My husband and I were married in a Christian wedding ceremony. Like most American young girls, I had fantasized about my white wedding dress for years. I wanted a silk, lacy dress with a train that trailed behind me like a princess, a gauzy veil on my head, and a fragrant bouquet of white roses in my hands as I walked down the aisle with my father. Our wedding did fulfill my dreams, and united us in holy matrimony. But I did not realize at the time, that without an Indian ceremony, we had missed out on an opportunity to begin unification of our families.
An interesting practice for Indian weddings is the use of henna art, or mehndi, on the hands and feet of the bride and her female family members. The American bride and her attendants may get manicures and professional make up applications for the ceremony, but Indian brides take things a step further with mehndi. The tradition of mehndi application goes back thousands of years and unites the bride’s family in tradition and beauty for the ceremony, as my husband’s gorgeous cousin did, pictured above. It lasts for weeks and serves as a lingering reminder for women of their shared culture, even as they live their lives in the “outside” world.
At the time of our wedding, my only connection to Indian culture was through my new husband. But as our families have melded together, so have I melded into a new relationship with the women in his family. I am the bhabhi, or sister-in-law, to many, and I am the mother of a beautiful young woman, who looks like her Indian grandmother. If I ever do choose to take part in the mehndi tradition, I think I will wear it proudly as a symbol of my place in our family.