cultures collide in this beautifully winding wedding henna design. Within the traditional paisley and floral motifs also resides the Chinese symbol for double happiness. A fitting touch for bride Erica's multicultural nuptials in California.
Paisley designs are another common motif in the henna sphere. While predominantly seen in fashion, the curving shapes are an auspicious symbol of fertility. Here, they're merged with flowers and mandalas across the palms and down each finger.
Bride Monis went all out with a labyrinthine design of mandalas, lace details, and alternating bands decorating her hands, palms, and arms. As a special touch, she incorporated her groom's name in English, Hebrew, and Urdu to the masterpiece. The impressive henna was on full display in her ceremony gown for the Jewish-Pakistani wedding.
Not one to skimp on details, Monis also decked out her feet in matching henna. The design featured a mandala on each foot and a lace print toward the toes. We love how the V-shaped pattern complements the pointed-toe Manolo Blahnik pumps.
Flowers are a staple in wedding henna designs, but we love how this standalone bloom speaks volumes. The petals accentuate the natural curve of the bride's index finger and mirror the beaded buds on the lace sleeves that fall to the wrists. The groom also sported a matching vine mehndi on his pinky finger for the dreamy autumnal wedding in Minneapolis.
Call to Arms
Priya's colorful, Wes Anderson–inspired wedding in Baja California included a plethora of forearm-bearing outfit changes. So, it was only fitting that her bridal henna make the most of the skin exposure. We love how the mehndi spirals from her fingertips to her elbows in one cohesive twisting design.
Vine and leaf motifs in wedding henna designs symbolize strength, devotion, and perseverance. While Rohini's intricate mehndi is full of meaning, it's her leafy fingertips that stand out most. The flourishing vines continue on the backs of her hands and fingers to further accentuate her wedding and engagement rings.
Start on the Right Foot
Flowering vines continue to drape down Rohini's ankles for her flower-filled Atlanta wedding. The dainty trailing plants swirl around a jewelry-like mandala on the tops of her feet before delicately covering her toes. We love how the wedding henna design and bejeweled shoe embellishments mimic the scalloped hem of the sari.
Bride Mira's floral-forward mehndi may seem like a fitting choice for her lakeside nuptials in the Hudson Valley, but there's more to this wedding henna design than meets the eye. At the center of each bold bloom are small swirls that create an eye shape. Eyes—also called "evil eyes"—are considered to ward off evil and protect the wearer from any negative energy.
How long does it take to apply henna?
Application time varies greatly on the complexity of the designs and number of body parts included. Bridal henna can take anywhere between two to eight hours. For guests with more minimalist designs, five to 10 minutes is the average for each hand.
How long does it take for henna paste to dry?
Typically, henna paste takes between 20 to 30 minutes to dry, but it's advised to let it sit for as long as possible to deepen the color.
How can I keep my henna design from fading?
Since the temporary design rests on the top layers of skin, you can prolong its visibility by slowing the skin's natural shedding process. This means keeping the skin well hydrated and moisturized and avoiding any scrubbing or exfoliation. Covering the henna while swimming or showering can also help.
What is the fastest way to remove henna from skin?
How much does henna cost?
The cost of henna application depends on the size and intricacy of the design. For bridal pieces, pricing can range from $250 to over $1,000.