Designs of Love in Henna

I’ve been doing henna for about 3 years – so not too long. I’m Indian, and so I was always used to henna in my culture. Whenever there would be a wedding, there would be henna there, and I was always fascinated by it. One day, I bought a tube from the market and I tried it out!

I fell in love because I was being artistically and creatively free. Henna is traditionally for Indian brides and they have it all the way up their arms and on their feet. Sometimes the brides even get their husband’s name to be hidden somewhere in the design.

The tradition says that the darker the henna stain, the more the bride loves her husband-to-be, but. That being said, this is a very old traditional belief! Mainly, it’s used now to express beauty and to make the bride stand out by decorating her in such an intricate design.

For a bridal henna, I ensure to talk to the bride in-depth about what sort of design she would like, if she would like to incorporate something like flowers or is she had a design that she already loved. It takes a while to come up with the designs, so I spend about a week talking with her and getting to know her before I come up with the design. Once the designs are complete, we meet once more and I make sure she likes it.

Henna should be done two days before the wedding ceremony, as the stain takes two full days to develop to its darkest colour. You want the stain to be as dark as possible. The guests also have henna done, but it’s nowhere near as big or intricate as the bride’s henna.

I normally start with the bride during our henna sessions, and that can take around 6-7 hours depending on the design. I’ve had some brides who have wanted smaller designs too, so they didn’t take as long.

One of Simi’s campers with the design Simi drew on her hand

I just think henna is so creative and it’s limitless really. I love doing henna and seeing people’s reactions when they get are finally done because they are so happy and excited, which of course, makes me happy. It’s become such a fun part of my life. I use it professionally and also just to chill and wind down at the end of a long day. Once you learn how to control the henna it becomes so much easier. I hope to continue doing henna for as long as I can!

Simi Gabri is from Salisbury in the UK. This past summer she spent her time at camp in the Counselor-in-Training program and helped teach drawing class, where she introduced henna to the campers, and then taught her only fifth period henna class.