Mehndi and Matrimony: The Art of Bridal Embellishment

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The art of Mehndi—temporary skin ornamentation using henna paste—has a notable place in Eastern wedding customs. In Hindu culture, a wedding is a grand and elaborate series of rituals. It's fitting then, that the bride adorn herself as the finest showpiece in the ceremony. Similar to a western bachelorette party (without the scandal), an Indian bridal pre-party is an important part of the wedding tradition. The bride's friends gather together to celebrate and embellish the bride with henna paste. Placement and style depend on the region or nationality, but most cultures typically decorate at least the palms and the top of feet. The design can even extend all the way up to her elbows and knees—a sign of happiness. Brides favor as deep of a color on the skin as possible, which represents good luck and blessings from the in-laws. 

The designs vary from culture to culture, but you'll typically see intricate natural motifs and curvilinear shapes in Indian Mehndi, and find bold geometric patterning in Arabic designs. Natural elements include flowers, leaves, and vines—seldom animals or creatures. However, some designs incorporate peacocks, the national bird of India, or elephants, which symbolize good luck. The wedding party sometimes hides the names or images of the bride and groom in the design itself and the couple cannot commence the wedding night until the groom finds both names. In some cultures, the groom also decorates his hands, but typically, the focus is mostly on the bride.

We are so inspired by these intricate and opulent bridal rituals. Don't know how to translate these into your modern beauty routine? One of our favorite nail mavens, Robin, created this fantastic Mehndi-inspired tutorial so you can appreciate and incorporate these intricate, detailed patterns on your nails.