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Pre-wedding ceremonies: Mehndi and Haldi (Part 1 of 3)


Hey y'all,

I'm Sarah, co-founder of Shaadi Outfitters, and a millennial Indian American that grew up in Texas. Many people ask me, one day when I get married, will I participate in the typical "3-day wedding" and incorporate the Indian traditions? It's very exciting to think about all the bright and colorful traditions that the family, friends, and guests have the opportunity to participate in, and so that gave me the idea to share those events with y'all. I'm trying to arm everyone with all the knowledge they need so they can feel as comfortable as possible when they go to an Indian wedding!!

I am going to be starting a three-part series on each of the days that you may have the pleasure of experiencing and I hope you are as excited to learn about them as I am about sharing! (Psst, I actually learned some stuff too that I definitely want to incorporate one day!)

This post is to talk all about…

Day 1: The Haldi [hull-dee] ceremony and the Mehndi [men-di] ceremony

Day 1 is all about color, cosmetics, and getting families and friends from both the bride and groom’s side to meet and spend quality time together!

Haldi in Hindi (the main language of India) is a ‘turmeric paste’ and it is believed to have healing and beautification powers. So, the Haldi (also know as the Pithi ceremony) is considered a “cleansing” for the bride and groom, because it supposedly makes the skin glow for the wedding days. Family members take turns applying the paste to the arms, face, neck, legs, and feet of the bride and groom! It’s a fun family tradition and a good way to get the festivities started!

Ya'll may actually know what Mehndi is, but you probably know it as "henna." The henna (an all-natural paste made from specific leaves that temporarily ‘stains’ your skin) that brides get done on their hands is done a couple days before the actual wedding ceremony.

The bride, the women of the family, and the bride's close girl friends get together, listen to music, eat and drink, all while getting their henna done by a professional henna artist that comes to the house or venue! It's a time for all the ladies in the bride's life to spend some quality time together before the wedding. Think of it as a wedding shower with an added purpose!!

There are so many beautiful designs and images that these professional artists can incorporate in the designs. I have seen peacocks, a bride and groom cartoon, cityscapes, and more all detailed into the henna designs on a bride’s hands and arms. The henna paste is wet when applied and it takes a few hours to dry completely. (Some people even keep theirs on overnight!) The longer you let it dry before peeling it off, the darker your henna will be and the longer it will last. Indians traditionally say that the darker the henna is once it has set, the more auspicious the marriage and the more luck it brings!

These are two beautiful and fun traditions that, if you are invited to, I hope you consider attending! I know that pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone is never easy, but take the opportunity to experience any other culture if you can!

And like Buddy said in his previous post, ‘cultural appropriation’ is not something that Indian families feel, so feel free to dress up in Indian clothes for the events. Ask the family members at the event what the food is or what the traditions mean on a deeper level! Reach out to us if you want any more insight into some of these traditions and keep a look out for part two in the coming days – we will discuss the next day of wedding festivities!

See y’all soon! 😊

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