Sunday, October 25, 2009

Wedding in Pakistan Pt. 1- Mehndi

So I am going to do a series of posts about our wedding in Pakistan and the different ceremonies, etc.  We got married in August of 2006, and we didn't have the full-out traditional Pakistani wedding with all the multitude of different ceremonies.  Basically we had three, a combination mehndi/dolkhi, a nikkah, and what we called a "reception" which I guess was some hybrid valima/rukh satti thing. 

The first thing that happened was the mehndi/dolkhi, the night before the nikkah (the actual religious ceremony).  The day of the mehndi, I went to this salon near M's house to have my mehndi (henna designs) done on my hands and feet.  One of the interesting things about a lot of salons in Pakistan is that they are in people's houses, instead of in a strip mall like here, which was the case with this salon.  I had quite a few pre-wedding beauty treatments at this place, as well as being my first experience with threading, ouch!  Back to my wedding mehndi, the designs were quite elaborate, and reached all the way up to my elbows.  When the lady doing my henna found out that I had not shaved my arms and did not want to shave my arms, she was not happy with me at all.  I have blonde hair and have never shaved my arms, and wasn't about to start, so I decided she was just going to have to deal with it.  (It's not like I'm really hairy or anything anyways!)  I had to sit pretty still for about 4 hours while my henna was done and I couldn't put my arms down because if the henna gets smeared when its wet, then you mess it up.  Plus my SILs left me there alone because they had a lot of errands to do before the wedding, so basically I was stuck in this room for four hours holding my arms out to my side and I couldn't even talk to the lady doing the henna (she didn't speak English and my Urdu was pretty much non-existent at that point). 

Here is what my mehndi looked like soon after getting home from the salon.

When the henna is first applied it dries black and then crusts off to leave the red designs underneath.  I was told to let it fall off naturally, because that would keep the dye sealed in longer and make the color more vibrant.  You can see places where the crust had already started to flake off before the pictures were taken.  I was also told that the darker and more vibrant the henna showed up after the black part fell off, the more auspicious it was for our wedding.  

After we were done with the mehndi, I hurried home to change into the traditional yellow shalwar kameez for my combo mehndi/dholki ceremony that night.

After the guests arrived, we all went upstairs, for the dholki, which is the name of the party and the drum that is played at it.  My sister in law took the drum and we went up stairs, and split, boys on one side of the room, girls on the other.  The girls played the drum, and sang fun songs.  I don't know what they were singing, but they seemed to really enjoy it.

You can see the dholki here in the center of our group of girls. 

At some point during the dholki, the girls began to sing songs making fun of the guys.  The guys would then have to give them money in order to get the teasing song to stop.  Some of the guys would hold out longer than others.  Some guys would try to be cheap about it, and their first offers would be rejected.  Sometimes they would try to trick the little girls, who were acting as the runners, into taking less money, and their mom's would shout, "nahin, nahin," and send them back to their husbands for more.  M's brother in law tried to get away with giving some rupees, and was rejected.  Since he lives in Chicago, they would only accept dollars from him!  With all the money they collected, the girls pooled it together to go out for a nice lunch together.  Considering I have no idea what the songs were saying, I found the whole thing rather hilarious and a lot of fun.

After the singing was over, we all went downstairs to the dining room for a nice dinner of chicken broast from a local restaurant.  I was already looking forward to the next day, and the Nikah, which will be the subject of my next post.  


  1. Mashallah your mehndi came out really really well! Mine was horrible, my ILs hired an apprentice beautician to do it and she sucked! The color didn't stick either.

    That's funny about the arm hair thing. People over here and desis also think it is unclean. I am hairy but thank God my arm hair is light, but I still wax it just because people really disapprove if you don't and keep commenting.

    I love your mehndi day outfit!

    Can't wait for the rest of the posts in this series. How did you find having your make-up done?

    I had mine done for two ceremonies, one at a fancy salon and I looked like a freakin Chinese opera star, the other was in a salon at someone's house as you mention and I loved it.

    Did you guys have a white dress wedding at all in the US?

  2. Wow, your mehndi was so beautiful. I love that really full old style. And I love the outfit too. I've never been to a beauty parlor in someone's house, but I've only been once, to a Ma Rose beauty parlor where the makeup was indescribable. Perhaps I'll have to write a post about that experience. We went for mehndi at this bazaar where it's all open stalls on the 2nd floor of some shopping center. It's ladies only, and I had to perch on a wooden bench and not move for hours while everyone in Karachi paraded by staring at me. But it was still fun to have my mehndi done for the first time without my husband doing it for me :) All the ladies there were really nice, even the other customers, everyone wanted to ask me questions and when we were leaving one little girl told me MIL that she had a sweet bahu. I'll take all the help I can get!

  3. LF- I am planning on doing a post about wedding makeup. I also had it done for two ceremonies, the nikkah and reception, by two different people.

    And yes, we had the full on white dress ceremony here in the U.S. the next year, along with rehearsal dinners, and all the attendant lunches and brunches. The way I look at it, M is good on romantic stuff for me for at least ten years with all the wedding related stuff he has had to put up with!

    GW- ha ha, that is funny, I would be so self concious to have a bunch of people staring at me. I am going to do a post about my own wedding-staring experience too.

  4. nice post I loved the designs, and I look forward to reading the rest.

    Lazy Daisy

  5. I'll chime in on the love for your mehndi designs. Perhaps it's disloyal of me ;-), but I really prefer the Arabic style over the traditional Indian style (an example), which is less flowery.

    There wasn't time to do mehndi before my wedding, so my sister-in-law brought me to a salon in Silicon Valley last Christmas to get a bit done for the fun of it.

  6. VERY Pretty. I had mehndi put on for Eid this year. (
    Masha'Allah @news of your wedding! Well chuffed for you.
    Awesome pictures.