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Henna, an ancient form of body art fit for all genders, classes, and religions, decorates limbs as symbols of the inner light’s awakening. The markings show the couple’s willingness to receive blessings, as well as serve as protection; peer closer and it’s easy to find intimate secrets between the betrothed couple hidden in plain sight on the skin . Historically, pre-wedding, full-body whitening treatments have been used to lighten one’s facade, for in Bengali culture, skin untouched by the sun is considered the ultimate sign of distinction. Then, during the ceremony, each couple sits for their gaye holud, a custom in which brides and grooms are fed sweets and covered in turmeric paste, a natural skin brightener, to appear paler for their big day. Stemming from the Hindu allegory of the Supreme Being Lord Shiva’s wedding, it remains one of the most celebrated practices among Hindus and Muslims alike.   For 24-year-old Nobaira Hassan, one of the many brides included in this project, photographer Rena Effendi captured everything from family portraits inside the Dhaka conventional hall, built to fit thousands, to an hours-long trip to the salon. There, makeup artist (and local celebrity) Farzana Shakil enlisted two assistants to do her makeup, hair, and arrange the jewelry, a combination of inherited pieces from her mother and gifts from her groom. On her wedding day, appearing statuesque and noble in her naaker nodh (nose ring), churi (bangles), and ti kli (forehead ornament), Hassan wore a custom-made sari that weighed roughly 15 pounds. For Hassan and women like her, the moment is a rite of passage witnessed by friends, family, and the community. Here, an intimate look at the elaborate and centuries-old beauty traditions surrounding a Bengali wedding.  Guests gather at a wedding in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Bride Moly Sufia at her gaye holud, a ceremony where guests cover the couple in turmeric paste and feed them sweets.

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