Bridal henna nights are a popular tradition in North Africa, the Horn of Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, the Near East and South Asia.
In India, as a part of Hindu and Sikh weddings, henna is applied during wedding ceremonies. Traditionally it is thought that the darker the henna on the bride’s hand, the more intensely her husband will love her. It is an important part of many Hindu festivals (such as Karva Chauth and Diwali), as well as during Eid. It is widely used in south Indian state Kerala especially during Muslim weddings. It is a common practice among Indians, particularly elderly ones, to dye their hair using Henna.
Pakistan and Bangladesh
In Pakistan, henna is used on hands and feet by brides before their wedding, and by many women for Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. Often the female friends and relatives of the groom design or choose the design for the hands and feet of bride. It is also used by men to colour their hair. Bangladesh has similar traditions to this also.
Singapore and Malaysia
In Malaysia, Henna has been used to decorate women’s palms, arms and feet as part of pre-wedding celebrations, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. Often, a henna ceremony may be held called ‘Berinai’. The bride and groom each have their hands stained, but in a trio of ceremonies. The first being three days before the wedding, the second within two days before the wedding and the third which is normally held three days after the wedding. Singapore holds the same traditions.
In Somalia, henna is worn by Somali women on their hands, arms, feet and neck during weddings, Eid ul-Fitr, Ramadan, and other festive occasions. Somali henna designs are similar to those in the Arabian peninsula, often featuring flower motifs and triangular shapes. The palm is also frequently decorated with a dot of henna and the fingertips are dipped in the dye. Henna parties are usually held before the wedding takes place.
In Tunisia, prenuptial henna celebrations last for seven days. On the 3rd day, the bride wears a traditional dress and has henna painted on her hands and feet. As for the groom, his little finger is painted with henna on the 6th day.
In Algeria, it is tradition for the bride’s mother-in-law to present her with jewellery and paint the henna on her hands.
Israel / Middle East
In the State of Israel , Middle East many sfaradi/mizrachi , and middle eastern communities , families sometimes choose to have a henna party about a week before the wedding. The henna party is smaller than the wedding, as only closer friends and family members are invited. The bride and groom wear traditional costumes as do some of the main guests. There is much dancing and music, especially when the henna is brought out. The henna is usually presented in a deep dish with lit candles in it and carried by the grandmother. She applies the henna onto the palms of the bride and groom and they are blessed. Subsequently, guests stain their palms with henna as well. There are variations in customs and dress between the different jewish sfaradi/mizrachi and Arabic communities ( a good example is in the communities of Yemen, Morocco,Jordan etc.).
In Saudi Arabia, prenuptial Henna nights are common. Traditionally the bride’s hands are painted with henna by one of her female relatives, the belief being that the relative must be happily married or else she will bring bad luck to the bride.
In Turkey, henna is sold in convenience stores and markets. Among these are the Spice Bazaar in Istanbul.