Welcome to the gorgeous world of the big fat Indian wedding! Be it the amazing array of colours, the charm of the traditional ceremonies or the gaggle of family and friends that make it a charm to be a part of. Getting married can be stressful, what with choosing your wedding lehnga to deciding what mehndi dress to choose, what make-up to go for, how to stay within the parameters of traditions and yet stand out on your special days!
Haath Peele Karna – What is lore behind this auspicious start to the wedding rituals?
The Tradition of Applying Mehendi
Mehndi has long been an integral pre-wedding ritual for any South Asian bride as a symbol of good luck, health and sensuality. The ceremony is believed to date back to as early as the 15th century, when Mughal rulers were believed to have first brought mehndi plants to the region. According to Islamic literature, Prophet Muhammad used mehndi to dye his beard and administered its use to those who were unwell. Because of this, the Mehndi ceremony is an important pre-wedding ritual within the Islamic communities, observed in the Indian subcontinent and many Arabic nations.
And yet, the use of mehndi and turmeric finds mention in the earliest Hindu vedic ritual books. It was originally used for only women’s palms and sometimes for men. Haldi or staining oneself with turmeric paste or “Haath peele karna” as well as mehndi are thought to be Vedic customs, intended to be a symbolic representation of the outer and the inner sun. Vedic customs are centered on the idea of “awakening the inner light.” Traditional designs are said to ward off evil, promote fertility and attract good energy.
Whatever the origins of this ceremony, it is intrinsically tied to the wedding rituals of both communities with an elaborate application of mehndi designs on a bride’s hands and feet and a token application on the groom as a mark of good omen. It is followed in many parts of India as well as in the neighbouring countries of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.
Spoilt for Choice
It need not be designer wear, but it has to be fun! The mehndi dresses are meant to be just that. Just traditional enough to keep the family elders from tut-tutting and yet fun and sassy enough to not feel overwhelmed. Over the years, the mehndi dress designs have been transformed and tweaked to appeal to the fashionistas of the times.
Indian girls today are a lot more open to concept designs, be it a sari or a salwar-kameez or a light lehnga. Anything that is appealing is what the bride looks for. The Muslim bride is still bound within the traditional choices of a lehenga or salwar-kameez, but nothing stops them from toying with the design patterns. The Indian Hindu bride somehow seems to have a wider range of choices, if the latest trends for mehndi dresses are anything to go by-from concept saris to svelte trendy salwar-kameez to the forever in fashion lehnga, imagination runs riot in terms of styling. The look remains trendy and yet within the boundaries of traditionally acceptable attire for the ceremony.
Fashion trends, they say, change every 30 years or so. And yet, some basic traditions remain, maybe with a little nip and tuck here and there, but the essence is unchanged. A quick look at what the continuing and favoured trends in mehndi outfits is a glorious study in a play of svelte yet demure, outright trendy to the evergreen!
The ‘Concept’ Sari
The sari has seen many transformations over the decades and none more so than the ‘designer concept’ sari. Varying from stitched as a singe piece outfit yet to look like a sari worn a little differently, to lace or velvet, the skies are the limit for the concepts that are trending in bridal mehndi saris.
The focus in these saris is mainly the material and the way it falls around you as you drape it. Without the fuss of the pins and heavy ‘pallas’ to deal with, these ‘fishtail’ or ‘stitched’ saris put the fun back in the mehndi ceremony. Predominantly worn in India, saris have truly found their way back in the favour of the bride for her special mehndi ceremony with her family and girlfriends.
The Evergreen Lehenga
Just like old wine in a new bottle, the lehnga has had its fair share of transformations from the length of the top to the flare of the skirt. Especially in India, the lehnga is worn by the hindu bride, with a short blouse or cropped bodice, also called ‘choli’. The intrigue lies in the design and cut of the choli, the back or the lack of it! The Muslim community whether in India or Pakistan still favours the modest covered top shirt, beautifully cut and designed nevertheless. The more petite frames of the bride has been seen to carry off the most amazing and unusual designs in lehengas, styled like the sharara of yore. The sharara brings to mind the grandeur of the Mughal brides and the beauty of the bridal attires from centuries ago.
Svelte Salwar Kameez
The salwar-kameez has been a bridal dress for centuries in Northern India and Pakistan, favoured greatly by brides for the simplicity and ease of carriage. Minimum fuss over them ensures that the bride is free to have fun with her cousins and girlfriends, during the ceremony, especially once the mehndi has been applied and she waits for it to dry! The designs have undergone some change, but essentially the humble salwar-kameez has remained a dress of choice for the mehndi across the Indian sub-continent in both the Hindu and Muslim communities. The common heritage is most evident with the bridal salwar kameez.
