There is a first time for everything. I have been a wedding photographer for some 20 years on and off, but until recently I had never photographed an Asian Wedding or an Asian Wedding Mehndi. I had a last minute phone call from Faizul asking if I could be the videographer for his wedding and stag night. However, these two events are not the same in an Asian wedding as they are in a standard English wedding. In England we often think of a stag night as a drunken crawl around the local pubs. In some circles it may consist of a weekend away in Dublin or Prague. In others perhaps the stag do will involve adventure sports like abseiling or go-karting.
In the Asian culture the stag do is known as a Mehndi Celebration. The word Mehndi derives from a Sanskrit word mendhikā and is effectively henna. It is used as a tattoo type decoration and different Asian cultures hands, arms and legs are often elaborately decorated with henna. However, the word Mehndi has become synonymous with the pre-wedding parties organised separately by the Bride and Groom’s family.
Armed with this knowledge I approached the filming of my first Asian Wedding Mehndi with great excitement and intrigue. I knew the wedding itself was to be held at the Grand Hotel in Brighton, East Sussex, so I was surprised that the Mehndi was held in a modest Methodist Church Hall. However, I was informed that this is perfectly normal as the wedding the THE big event where all the money is spent.I can only guess at the cost of hiring the Empress Suite at the Grand Hotel for 600 people!
The church hall was set out with rows of seating facing a small stage decorated with ribbons, lights and colourful fabrics. On the stage was a covered ceremonial chair and it was here that Faizul sat for most of the mehndi. I was introduced to Faizul’s three sisters who were absolutely beautiful all dressed in red saris. Faizul wore dark green traditional dhoti costume with gold braiding and fantastic Aladdin style pointed silver shoes. Eventually around 40-50 guests arrived, mostly family and extended family members.
Asian cultural celebrations and certainly this Asian wedding mehndi, seem to consist of various traditional ceremonies, often to do with eating and sharing food. There was lots of beautifully prepared food in the kitchen which included fruit, sweetmeats and cakes. At one point this food was carried in procession to the stage and presented to Faizul by the women. Each member of the family then sat in turn next to Faizul and they would feed a small amount of cake to each other. By the end I imagine Faizul was completely stuffed! After that we all sat down to eat rice and beef, which was really lovely. I had two plates! It was an absolute pleasure to be involved in the the evening rather than just as a recorder of events. I was continually asked if I needed anything and I was encouraged to participate at every point. I was even offered to sit down with the men and smoke the communal Hookah pipes which were brought out after the meal.
The final ceremony of this Asian Wedding Mehndi was the decorating of Faizul’s hands with henna. Various family members added to the decorations, which took quite a while to complete. Faizul was also decorated with garlands round his neck by his mother and father. Gradually people began to drift away from around 10:30pm. Apparently in a Bangladeshi mehndi, which this was, there is less dancing and frivolity than in other Asian cultures, so I was informed, but this didn’t stop Faizul’s sisters from attempting to get various family members up for a dance at the end of the night. However, Faizul appeared rather reluctant. He was probably too full of cake!
I thoroughly enjoyed my first Asian Wedding Mehndi with Faizul and his family and I hope I have captured the evening on film to their satisfaction. I also took a number of photos in my brief breaks from filming, some of which I present to you here. I can’t wait to film another Asian Wedding Mehndi in the future. It was a great experience and I met some lovely people in the process.
I have filmed various weddings before. Amongst others I’ve filmed Jose and Henry’s wedding in Ninfield, East Sussex and Laura and Glenn’s Wedding in Lindfield, East Sussex. If you would like me to film your Asian Wedding Mehndi or your Asian Wedding or English Wedding, then please do get in touch and I will be more than happy to help. Provision of rice and beef is not compulsory! During the research for my first Asian Wedding Mehndi I came across the Shaan Photography site, which is lovely and which I happily promote here.