Wedding planners now take center-stage over the running of weddings.
But in the "good old days" (that’s what my grandmother used to say) a delightful traditional Malay wedding involves nearly everyone in the kampung and is more elaborate.
For the Malays, there are certain preliminaries or events which must happen before the wedding bells chime... or rather, before you can hear the melodious beat of the kompang and before the wedded couple can sit regally on the pelamin or the specially made Malay wedding dais:-
* First is the THE MERISIK ("SPYING")
* Followed by THE PERTUNANGAN ("BETROTHAL" OR "ENGAGEMENT")
* Then THE AKAD NIKAH ("MARRIAGE CONTRACT")
* Finally THE PERSANDINGAN ("WEDDING CEREMONY")
In this page, I will take you to the last two events, which constitute the highlights, or the finale of the wonderful event when two souls are bound together.
So, follow me...
The Big Day comes, and the two love-birds now feel the jitters. The Big Day is fixed and the wedding cards are out.
If the wedding takes place in the kampung (village), and if the kampung is not large, then usually the whole kampung folks are invited.
Weeks before the wedding, the bride’s parents would go round to each house and invite personally the neighbors. A general invitation to the whole kampung folks is by announcing it at the local mosque or sticking the invitation card on the notice board of the kampung’s mosque.
Invitation to the whole kampong folks is customary, to avoid bad feelings of neighbors who may have been inadvertently left out during the dispatch of the wedding cards.
P.S. - A traditional Malay wedding is held at the bride’s house. In the big cities, it is usually held at the town community hall or a hotel banquet room.
A similar reception, albeit on a smaller scale, known as "Majlis Menyambut Menantu" or "Welcoming the Daughter-in Law" ceremony is usually held at the groom’s house the next weekend or the next day.
The few days before the wedding... and the bride’s house will be filled with relatives and their children from far and wide congregating at the house! They are there to help out, of course. But the whole house looks messy and hay-wire... Or that’s what it seems like.
But actually there is complete order in that messy looking scenario... it’s due to what is called the spirit of gotong-royong in Malaysia.
Gotong-royong is when everybody chips in to help their fellow relatives, neighbors or friends. It’s when the whole village folks would put their shoulders to the wheel and help their fellow neighbor to ensure the Big Day goes smoothly according to plan.
Outside, in the compound of the house, some of the menfolk would be busy (and also, boisterously) discussing and planning the best way to slaughter the cow or goat.
A wedding with invitation of a thousand guests would usually require at least one cow, goat and a few chickens. A grand one would at need about two to three cows to feed the guests.
The chickens are no problem – they are usually bought from the market, already slaughtered and dressed.
But slaughtering the big cow needs to be done carefully. So the older menfolk would tell the young men how to go about it. They have the experience and knowledge, while the young men provide the muscles.
P.S. - Cattle are slaughtered in the government approved abattoir in Malaysia. However, if a cow or cattle is to be slaughtered at a place other than the abattoir, then permission and license must be obtained from the relevant authority to ensure that the cattle is free from diseases.
The authorities sometimes do surprise checks– for health reasons - at wedding premises to ensure this health regulation is strictly followed.
So if you have to attend a Malay wedding, don’t worry about the health aspects - the meat are assured disease -free.
Once slaughtered, the cow will be cut up and then the meat needs to be further sliced according to the recipe of the chef. Some are cut into small chunks and some in bigger chunks.
For instance, the beef rendang would require a bigger cut while the serunding type of dish must be in teeny-weeny pieces.
The cooks for a Malay wedding are usually the men. The dishes are boiled and cooked in huge pots and giant woks and cooked over several big fires using firewood.
A few of the men will also be busy setting up the tents and then arranging the food tables and chairs for the guests. They also make sure that the plates and cups, glasses, forks and spoons and other utensils are clean and ready for the Big Day.
While the menfolks are busy with their tasks, the womenfolk would also be busy doing the less physical aspects of the Big Day preparation.
