Beautiful, exquisite, breath-taking, and stunning are just a few words that you can use when describing mehndi. It is a part of Indian culture and tradition. Every bride wants to look extra special on her wedding day and her mehndi is part of what makes her dream of a fairytale wedding come true. makes that happen. Recently, we hosted a Chai Chat, an Instagram live session where we talk with wedding vendors and explore behind the scenes, and featured Sheetal’s Henna Designs, a Henna artist based in Dallas, Texas with an experience of over a decade.
Tell us a little about yourself and how you got into Mehndi.
I have been a henna artist since my childhood. When I was a little girl, I used to doodle a lot. My whole family is into the henna business and when my sister used to teach mehndi to her students, I would doodle and explore Mehndi designs with the leftover cones. So, that is the secret behind my artistry. From there on, I kept practicing. With social media these days, you have huge exposure to improve your designs and create using your own imagination as well.
I remember you mentioning that your daughter also does Mehndi. So, when you said that mehndi was a part of your family, how did your daughter get into it? Was it you who taught her?
I am proud to say she is following my legacy. She was just looking at me doing henna at my studio. When my clients come to have mehndi done, she watches me and she has learned to practice on her own. I can say she is now an onboard artist and she joins the henna parties with me for at least six to seven hours. I am sure she will become a better Mehndi artist than me and break my own record (laughs).
That sounds lovely. So, I see that you have some family members joining the live as well.
Yes, my sister and husband have joined. I would like to say thank you to them for their support. Especially my husband, and my kids, who are really supportive of me and my work. When I have to work for 15 hours in a row, they take care of our home and me as well.
Major props to you for the great work you have been doing. It is a tough job, working with the henna cone for 10-15 hours straight and it is amazing that you have such a supportive family. So, I want to dig into your professional background. What did you do before you started your Henna business?
Before my henna business, I used to work in the corporate world for a couple of years. I belong to the commerce background, a finance background to be specific. I loved henna and I really liked the idea of being your own boss. So, it took me some time but I turned towards henna full-time.
How many years have you been practicing it?
Professionally, I have been a henna artist for two decades now. Everyone needs to practice (before they have to work with a client) but for me, I directly do mehndi on my bride’s hands. They often show me pictures of different artists and their work. Sometimes, it is a complicated design but I make sure to pour my heart out 500% in my work and it turns out to be amazing. It feels great to receive compliments from the bride as well as my viewers.
Can you tell us more about the significance of Mehndi and the history behind it?
Mehndi is an herbal plant. It has cooling properties and has lawsone molecules, which give a natural dye and stains your skin with a pumpkin orange color to a brown shade. You can, of course, Google to know the general information about Mehndi but growing in a Marwadi family and belonging to the Rajasthani culture, I have seen henna crops being grown in Sojat city (Rajasthan) and used for its cooling properties. Rajasthan has extremely hot weather and the people apply mehndi on their toes and hands to battle the heat.
What I believe is, that during the wedding preparation, the brides get exhausted. So, while the Mehndi ceremony is going on, it is a chance for the bride to relax because as someone who is used to working for 15-16 hours straight, it is not easy for the bride to prepare for that long each day for several months. But when I am done with a client and see the happiness on the bride’s face, that is the essence of Mehndi.
I read somewhere a couple of months ago that Mehndi has been a huge part of Indian celebrations since time immemorial, be it the bridal shower, marriage or baby showers. It is also a chance for people to come together, relax and enjoy themselves.
In my family, I have seen my mom and aunts put henna on their hands at even small celebrations. There’s a pooja during Diwali, the Satya Narayan pooja where the women apply mehndi on at least the tips of their five fingers. I believe that it is their way to jewel up their hands and rejuvenate their bodies before they start their worship. On any auspicious event, Mehndi is there so it is auspicious to some extent.
Can you tell us a little bit about the henna you use and what's so special about it?
It is the most important thing. Being a henna artist, you should use natural henna. You have to make your henna paste with your own hands and you should know what you're using in it. I make my own henna paste using the natural henna powder, which I get from Sojat, India. It is a simple recipe. I mix it using eucalyptus oil, water, and lemon juice. Sugar is optional and it depends on the consistency that you are looking for and how sticky you want it to be. It is a process of 24 hours. After soaking it for 24 hours, the dye is released which you can blend with other ingredients, check your consistency, and fill up the cones. In terms of henna, I have seen artists all over Instagram and Facebook who use natural henna for their bridal designs.
