Why I do not agree with individually priced designs for a wedding mehndi party

At your mehndi party, chances are that your mom is busy greeting the guests.  You are busy with your friends and actually enjoying your party, and the rest of your family and friends are busy participating in traditional rituals, helping you get things sorted for the big day, making sure the guests are comfortable, and running all the errands that need to be done before the end of the day.

In the craziness of it all, you have a henna artist(s) who are going to charge you by the design that they apply.  When you hired them, they said they will charge only $5 per design, and will increase the price if someone asks for more.  But the day of the application, instead of doing a standard $5 design, they start applying designs way higher than what you agreed on, and then turn a simple $5 design into a $7-15 design.  And that's just for the guests that are getting "simple" henna.  Your closer family and friends get full hand designs (because who really says no to henna?), and their designs START at $20.  (This is of course, something that the mehndi lady conveniently "forgot" to mention when you booked her).  This is exactly what happened at my sister's wedding in Virginia this summer. 

This isn't something unheard of... there have been many parties we have been to where the total tab for the evening is over $800 for about 35 female guests.  {That's over $20/person}!!   Trust me, I did a wedding this past summer where one artist took home $350 and the other took home $1000--in front of my eyes, because I actually loaned the family $300 to pay the other artist cash and clear up her bill. And the total female guest count...?  Only 43. {that's over $30/person}

Not only do I not agree with overpricing henna and taking advantage of the family during such a celebratory time, but I also do not agree with keeping a list of names and amounts they "cost" the family.  It's not fun!  No one wants to know that the lady you had to invite because she is family through marriage ended up costing you $40.

As an artist, I really do not have the time nor the effort to keep an organized tab of who got what.  Nor do I want to share this list with the next lady coming, so that she can compare what her friend got and give her the same thing.  It's just not professional, and it's very annoying for someone who does the business professionally.   I want to focus on doing what I do best--henna.

Another reason why I do not agree with individually pricing designs for a wedding mehndi party is that some designs you can't put an even price on.  Yes, the lady who got a simple strip would hypothetically cost $5, but the next lady, who got just the same amount of henna, would actually cost $6.50 because even though she got the same "amount" of henna, her design was more intricate, and had more of my signature details compared to the lady before.  Do you really want me to put $6.50 as the price for her?  Or would you be okay if I put $7 instead?  I would not feel comfortable rounding up the design, because, yes, it's only 50 cents, but that could add up to a lot by the end of the evening and I really do not think it's fair to round up all the time.

I remember individually charging at a wedding party I did in Edmonton, back in 2008.  I thought, instead of writing down names and prices, I'll just take photos of all the designs and that way, I'll have proof for what I have done.  Well, my camera malfunctioned, and at the end of the evening, I only had 4 photos.  The mother of the bride said that I probably only did about $75 worth of henna and paid me $85, saying that was "more than fair" for the henna.  I definitely left very upset, but didn't argue because I was a newbie in Edmonton and didn't want to create a scene in front of other potential clients.   I had just spent 4 hours laboriously applying henna on ALL of her guests and got paid way less than what I deserved.  That is something I will certainly remember for a lifetime! 

I'm done complaining over pennies.  But the biggest reason why I do not like individually priced designs is that I have seen way too many artists in the past fudge their numbers to get a bigger total at the end of the night.  Too many artists have lied way too many times to get a big fat total, and I do not agree with that.  The lady that had a total of $1000 over the summer probably did the same thing... That is quite the coincidence that her total for the evening was a perfectly rounded, even number.  Maybe I'm just being too cynical, or perhaps I'm not.
{The first henna gig I did in London, England, I was being paid 3 pounds per simple hand strip and I did 60 strips over the course of 5 hours, and the lady that came and worked for just 2 hours claimed to do 50 strips, which I knew she didn't do, because not only is that plain impossible unless you are the world's fastest henna artist, but I saw that she didn't do that many because she was sitting right next to me the whole time!}

When you have artists and designs that are individually priced, you have no way of going back to check their work.  You can't argue with the artist when she is leaving and tell her in front of your guests that you don't think that she actually put on that much henna.  What do you do?  You end up paying the artist whatever she tells you her total is. 

A flat hourly rate is the best solution to all of the real-life scenarios (and complains) above.  You know what time the artist got there, you know what time she will leave, and you know what the hourly rate is.  At the end of the evening, the artist will not try to fudge the numbers to make up for the money she could have earned that night.  At the end of the night, you know exactly what you owe her, and what it will cost to have her stay longer.  And at the end of the night, you don't have to feel uncomfortable about overpaying the artist.  So yes, while paying $50-100/hour may seem a lot at first, think about what you would be paying or what other people have paid to have an artist there and charge individually.  And if you still feel that the artist should charge individually, go ahead with your gut.  We have already done the math, and going with the hourly rate is much cheaper!

Below, I (nitasha)  have posted photos of designs done in the past with amount of time required and what the design would cost if priced individually.

$15 each design ($30 total) or 15 minutes total
 $12 each design ($24 total) or 12 minutes total
 $15 each design ($30 total) or 15 minutes total
 $12 each design or 5 minutes total
 $7 each design ($14 total) or 8 minutes total
 $18 each design or 10 minutes total
 $15 each design or 7 minutes total

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