At the kitchen, a few of the women would be tasked with picking the husks and padi from the three or four sacks of rice to be cooked. A few would be assigned the tasks of cutting the onions, garlics, ginger, greens and other food ingredients for the dishes.
And like all women, they would be chatting non-stop while doing the chores!! (But of course, adding to the merriment).
Meanwhile, inside the house, a few other women would be busy putting the finishing touches and decorations for the pelamin (wedding dais) and the bridal bedroom—the two most important "objects" which perhaps represent the show-case of the Wedding.
Some of the women would be making ready the bouquets of flowers for interior decorations, and especially the bunga telur, ("bunga" is "flower" and "telur is "egg" – i.e. fully boiled chicken egg wrapped decoratively) which is the traditional Malay gift to guests who come to weddings.
The bunga telur is a symbol of fertility and it is hoped that by giving out the bunga telur the married couple would be blessed with many children.
Nowadays, variations of the bunga telur, such as gift-wrapped chocolates and sweet candies, are given out to guests. This is because with guests into the thousands, it would be a very tedious chore having to boil a few thousand chicken eggs (since about 5% of eggs boiled would have broken shells which cannot be used for the bunga telur).
However, in keeping with tradition, the bunga telur is still given out, but restricted only to very close relatives, friends and special guests.
Well, its one day before the Big Day, and where’s the bride?...
Let’s peek inside her house...
Oh, well, there she is... at ...
The day before the wedding, the bride, being Muslim, will attend an event that is attended only by the women folks, known as Khatam Al-Quran ceremony. This is usually held in the morning.
At this ceremony, the bride recites the few last pages and verses of the Al-Quran (holy book of Muslims) signifying her completion of reading the Holy Book. It symbolizes her transformation from a child into an adult with responsibility to ensure proper upbringing of her own children and family, the Islamic way.
The event will be followed by a berzanji, tahlil and nasyid (Islamic songs of worship). A small feast for those participating is then held after the event.
Another ceremony or event held before the Wedding Day is the "berinai" ceremony, which is the dyeing with henna of the hands, and the feet of the bride. This event is normally held in the afternoon.
Usually the henna, which have been pounded and mixed with water into a paste, are placed with some designs and patterns on the palms, back of hand and the fingernails and end of the fingers and feet. And it takes probably more than half a day to have imprints on the skin.
However, nowadays there are quick drying henna which hastens the process.
After some hours the hands and feet are cleansed of the dried henna, and ...woooh... elaborate patterns of red colors appear on the dyed parts of the hands and feet.
Putting of the henna is actually a practice of the past when the Malays were influenced by Indian customs. In the old days, it is said that by putting henna on the hands, this would frighten away or deter evil spirits who like to disturb new brides.
Then, to be ready for the Big Day, it’s time for the bride to beautify her face and body.
And the wedding beautician known as mak andam will be called to beautify the bride and to bring out the bride's gorgeous look for the wedding.
This involves, amongst others, an invigorating bath with assorted fragrant flowers, pulling out or shaving unwanted eyebrows, a modern hairstyle and of course application of make-ups to the face... and lo and behold, a beautiful bride fit for a prince is now ready for him!!
The program and schedule for the wedding is always fixed beforehand, (but as always,one can never be sure -- what was planned might not be what would happen, right?)
In Pahang, as in the whole of Malaysia, Malay weddings are usually held during the weekends - on Saturday and Sunday. And the majority of the weddings take place during the long school holidays so as to be convenient for relatives and guests to attend.
A Malay wedding begins with the "akad nikah" ceremony.
Normally it takes place in the morning, and is held either at the local mosque or at the bride’s home.
As Muslims, the couple is legally deemed husband and wife only after the akad nikah (or wedding contract) has been signed by the groom. An authorized religious officer (normally the imam of the local mosque) or the girl’s wali (male person closely related to the bride, such as her father, or where it is delegated to the religious official) will preside over the akad nikah ceremony in the presence of several witnesses from both parties.
