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Orange is the new black - for South Asian brides - given how the ancient art of mehendi has been transformed with contemporary designs and sophisticated motifs to become a focal point of a bride’s look and wedding albums today.

A popular Indian belief about mehendi (henna) links the colour of the stain and how long it stays on the skin to how much a mother-in-law will love the bride. While this belief remains unproven – what is confirmed is that henna was used extensively for beauty and religious purposes in ancient Egypt, Africa and the Middle East for centuries. In fact, the word ‘henna’ derives from the Arabic word ‘Al Hinnah’. It is believed that the Mughals introduced the art of henna to India in the 15th century.

Today, this ancient art of henna application has given rise to awe-inducing artistry – be it at weddings or occasions like Karva Chauth, Teej and Diwali. So how do you pick the perfect mehendi design for your special day? We give you the lowdown on 25 of the most stunning patterns in vogue today.

1. Lovely Lattice
A lattice refers to the ornamental net or ‘jaali’ that was a key element in Mughal as well as Rajput architecture. This design allows the artist to cover a larger expanse of skin in a simple, symmetrical yet ornate way.

Photo Courtesy- Aidan Dockery and Kerry Manning

Photo Courtesy- The Cheesecake Project

2. Perfect Paisley
This curved droplet-shaped motif or ‘buta’ (meaning flower in Persian) is a very popular one in everything from fabrics to wallpaper. It is believed to have originated in Persia (modern-day Iran) thousands of years ago, and even today, retains its timelessness, especially in traditional mehendi lookbooks.

Photo Courtesy- The Cheesecake Project

3. Sole Mandala
The word ‘mandala’ originates from the Sanskrit word meaning ‘circle’ and symbolises wholeness. Mehendi patterns incorporating single mandalas involve a single concentric motif on each hand surrounded by geometric or free flowing patterns around it.

Photo Courtesy- Rahul Arora Photography

Photo Courtesy- Coffee Stains

Photo Courtesy- Hitched n Clicked

4. Mirror Mandala
This option splits a single mandala (or circle) and its related patterns into both hands with perfect precision, akin to a mirror. The entire ‘picture’ comes together beautifully when a bride places her hands together and aligns the two halves.

Photo Courtesy- Cupcake Production

5. Bracelet Bling
The wrists – typically an overlooked yet essential part of the body – get prime importance with this design. The effect of wearing bracelets or bangles is achieved with stunning effect – and may also mean doing away with real bling altogether on your wrists in order not to overshadow these striking patterns.

Photo Courtesy- Alankritaa

6. Blooming Beauties
All things floral are evergreen at weddings. Today, petals and posies, buds and blooms continue to adorn the hands and feet of brides, as they have done so traditionally for decades. Today, henna artists have started adding accents to floral patterns with shimmer, glitter gel and dazzling rhinestones.

Photo Courtesy- The Cheesecake Project

7. Mughal Muse
This pattern incorporates everything that is mesmerising about Mughal architecture and design, be it domes, minarets, arches, jaali windows or paisley motifs. This design is very elaborate but your patience will be worth it as the results are definitely attention grabbing.

Photo Courtesy- Coffee Stains

8. His & Her Highness
A bride is undisputed royalty on her mehendi night, and there’s no better way to celebrate her journey to coupledom than with ‘King & Queen’ motifs. Some patterns in this category even include elements from weddings such as palkis, musicians and auspicious icons.

Photo Courtesy- The Cheesecake Project / Anup Padalkar

9. Proud Peacock
From the curve of its neck to the crest on its head, the peacock has always found pride of place in henna portfolios as artists have highlighted and interpreted different angles of this majestic bird in unique ways. We bet this design will cause a flutter at your wedding.

Photo Courtesy- WeddingNama

Photo Courtesy- Recall Pictures

Photo Courtesy- 42fps Productions

Photo Courtesy- Wedding Salad

Photo Courtesy- WeddingNama

10. Checks & Balance
If you want to balance out your intricate, complex mehendi pattern, a simple checkered design is just what you need to provide visual relief. Minimalist and efficient, this design is very easy to do but is no less eye-catching.

Photo Courtesy- Two Fireflies – One Camera

11. Coming Up Roses
Roses, perhaps more than any other flower, lend themselves to graceful interpretations by mehendi artists, be it through a solitary bloom drawn on a palm or a bouquet of buds trailing down a bride’s arms. A symbol of romance, roses are, but naturally, a great choice for weddings and can be ‘dressed up’ or ‘down’ as the look demands.

