Return of the Ritual

A rooftop henna party in  reveals the essential elements of unforgettable event décor.

By Monica Haim   |   Photos courtesy of Lovka

Ambience is the art of creating a mood, of representing a particular aesthetic style or flavor with subtlety and balance.With ambience we achieve enchantment, that point where things start to feel somehow magical. And with the right ambience we can turn ordinary events into unforgettable gatherings— occasions where real and lasting memories are born. Of course it helps when you have something as ethno-chic and historic as the traditional Henna ceremony as a motif.


Traditionally, Henna ceremonies are held one week prior to the wedding by Sephardic Jews as a symbol of the bittersweet separation of the bride from her family. There are many varieties of regional traditions—from Yemen and Morocco to Iran and Iraq—but their essence is always the same: to celebrate the cycle of life by paying tribute to the bride and her kin as she leaves home. The event symbolically connects a young bride to her heritage and protects her from the evil eye,while giving her loved ones a chance to wish her happiness. It’s the ceremony before the ceremony, another moment to shine. It all happens through food,music, adornment, and the general joy of close people celebrating life. Though the practice comes from ancient times, it has carried on throughout the generations, and today there is a rising trend in young couples wanting to revitalize the ritual, with perhaps a more modern touch.

We consulted with Israeli event producer and designer, Koby Bar Yehuda of  to explain how the concept for this particular event was conceived, and how by simplifying events down to their most basic elements, stunning and effective décor can always be achieved. For Bar Yehuda, it’s all about the details that will ideally come together to reflect the event’s unique character and personality. For example, he used Turkish lampshades that were bought directly from the Bazaar in Istanbul; the furniture was brought shipped in Morocco, and all of the fabrics for its re-upholstery came fromIndia. The result was mélange of sultriness from the Orient with touches of the Mediterranean that all came together on one incredible rooftop.

The vibe of a party is its heart and soul, its essence.With the right vibe, we create a unique atmosphere, a complete sensory backdrop for the celebration. For this particular occasion, Bar Yehuda explains, the idea was to stay away from the traditional Moroccan aesthetic because the family in question is from the northern part of Iraq and wanted something more individualized to their culture and personal taste. They were looking for more of anOriental chic event, something outdoors that could be subtly inspired by Moroccan furniture, but brought to life with bold touches of Indian motifs. Its point of view needed to come across as feminine, sensual, elegant and provocative. Bar Yehuda actualized this by fusing various regional Middle Eastern elements into one concerted vision. “Oriental-meets-Bollywood,” he calls it. The raw space it self was a great, because it was a gorgeous rooftop with a grand wooden deck overlooking the sea that made it easy to work with. Bar Yehuda transformed its usual daytime vibe to into a more luscious, ethnic ambience. It needed to feel like you were somehow inside the bottle of a genie lamp.

A color scheme practically dictates the overall mood of an event, and is critical to consider from fabrics to flowers. The scheme here was inspired by the bride’s desire for bold fuchsias and pink, big hot colors that would stamp the space with a confident sense of womanhood. Typically, Moroccan colors are more deep greens and reds, so Bar Yehuda took the silhouette of theMoroccan aesthetic but gave it a new chromatic flavor. To punch the fuchsia scheme, he used throw pillows in many shades of pink, and hot pink roses overflowing from the silver table centerpieces.


Flowers bring a sense of freshness and natural beauty to any space. The right flowers can punctuate any setting, helping to tell the stylistic story of that event. The first thing taken into account, as Bar Yehuda says, is seasonality. The freshest flowers will likely be the most resplendent, so it is important to think of which ones are at peak during that time of the year. Obviously, it is also critical to consider the taste of the client and what they have in mind for their event. Some people are looking for more of a monochromatic look, or something distinctly modern or understated, while others want something more lush and classic. More often than not, it all depends on the theme. For this party, we needed something decadent and over the top to relay the rich, sumptuous character of a Henna ceremony.

According to Bar Yehuda, flow is by far the most important element in any event. In fact, décor should be driven by layout, and layout should be driven by best possible flow. By flow, he means the general movement of things that will be directly related to how your guests will spend their time while they’re there. At a wedding, for instance, you’ll often start with cocktails, move to the ceremony and end up at the reception. These three different “moments” are critical, and you should always considering where your guests will spend the most of their time, and working to create the most out of each location. You have to ask yourself where they’ll mingle, where they will be seating, where the main action of the event will take place—and take it all into account even before you begin to consider the décor itself. Layout is crucial. Not only from the point of view of décor, but also from the general comfort of the people who will be mingling and celebrating in it. It’s always a plus when you can create a dynamic environment, where people can wander a bit; think second levels and lounge areas, for example, and dynamic, unconventional seating options such as ottomans or L-shaped benches with cushions.

Lighting is also crucial, because with it we can punch up the most beautiful parts of the décor and conceal what we don’t want to show.Bar Yehuda likes to work with theatrical lighting,which is more directional, amplifying the natural colors of things.With this type of deliberate lighting flowers look more brilliant, fabrics dazzle more—it’s just adds a little drama to things.Here, the Turkish lampshades were hung high above to sort of wrap the space with a distinct sense of flavor.
Food is typically a main attraction at any event, and if the menu is thought through properly, food becomes part and parcel of he décor itself. For this event, we wanted to bring in an Oriental mix of dishes inspired by many different places in theMiddle East. The standout dish, for example, was freshly grilled skewers on a big fire pit, which gave it a rustic, natural feeling. To agree on the direction of any event, Bar Yehuda creates mood boards or storyboards that give the client a taste of the atmospheric essence that he envisions. The boards feature fabric swatches, furniture layout plans and renderings, allwith the goal of showing the inspiration of the design. “We want to give the client the deepest possible understanding of the flow,” he explains.

Once the idea is solidified, they use the boards as a rough blueprint for what is to come. “One of our challenges was that the space was very tight, so a lot of things were custom made. The event had to accommodate 150 people, so we had to use every square foot there was to use to make it all happen. The logistics were tricky. There was no elevator and lots of furniture actually had to be brought in by an outside crane.” But thanks to the balanced convergence of the various décor elements that he worked with, the end result was a seamless, flowing atmosphere that engendered joy, jubilation and most of all love. There’s nothing like a sense of ritual and deep love to inspire visual possibilities. Ceremonies in general are loaded with meaning, but the right décor can make the experience almost epic.