The akad nikah is actually a marriage contract by the groom agreeing to wed the bride based on the Islamic requirement and rules.
The ceremony is carried out on the floor of the mosque or at the hall or living room of the bride’s home. The groom is seated on a specially made cushion with the wali or imam seated in front of him.
Before the citing of the akad nikah, the imam will read out and advise the groom on the duties of a husband, and the consequences if he leaves his wife. Normally the advice given are meant to ensure that he becomes a good husband and treat his responsibility as husband and head of a family properly.
Then, while holding the groom’s right hand in a handshake style, the imam will say,
"Ahmad, I wed you with Aminah with mas kahwin of RM22.50 cash ", and shakes both hands.
And Ahmad will reply straightaway,
"I, Ahmad son of Abu Bakar, accept Aminah as my wife with mas kahwin of RM22.50 cash."
(Watch the short video on this akad nikah ceremony here).
P.S. - The mas kahwin is the amount of dowry payment stipulated by the state government. In Malaysia, different states have different mas kahwin amounts. Currently in Pahang, it is still RM22.50.
It is imperative that the words of acceptance by the groom must be uttered immediately, clearly and in one breath otherwise it has to be repeated. The decision or final say of whether the acceptance had been made clearly by the groom is determined by the witnesses sitting around the groom.
So it is not uncommon that we find that a groom, nervous and overcome by the occasion, or by playful witnesses, has to do the akad nikah a few times. In such cases, the religious official will advise the groom to rest a short while and soothe his nerves before taking the akad nikah again.
If the witnesses agree that the words of acceptance had been made clearly and are acceptable to them, then the imam will read the doa or prayer of thanks and the groom then signs all the necessary statutory documents.
Then it's the "membatal air sembahyang" session whereby the groom will be allowed to touch the bride's hands to insert the wedding ring. It is now rightful and legal for the man to touch the woman who is now his wife. This is a brief affair, and after putting the ring on her fingers, the bride will kiss the hands of the man who is now her husband.
The highlight and culmination of a Malay traditional Wedding is the Bersanding ceremony. The Malays usually call the wedded couple as "Raja Sehari" or "Royals for the Day" and they are treated as such, like the use of yellow, for decorations and attires, which is the color associated only with royalties.
The Bersanding ceremony is perhaps a way to show the married couple first hand in person, to all the relatives, friends and guests and to allow them to get to know the couple.
The public will witness that the two have now tied the knot and are now man and wife.
Well, the Bersanding ceremony is held on the day after the akad nikah, but more often in the afternoon after the akad nikah in the morning.
So, at the appointed time in the afternoon (during lunch time usually), the groom and his delegation will arrive at the bride’s house.
The groom, who is elegantly dressed in the traditional Malay costume of baju Melayu, samping and tanjak (headwear) made from songket or silk of tenun Pahang Diraja, with a keris at his side, and wearing his gleaming new shoes, waits until everyone in his family delegation is ready.
And then, with his bestman shading him with a yellow or white-colored wedding parasol or umbrella, and with a couple of bunga manggar (palm blossom) carriers beside him, he walks slowly to the bride’s house accompanied by his family members.
The seven or nine trays of hantaran items are also carried by the family members. The kompang group from the bride’s kampung, playing the religious wedding music and tunes, also follow him to the bride’s house.
On knowing of his arrival, the bride will step out of the house and waits for the groom. Then, looking resplendent in a matching baju kebaya or embroidered baju kurung, with flower girls behind her, she will walk from her house and meet the groom a few meters away from the house.
The wedded couple will then walk hand in hand for the Bersanding ceremony at the gaily decorated pelamin (dais) set up normally at the living room or hall of the house.
However, before reaching the house, they will be greeted with a silat pulut performance (the Malay art of self-defense) and sprinkled with yellow rice and scented water by the hosts.