Photo Courtesy- Shades

Photo Courtesy- Shades

12. Put A Ring On It
Engagement rings and/or wedding bands are some of the most important accessories for couples. Innovative henna artists can set the stage for highlighting them with mehendi designs on the backs of fingers that replicate the look of rings, make space for real bling or just create a deep contrast against the bright, shiny bands.

Photo Courtesy- Alankritaa

Photo Courtesy- Anoop Padalkar

13. Minimalist
Minimalist mehendi patterns are ideal for brides who want to dial down typical ornate wedding henna designs. Some minimalist patterns are nothing more than delicate tattoos on fingers, a single vine at the back of a hand or elegant swirls around wrists. This is a great choice for time-strapped brides who want to wear heavy hand ornaments at their wedding.

Photo Courtesy- RamitBatra

14. Leg It Up
Want the world at your feet on your big day? Opt for modern mehendi patterns on your ankles, and go all the way up to the calves and knees if you want. You can even request for colourful accents that match your pedicured nails shade or bridal ensemble.

Photo Courtesy- Two Fireflies – One Camera

15. UnMatched Marvels
Take a break from the norm with asymmetric mehendi designs that do not match or mirror each other on your hands. The strength of this kind of pattern is that both hands get equal – and individual – focus. Plus they also give henna artists a wider range of arresting combinations to choose from.

Photo Courtesy- Sutra Snapperz

16. Embroidered Elegance
Buttis are small embroidered or adorned motifs in different shapes that can be found on many Indian ensembles like suits, sarees and fancy purses. This mehendi design includes buttis in or alongside latticed windows, and pairs very well with traditional ensembles that feature similar themes in its embroidery or accents.

Photo Courtesy- Dotdusk

17. White Wonder
Although this is technically not made from the henna plant/powder, it still borrows from the form and function of traditional bridal mehendi. ‘White mehendi’ patterns have become quite popular recently, and involves the use of body paint or white ink – just remember it doesn’t last as long as the original thing.

Photo Courtesy- Pinterest / Live Love Henna

18. Jewel of a Jharokha
Jharokha’s are overhanging structures underneath balconies, and were very common in Rajasthani and Mughal architecture. Mehendi designs incorporating this element – in single or multiple numbers - add drama to the overall design with their spatial intricacy.

Photo Courtesy- Two Fireflies – One Camera

Photo Courtesy- Rock Paper Scissors

19. Folksy Folks
Popular traditional mehendi designs incorporate ‘people’ such as folk musicians (think shehnai players) and shy bridesmaids, and scenes such as a baraat or varmaala. These patterns add a sense of action with elements of real life tableaus.

Photo Courtesy- Two Fireflies – One Camera

20. Zig-Zag Edge
This is a relatively new design in the wedding mehendi lookbook and has both a geometric and minimalist vibe. However, you can always request the zig-zag bands to be decorated with festive florals or pretty paisley motifs.

Photo Courtesy- Morvi Kumari

Photo Courtesy- Picture Perfect India

21. The Elegance of Elephants
At first glance, the lumbering elephant has none of the graceful attributes of a peacock. But it is considered an auspicious animal, and adds a touch of royalty to mehendi art as it harks back to the era when regal grooms would come to their weddings astride majestic elephants.

Photo Courtesy- Wedding Salad

22. What’s In A Name?
A popular though older mehendi design included embedding or hiding the groom’s name inside the intricate mehendi pattern. This trend may have become a little jaded right now, but if you want, you can get it done and tell your man to find his name – it’s a game you both may enjoy!

Photo Courtesy- Sutra Snapperz

23. Face to Face
This mehendi pattern is pretty similar to the ‘King & Queen’ design, only this one includes more ‘regular’ portraits of a bride and groom – drawn on the same or separate palms – facing each other.

Photo Courtesy- Two Fireflies – One Camera

24. Multi-colour Magic
This is a recent henna trend that invokes the essence of paintings – traditional mehendi patterns are filled in with colours in a pleasing arrangement. Some artists even go a step further and add crystals, sequins, glitter and shimmer, giving traditional mehendi a glamorous vibe.

Photo Courtesy- Plus Lifestyles

Photo Courtesy- Ethnico

25. Spiral Splendours
Circular motifs and dots all over the hands and arms allow for plenty of ornamentation inside and out. Unlike Sole Mandalas that feature one big motif, these spirals can be linked together in multiples to create a striking impact.

Photo Courtesy- Shades

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