Ever wondered exactly what goes on in a traditional Malay wedding? WGA takes you through it, step-by-step, in a way that your elders would have approved of…
It all begins with the representatives from the hopeful man’s family going over to the lady’s home to enquire her marital status. If it’s all good, the girl gets the first ring known as cincin tanda – basically, it’s to mark that the guy has got dibs on her. And yeah, we still do this even if the couple has been dating for years. Just pretend they’ve never met – the romance of it is fun! This is also the time when both sides negotiate the wedding dowry.
Next comes the engagement ceremony, again at the girl’s place. The groom is not supposed to be present but nowadays he’s allowed to wait outside, coming in later for the photo-taking and merrymaking. The elders will give their blessings and the prospective groom’s mother (or a lady from his family) will slip the engagement ring on the lucky girl’s finger. Both sides exchange a specified odd number of gift trays, usually consisting of sweet and pretty things and stuff you could use for the actual wedding, like gorgeous material for the wedding gown (whee!)
After a period of engagement comes the all-important solemnisation. In a rush, some people even skip the other steps and just go with this one. The akad nikah involves the bride and groom, the kadi (state-appointed Muslim judge who officiates the ceremony), the wali (the one who gives the girl away in marriage, usually her father), two witnesses, and the (lafaz nikah) marriage vow, which the groom must recite in one breath. More gift trays are exchanged, and unfair as it may seem, the guy will get more than his wife. For example, if he gives her seven trays, she must reciprocate with nine. All this can take place in a mosque or at home, and can even be combined with the engagement and/or bersanding ceremony. Oh, and this time, both of them get rings. The third for her and she’s running out of fingers to put them on…
This is the fun part where you get to dress up and walk down the aisle and sit on the wedding dais looking pretty ^_^ It’s usually held on two different occasions: one for the bride’s family and another for the groom’s. Besides showing off the newlyweds, the bersanding and kenduri (chow time!) is also held in order to make the union public and eliminate any possible gossip, which is why more conventional families will insist on having the kenduri before allowing the couple to stay together. Oh well, it couldn’t hurt to score even more blessings before you start your new life together, right? Oh by the way, the overall appearance of this event is always a pleasant surprise. You could have truly traditional bunga manggar in assorted colours at one wedding, and completely unexpected sakura at another! As beautifully demonstrated in this gorgeous Japanese-themed wedding…
Back in grandma’s time, the girl gets one more ring on their first night together – the cincin pembuka mulut. These days, some people think it’s an unnecessary gesture and kind of like a final bribe before the hero finally gets the girl so they give this one a miss. Of course, that’s entirely up to the groom
The modern couple may or may not choose to follow everything you have read here. That said, while individuality and personal creativity would take the lead, rest assured that certain distinctive highlights will always be considered vital for the Malays.