The Modern Chic Or The Retro Look
It is believed that the mehndi ceremony outfit is very special to the bride, since she can be sure to have a chance of wearing it on special occasions later too! Not so heavily embellished she forever looks like the bride and beautifully dressy, always!
The retro look to choose would mainly depend on the material and embellishments of the outfit. The classic velvet look is back, and how!! Utterly classy, embellished with a bit of ivory work and light zari, and the oomph is transformed into an heirloom.
On the other hand, the modern chic maybe lightly embroidered in zardosi work, just heavy enough to be ‘bridal’ in its look and yet wearable and light. Pakistani mehndi dresses favour a lot of silk thread embroidery and sequins. The finished look is impeccable and demure for the blushing bride.
The modern chic bridal attire is usually in lighter materials like Georgette or lace, hence making the clean cuts and shapes more evident.
Red.. yellow..pink… peach… or green
Traditions are what keep the social fabric meshed together. Never more is tradition more closely held than during the wedding ceremonies. The most favoured hue is red amongst the Hindu bride and shades of green for the Muslim bride. But the ‘rules-of-colour’ are more relaxed for the mehndi ceremony.
Most believe the bride always looks her best for her Mehndi Ceremony. The colors are usually fun and bright and the makeup is usually very light. Across the Indian sub-continent, subtle changes have been noted over the past decades, especially in the colours the bride has chosen to wear for her wedding ceremonies.
Ranging from the peaches-and-cream to ivory white with maybe gold embellishments, sun yellow to burnished gold, lilac and mint and of course the all time favourite pink…. the artist’s palette is the inspiration now for her choice of mehndi dresses.
And yet, blues do make for a stunning look!
Of course, the colour must be amongst her favoured set, must show her off fresh and blushing. Her choice of colours go on to decide the make up or her jewellery choices!
So much rides on just the right choice of colour.
Make up for your Mehndi!
Depending on when your mehndi ceremony is planned for, the make up is easiest if kept light and fresh and easy to transition from day to evening. Not much fuss.
For the most part, keeping it light and fresh is key. So why not do-it-yourself? Light fruity colours like peach and orange go well on the cheek and lips, of course depending on your skin tone. The dusky bride can do wonders with light shades that suit her. Red lips would make the look too heavy but pink or a delicious peachy blend would be amazing! The cheek colours kept as close to the nude tone as possible will ensure the demure fresh look that you want to achieve. Use the shade of skin foundation closest to your skin tone. Never make the mistake of choosing a shade way too light for the fresh clean look, you will end up looking pasty and unnatural. Use light peach or bronzed eye shadow and finish off with brown mascara for the nude look.
Always remember, less is more, when it comes to your mehndi day make up. You want to look your sweet, fresh girly best one last time before you step into your new life. The blossoming young woman must shine through, as natural as she can be!
Are you planning on letting your hair up or down?
Your crowning glory, your hair, can make or break your special days leading all the way up to the wedding. Especially if your lustrous locks are to look chic and manageable and yet done well enough to ensure you remain the centre of attention.
Gone are the days of the simple braids. Even the simplest of mehndi ceremonies, no matter what your means, embellishing them with fresh flowers of the season to go with your dress of choice, never fades. It adds to the charm and simplicity of your look. Woven into your loose, carefully careless gypsy braids help create a stunning effect.
For the stylish and yet modern look, no matter what your mehndi outfit, loose curls embellished with stones and beads are always favoured by those brides who do not like to cover their hair with a dupatta. And of course, what better way to show off your gorgeous, long tresses than this!
Fed up of braiding and curling? Simply shampoo and straighten your locks and show them off with the right head ornament. You are good to go, girl!
Flowers or Gota? Jhoomar or choker?
What formal mehndi ceremony is complete without the perfect choice of jewellery to go with?
Floral jewellery makes for simplicity and is evergreen. Stunningly accentuating your choice of outfit, they make you look fresh and radiant.
But for those confident young misses, for whom the fun is in contrasting heavy jewellery to your traditional mehndi attire, will you wear the heavy gota jewellery, to offset your stark fishtail concept sari, or will you choose to go with the a heavy choker on your svelte long neck just because you can!
And did you know, the jhoomar is back in fashion? Worn to one side, with a pale coloured lehnga, you are bound to look gorgeous. So what are going to be your choices of mehndi dresses? Jewellery? Make-up?