Instead of raucous bachelorette parties, Indian and Pakistani brides-to-be get together with female relatives and friends for mehndi parties. The art of mehndi goes back 5,000 years in Asia and is better known in American culture as henna tattoos, temporary body art that lasts around two weeks. For this process, leaves from henna plants are ground finely and combined with water and lemon juice to form a dyeing paste that stains the skin.
As part of traditional Indian and Pakistani wedding preparations, brides' hands and feet are decorated with henna designs that mimic the elegant embroidery patterns stitched into their wedding dresses, known as lehnga. A mehndi artist, or mehndiwalli, will come to the bride's home to adorn her bare skin, and since the process can take many hours, the partygoers will sing and dance to entertain the bride. The next day, the bride will peel away the dried henna paste to reveal intricate red-tinted wedding tattoos. Somewhere within those hennaed vines and curlicues, the mehndiwalli will hide the groom's initials for him to try to find on his wedding night [source: Slyomovics ].