In some places in Pahang, before entering the bride’s house for the Bersanding, there is an unscheduled "roadblock" or stoppage ( usually engineered by the bride’s playful auntie) and the groom is only allowed to enter the house after a cash payment is made. The payment is just a token sum and the event is actually carried out in jest, for additional fun.
During Bersanding the bridal couple will be seated on the pelamin (dais) with the male on the right of the female.
And standing besides both couple will be their bestman and bridesmaid, who constantly fans the sometimes blushing couple with the traditional Malay hand fan (not because it’s hot, but more to fan away the jitters!!).
To bless the couple, who both look radiant and resplendent like the Malay proverb, "bagai pinang dibelah dua", (or "like a penang fruit sliced into two" – meaning a very fitting couple) usually the first person invited to start the blessing ceremony will be the most important guest, a VIP, or the groom’s father.
As is the Malay custom, the bridal couple is sprinkled on the palms of the hands with yellow rice, fragrant potpourri, and scented water.
Then other personalities will be called up, followed by calls to other family members, relatives and guests, who all do the same act as a sign of blessing.
And each of them will be rewarded with a bunga telur after the blessing.
Right after the Bersanding ceremony, the wedded couple and their special guests will attend a celebratory feast called the "makan beradab".
This involves the bride and groom, while seated with the family and the VIPs at a special table, feeding each other sweetened rice.
You can tell the special table for the wedded couple by the special dishes and decorations on the table.
After the makan beradab the couple will proceed to cut up the wedding cake.
The celebrations are later concluded with photograph sessions and poses at the pelamin by the couple and family, friends and close relatives, for family photos.
And all the time during the wedding day, outside the compound of the house, the merriment of the day continues unabated.
The guests and well-wishers, while feasting the special food and dishes, are treated by a live music band from the kampung, (although nowadays, the use of songs from cd's and karaoke systems are used).
Guests are invited now and then to join in the music and sing their favorite songs, and so this is one occasion when unknown talents sprout and you hear all kinds of singers ( perhaps using the platform to practise for the Malaysian Idol contest!!)
You will see that guests and well-wishers come and go, bringing their gifts and presents for the bridal couple. Cash monies are either given in envelopes or folded neatly and passed to the hosts during the shaking of the hands when leaving.
So all the while, until the late afternoon, when the last of the guests and well-wishers makes an exit, the ambiance at the house is a merry and happy one.
The groom’s family and delegation will leave after having eaten and feasted, and they will bring back with them the items exchanged for the hantaran, comprising mostly cakes, fruits, and other consumables.
The groom, of course, will be left to stay the night at the bride’s home.
At night, before they go to sleep, the wedded couple, helped by family members, will now open the many gifts received, and read the cards sent by well-wishers and friends.
And they will perhaps make plans for their honeymoon.
After a hard and tiring day, the wedded couple will then go to their gaily decorated bedroom and proceed to sleep soundly at night (or so the story goes!!).
Well, a traditional Malay wedding is full of fun and joy. And it should be so.
Because it’s a day of special remembrance for the couple and their close ones - a day they grow up and enter a new phase of life, changing their lives forever.
Memories of a wedding day live forever in the minds of the wedded ones, and it is those happy and joyful memories which should live forever until death do them part.
So, hopefully, now you will have some idea of a traditional Malay wedding in Pahang.
Watch and enjoy the traditional Malay wedding videos to feel the thrills and joys of a wedding.
And if you want to know more about the traditional events that goes BEFORE the Wedding... well, click to this link on the Merisik (Spying) and Pertunangan (Betrothal/Engagement) ceremonies.
Or the quaint Melenggang Perut Ceremony conducted when the Malay woman is in her seventh month of pregnancy.
Ahh...Weddings are always wonderful events, don't you agree?
As always, from me...
*** SELAMAT DATANG***
Return to Homepage › Delightful Traditional Malay Wedding