Yes, I think it's so important that you said that because a lot of times there's an emphasis on the stain and how dark color you can get. Sometimes, there are chemicals that are put in the cones that are not as natural and the bride doesn't realize that until afterward, because then her skin gets rough and you can feel that it's not natural henna. The fact that you source all your ingredients and make your cones is really cool. I know several henna artists who come to you for the cones.
I really appreciate this feedback. And yes, people have come to me and said that they are in Sheetal’s hands so there’s no concern for safety.
You have probably worked with thousands of brides so tell us what the brides should think about ahead of their Mehndi Day?
First of all, starting from the selection of artists, the brides should select the henna artist who is using natural henna. If they are preparing the Mehndi themselves, it is a plus point because they know what is in it and before applying it on the bride’s hands, they will definitely test it on their own hands. The color of the mehndi is important of course, but what is even more important is the reaction on the skin.
Next, I ask all my brides to do all their skincare activities such as manicures and pedicures 48 hours before so the skin exfoliation does not impact the henna color penetration. I have witnessed several times that some brides do not let me know that they have come directly from the massage and after I have applied the Mehndi up to their knees, the stain is not there the next day. So, it is necessary to finish up any skin exfoliation activities 48 hours prior to a Mehndi session.
Also, the mehndi should be applied at least two to three days before the wedding day because henna takes at least 24 to 48 hours to truly come to its full color, depending on the bride’s body heat and chemistry. You can, of course, apply mehndi a day prior to your wedding but if you are paying for a mehndi session, take full advantage of it.
This year, especially, I have started doing Mehndi sessions 4 to 5 days before the bride’s wedding. For instance, if the wedding is on Saturday, I have applied henna on Monday. You can see the brides’ review who have done their Mehndi sessions 4 days before their weddings that they are really happy with the results. The color that they get on their wedding is fabulous, to the point of being almost a dark black color naturally and without any aftercare.
What do you recommend the bride should wear when she is getting her Mehndi done?
When a bride comes in a lehenga, I can manage with a few pinups on the dupatta. I recommend dressing up as comfortably as you can. There are a lot of fashionable kurtas and leggings which you can definitely try on your Mehndi Day. Midi dresses paired up with crop tops work as well. The issue is with the dupatta when it falls on you and accidentally touches the henna which can be ruined. So, I tell all my henna artists to pin it properly before the session starts.
There’s also photography going on and sometimes the bride requests a smaller design for the ceremonies before the Mehndi Day which are easier to shoot than the bigger and more intricate designs saved for the actual Mehndi session.
Yes, it makes both the bride and the henna artist very uncomfortable. I am especially not able to focus on the design if the attention is on me, I get distracted easily. It is rare that a bride will come to me with a simple design and I also give liberty to my brides but the bigger designs require utmost focus. I do portraits and skyline Mehndi which require a lot of attention. So, it is better for the photographer to come at the end or when the Mehndi is almost finished to capture the design. Generally, I suggest brides that they call the photographer one hour before the application gets done so they can come and record the videos. One of the brides for whom I did the Mehndi last week gave the idea that the family can take the videos of her mehndi and she would forward them to the photographer who can edit them later.
As we are talking about distractions, another important thing is not to have a big crowd around the bride to avoid her getting distracted. All the bridesmaids, her friends and her family members will be chatting with her but that way she would move and, in the process, the mehndi can be ruined. If the wedding is on Saturday, for example, getting Mehndi done on Monday or Tuesday would mean less guests and she would be able to get it over with quickly while enjoying and relaxing at the same time.
Another point to note is not to get your Mehndi done on the day of Sangeet. Many brides want to have their Henna session on the day of parties, which is not a great choice. It is difficult for me to work on the Mehndi designs, especially when brides come to me to incorporate their engagements in the Mehndi, if there’s a lot of chatting going on and there are guests socializing everywhere.
How do you feel about the guests getting their Mehndi done on the day of sangeet?
During the Sangeet Mehndi parties, we generally do Arabic designs on the hands, from the wrist to fingers. Most of the young girls will show us images from Pinterest, which we can do if it fits in our time and budget. If not, we can create the design from our own imagination as well as time limit.
What is your favorite kind of henna design and what has been your favorite that you've done?
