• Amber

My Big Fat Indian Wedding - Mehendi

Mehendi is intricate design created with henna paste. So, instead of saying "your henna is beautiful," you instead say "your mehendi is beautiful". Henna is simply the material used to create it.


Henna is associated with positive spirits and good luck. This is mainly why it's applied on special festivals and weddings!


It was a two day process for my family. On the first day, sisters and aunties all had their mehendi done. I remember people spread out on the floor on pillows.


Henna has an earthy scent. Both apartments smelled strong of clay and lemon. Music played and every corner was full of laughter.


My mother sat down to begin hers in the early evening. She had packed long skirts for the whole trip, although she'd never worn skirts before. She'd asked me what to wear and I suggested skirts, mostly because it was going to be hot and it's slightly more formal than pants.

I remember her sweeping her skirt to sit down.


The mehendi artists were all covered from head to toe in black. They were also very young and had small hands that worked as quickly as possible. Mom's hands took at least an hour. Dad had a little design done for good luck and my niece sat quietly for the longest time I'd ever seen.

The next day, mine started in the mid-morning. I sat upright in the bed while my hands and arms were decorated. I remember my tailbone falling asleep around the 3rd hour. There was an artist on my left and an artist on my right. They kept glancing at each other's work to be sure that it matched.


We took a break for a late lunch. Ravi fed me by hand. It was really romantic.


He usually complains when I have mehendi done- he doesn't like the way it smells. That day, he was quiet and caught up in the pomp and circumstance of it all.


As soon as my hands and feet were finished, I went out to the common room to sit underneath the ceiling fan. You can't touch anything for hours while it's drying, and I'd been being worked on for 4.5 hours already.


We chatted and laughed for awhile before it seemed dry enough to flake off. Once the henna falls off the skin, the stain remains and darkens over time.

That night was the first celebration. The event was held conveniently right outside the apartment complex. Throughout the day, people were building a stage outside and delivering benches and chairs.


The sun fell, but it was hot. I mean, really hot. It was probably 95 degrees in the dark. My face was flushed with warmth and you could tell that my dad was overheating, but he'd picked prime real estate in front of the industrial fan.


My mother in law and her three sisters sat on stage, which was decorated in fabrics. They were colorful and sparkling. One woman sat in the middle, singing and playing the dhol drum. As soon as the music began, it was a party.


The volume was way up and the energy was awesome. My brother in law came to explain many of the lyrics to the songs they were singing, which were playful.

From the apartment buildings around us, you could see neighbors hanging out of the window to see what was happening. There were probably 20 people in various buildings just sitting on their balcony, watching us like television.


We had dinner with our guests and the party amplified even more. Everyone got up to dance and the singing turned into a DJ.


The temperature never dropped, so all of us were sweating like hell. That didn't stop anyone from dancing like crazy. My brother in law, Raj, always has so much energy and can dance for hours on end.


In proper Gujarati fashion, we ended the night with Garba. Everyone arranged themselves in a big circle and we followed each other's fun steps in a pattern.

It was a quaint and humble and festive evening. There were 40 or 50 people in attendance and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. It felt like a wedding party, so I expected the next several days to be similar, but I was so wrong...

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