Night of Henna


The beauty of nature
Guide lines
Showing the life’s longness and strength
Charming colour
To see it again and again
Indicating the love of the groom with the blessing of God and making the life beautiful

Extracted from a tree called “Lawsonia inermis” by drying and grinding leaves and stems. This tree grows in hot, arid regions like North Africa and India. The greenish powder, when mixed with an acidic liquid, makes a temporary red, brown, or orange design on a porous surface.

The occasion of Mehndi ceremony is using henna in ritual skin painting, for birth and marriage celebrations. It became fashionable in the West in the late 1990s, where they are sometimes called henna tattoos. Henna is applied on special occasions as well, like Diwali (Festival of lights in Hinduism, Sikhism, and Jainism), Bhaidooj (The festival of sharing love between brothers and sisters). And Teej (fasting festival for Hindu women).

The tradition of hennaing a woman before taking a husband is one of the oldest uses of henna, originating in the Usko-Mediterranean civilization during the Neolithic period. Over 60 countries have traditions of hennaing brides, and immigrants from those countries have spread henna wedding traditions across the world. Through history, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Coptic, Jain, Zoroastrian, Sikh, Hindu and animist brides have celebrated a “Night of the Henna” before their wedding night. The “Night of the Henna” is not a religious ceremony, it is a family celebration, wherein women adorn and cherish the bride in their home.

Weddings in the Indian subcontinent can often be long ritualistic and elaborate affairs with many pre-wedding, wedding and post wedding ceremonies. The occasion of Mehndi ceremony is often one of the most important pre-wedding rituals especially for the bride. It is a fun filled ritual, which is celebrated mainly by the bride’s family. Different regions of the country celebrate the ritual in a different way according to their own marriage customs, rituals, and culture. Mehndi ceremonies take place outside the Indian sub-continent amongst the Asian community and places like Birmingham in the UK are such known hotspots for lavish Mehndi celebrations.

The ceremony is mainly held at the bride’s house or at a banquet hall on the eve of the marriage ceremony or few days before the marriage. Generally the bride and groom attend the event together and on the occasion a professional henna artist or a relative applies Mehndi to the bride’s hands and feet the designs are very intricate. Often hidden within the Mehndi pattern the name or initials of the groom are applied. The bride groom is also painted in some part of India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sudan. In Rajasthan (North West India), the grooms are given designs that are often as elaborate as those for Brides.

The event generally has a celebratory festival feel to it with the women dancing and singing traditional songs and the girls wearing vivid colours such as hot pink and yellow, often if the bride to be wishes to tease her future groom she will make him wear purple. The groom usually wears jutti instead of western footwear.

Henna Artist, Nasira Begam, from Sira Makeover applies the henna 2 days before the wedding to allow the henna stain time to mature and deepen. She said “you can only see the henna’s actual color stain 2days later after applied. For some people the henna color will turn out to be dark or light orange color, for some it will turn out to be dark reddish color, or dark maroonish color or dark brown closer to black color.”

How do you advise the bride on which color category they will fall in?

Nasira said “the color of the henna stain they get will depend on the body temperature of theirs. If the body temperature is hot then confirm they will get dark color stain, if it is moderate body temperature then the color might be lighter.”

Traditionally the groom should search for the initials on the wedding night, if he can’t find his initials he is expected to give a gift to his new bride. The little game of “Hide and seek” is an ice breaker between bride and groom, especially when they have arranged marriage. The hiding of initials among the intricate henna patterns is one of many tricks to help the couple feel more comfortable.

Patterns for hands, feet and body

There are hundreds of the styles, Indian, Moroccan, Arabic, Modern and maybe some tribal patterns. Some couples would like to push the boundaries and go for a mixture of everything. A full hand design, either palm or back is more common and also very trendy. Indian patterns involve fine and thin lines. The floral patterns mostly cover the entire hands and forearms. The simple shapes like circles, triangles and lines can be combined to create a very intricate pattern and a very beautiful henna design on palm. Arabic henna designs are usually larger than Indian designs. Some of the popular designs for feet include flowers, leafy tendrils and abstract shapes. Applying henna on feet is more difficult but with a little concentration could be easily created. The Indian and Pakistani designs are made up of intricate, repetitive paisley patterns of lines and teardrops. The Middle-Eastern style includes floral patterns inspired by Arabic carvings, paintings and textiles. Intrigued by the creation of beautiful designs on the body, henna Mehndi is being used by women worldwide as a mode of self-expression. The designs originate from the practices followed on these occasions and represent specific objects, dresses, floral designs, leaves, flowers and birds associated with the festival.

Sitting positions

Being in a right position prevent you from neck, back and legs aching. Also gives the henna artist more concentration and the shapes on your hands, feet or body will be much better. The best position is face to face. If you are sitting on the floor make sure both of you are sitting on a semi-hard cushions. Try not to bend your back as much as you can and sit strait.

Getting started

Better to start from top of the hands because the skin is the hardest so leaving the paste for the longest would be better. Then feet and the palms are the last. By the time you get the palms the tops will be dry. If the design goes all the way up the forearm, start drawing the pattern from the wrist, up the forearm and then work it towards the fingers.

Design framework

When working on a complex and intricate pattern, it is good to first draw out the “framework” of the design before adding the intricate parts. This will help to better organize the placing of the pattern and would also aid with the visual balance. Draw out the paisleys, for Indian style or sections for Moroccan style on the hand/foot. You can also use water-soluble pencils to draw the framework.


When you are almost done with the framework start filling in the details, using basic filigree fillers for Indian style and geometric lines for Moroccan design.

Finding symmetry

Very often, making the patterns on both hands/feet symmetrical can be a little tricky. This is where drawing out the framework of the pattern comes in handy. Align the hands or feet together and make markings on the area to be worked on. Draw out the framework of the design and fill in the details as in the step above. The two sides won’t be EXACTLY mirror images, but at least, they will look balanced.

Drawing on the feet

I would have the bride sit on a comfortable chair and prop her legs up on another stool/hard cushion/adjustable chair. Her calves will rest on the stool so that her ankles and feet are hanging (see photo above). If she owns a recliner, use it! This position is useful for patterns that wrap around the sides of the feet and heels. With the feet elevated, you need not bend your head down too much. This position is also good for when you apply the toe tip henna caps.

Blood red tips

Always use henna from Mecca for this purpose because Meccan henna stains the nails a beautiful ruby red!


Make it a point to bring your camera along with you for every gig. Document your work at the end of everything, just before you leave. If possible, make an appointment with the bride to get photos of the stain a few days after or get the bride to send some ‘after’ photos to you. You will find that this does not only help expand your portfolio, you are able to see how your work has improved!