All bridal elements are my favorite designs but even among them, the peacock is my favorite.
What was your favorite experience doing bridal henna?
I loved all my brides because they wanted their designs to be perfect so they took good care of me.
How long does it typically take to apply the bridal henna?
For me, it generally takes like six to seven hours when I'm doing an application from elbow to fingers, both front and back as well as the feet along with ankles. It also depends on the design. If you want portrait design, it would take up to nine hours. I really dive into the details because it is their big day and the only one day where they can thrill out with their Mehndi designs and no one does it on any other day unless you are keen and interested in henna.
What are some aftercare instructions do you suggest after getting your Mehndi done?
After getting your Mehndi done and you dry it for 20-30 minutes, you still have to let the Mehndi stay on your hands and not let it get smudged or messed up. This advice is not only for the brides but everyone who has applied Henna on their hands that they should let it stay on for at least 6-12 hours. That is when the pumpkin orange color truly comes out and stains the skin. For further care, you can apply coconut oil and balms available in the market. I always suggest my brides to remove the henna from their hands using coconut oil after 12 hours and go to sleep. The color will gradually turn from orange to brown.
Are there any tips you would suggest on getting a darker Mehndi?
For a darker Mehndi stain, I have seen that applying coconut oil is completely fine. If coconut oil is not available, another option is olive oil to keep your skin moisturized. After the Mehndi is done, I make sure to apply lemon-sugar water on the hands and feet of the bride. For the guests, I would just spray it on the Mehndi but for the brides, I follow the traditional method of dabbing the sugar syrup with a paper towel or cotton. All the henna artists carry the sugar syrup, essential oils and other aftercare products with them and they use it when required. If the Mehndi session is on the day of Sangeet, we prefer not to use the sugar syrup too much because of the outfits and jewelry of the guests.
Once the bride has booked you, what does the process of booking her Mehndi Day look like?
I simply take all the details from the brides such as their wedding date and when they would like for me to come for the Mehndi session. I give them different dates to choose from, depending on my own availability, at least four to five days but they are mostly keen on one day before their wedding. Once the date, location, and other details are finalized, I send a confirmation email and we go forward from there.
I have 10+ artists who work along with me so depending on the request of the bride, whether she wants to book Mehndi sessions for her whole family or only her bridesmaids, I would check the availability and assign maybe 2 or 3 artists according to the number of the people present. All the artists are capable and talented, and we can do 12 designs in an hour. Brides often tell me the number of guests and leave the number of artists required to me because all they want is for their guests to be happy.
For the Mehndi sessions on the day of Sangeet, there’s also a time restriction according to the hotel reservations of the bride so in that case, there may be a requirement of more than 2 or 3 artists. We also discuss the details with the wedding planner and book the artists from there. I take full responsibility for the booking process as well as the event.
So far, I am amazed at our artists’ work and we have done more than 20 successful events with more than 150 ladies.
What motivates you and what inspired you to become a Mehndi artist?
Henna is my passion. For me, I can’t imagine my life without henna. As I mentioned that my whole family is in the Henna business, I would say that that’s where I found my inspiration to start my career as a henna artist.
Would you like to share anything with the future brides?
For future brides, I would just like to say that find a Mehndi artist way ahead of your wedding. Make sure to check with them whether they use natural henna and find out about their professionalism, their flexibilities, and a little about their personality. Of course, you would also have to follow some protocols set by the henna artist because they have years of experience and they know what they are doing. They will come to make your event perfect and beautiful so make sure to be understanding and communicate all your expectations with them.
How far ahead should the brides book the Mehndi artist?
There is no time limit as to when a bride should book a Mehndi artist. Once the wedding date and wedding venue are finalized, brides should start looking for a mehndi artist as well as all her other vendors. Vendors are usually booked a few months before so it's better that you plan well in advance.
Henna has a rich history and is used for both fun and religious reasons in many cultures around the world. As a wedding planning platform, it's only fitting for The Desi Bride to take a plunge into the world of henna and explore the beauty of henna. Talking to Sheetal has been an insightful experience and we hope you enjoy reading this interview as well. Be sure to reach out to Sheetal through our platform if you are a bride-to-be and planning your wedding. For more wedding articles, information about wedding vendors, and interviews like this, check out the website of The Desi Bride today. Happy Wedding Planning
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