MALAY WEDDING TRADITIONS YOU MAY NOT KNOW
In this generation, some of these Malay wedding practices are getting uncommon and even if it’s practiced, some people don’t even know the reasoning behind it. So let’s get enlightened.
01. ‘Merisik’/ Spy (to investigate)
There are always confusion with ‘merisik’ and ‘meminang’. ‘Merisik’ also means ‘memeriksa’ which is to investigate if the lady in question is single and available to be engaged and getting to know her family. In the olden days, dating is taboo and the common practice is match making or simply visiting the lady’s family to ‘check her and her family out’
The guy’s parents/ family usually would visit the lady’s parents have lunch/tea/dinner (of course with a heads up) and basically chit-chat.
02. ‘Meminang’/ Proposing
For Malay proposals, a family entourage of the guy’s side will visit the lady’s house bearing gifts (to be exchanged with the lady) and intentions. Gifts include, a ring, cake, fruits and a proposed dowry but in denominations of tens. If ‘mahar’ (dowry) is meant to be LKR100,000, LKR80,000 will be given. Usually poems are exchanged too with a declaration to propose to the lady in question.
‘Meminang’ is usually a small and simple affair but nowadays, it can be pretty grand in my opinion with henna, special outfits and more people invited almost like a wedding. To each its own.
03. ‘Mandi Bunga’/ Flower Bath
There are a few other cultures that practice this and one of them is Javanese. This flower bath consists of any7 types of flowers such as ‘Sundal Malam’, ‘Mawar’, ‘Cempaka’, ‘Kenanga’, ‘Tanjung’, ‘Melur’ and ‘Kesidang’. Flowers are dismembered, mixed with scented oils or lime juice and water. This bath usually done the night before the solemnization. It is supposedly best to bathe at midnight.
But a normal flower bath (without recitations) can be done to give the BTB a flowery scent. Think it as a major perfume shower before the wedding.
04. ‘Berewang’/ Working Together
This is a common practice in the ‘kampung’ days when everyone knows everyone and everyone was superbly helpful and hands on. Regardless whatever ceremony which includes a wedding, everyone would help 1 or 2 days before the wedding; preparing ingredients, cooking and setting up the wedding.
Since catering, décor and such are outsourced, not THAT much help is needed. It’s still practiced but with lesser work. Family and sometimes friends would come the day before the solemnization to help with preparing the wedding favors or ‘bunga rampai’ and such. Food is usually served on that day to accommodate and a way of saying thanks.
05. ‘Berandam dan Berasah gigi’/ Beautifying and Grinding of Teeth
‘Mak Andam’ (beautifier) is usually recognized as a Bridal make-up artist but originally, it was not the case. ‘Berandam’ is a practice of the trimming or shaping baby hair on the BTB’s forehead and eyebrows and her removing facial hair. This is to beautify the face. Some would say this is ‘Haram’ (illicit in Islam) because we are not supposed to change the way we look but if that’s the case, we should not wear make-up either. This is an uncommon practice as far as I know. I have plenty of baby hair and I would be devastated if someone trimmed it!
And yes, you read the 2nd part right, grinding of teeth. It does sound very tribal but once a upon a time, people do this (for those who does not have straight teeth) along with shining the teeth so that the BTB will look presentable.
06. ‘Marhaban Perkahwinan’/ Wedding Welcome with Prayers
‘Marhaban’ is common in all kinds of Islamic celebrations and that includes a wedding. It’s optional and I believe it’s quite uncommon in weddings. It’s a way to welcome guests and prayers or ‘zikir’ are recited for the bride and groom as well wishes and prayers for their wedding and marriage.
07. ‘Akad Nikah’/ Solemnisation
Originally, Islamic solemnization is very, very simple and straight to the point. All you need is a ‘wali’ (guardian), 2 witnesses, a small amount of ‘mahar’ (dowry) and/or a ring with a small dinner ‘walimah’ (celebration). Now, additional wedding gifts and dowry are expected. Usually ‘akad nikah’ is done the night before the big ‘walimah’ but sometimes, it can squeezed in a day. Bride and groom is officially married after this ceremony.
08. ‘Mahar’/ Dowry
‘Mahar’ is a gift given by the groom to the bride during the solemnization ceremony. It symbolizes the beginning of a husband’s responsibility towards his wife in fulfilling her everyday needs. ‘Mahar’ can be in cash or benefits, such as gold, silver or money. ‘Mahar’ is the bride’s right and she owns the ‘Mahar’. Thus, she has the will to dispose of it as she wishes. The current minimum rate for the ‘Mahar ‘in Srilankan LKR 100,000 up cash.
09. ‘Sirih Junjung/ Sirih Dara’/ Betel Nut Leaves flower arrangement.
Along with ‘hantaran’ both bride and groom also bears ‘sirih junjung’ from groom and ‘sirih dara’ from bride to signify their virginity. Yes! Both not just the lady. In the olden days, after the wedding is completed, other single men and women would ‘fight’ for the top of the ‘sirih dara’ for luck in relationships. For some reason, only ‘sirih dara’ are more commonly used for the bride’s side and it ends up as a cultural decoration.
10. ‘Walimah’/ Celebration
As mentioned above, there is always a celebration after the solemnization as a way to not only celebrate but also declare that the couple has officially gotten married to the public. Depending to the social life and budget of the bride and groom, a wedding can have 300 to 1500 people. Again, usually it’s a simple ceremony but now, karaoke, photo booths and much more are common.
11. ‘Kompang’/ Drumming of handheld drums
Following the groom to the bride is not only his entourage but also a procession of several men playing the ‘kompang’ as an announcement of his arrival. The men playing the ‘kompang’ also would also sing ‘ghazal’ (lyrical poems) and songs. Depending on the budget, the procession may also include ladies dancing a traditional dance.
12. brsanding’/ Sitting together
Bride and groom to sit together on a decorated stage (‘pelamin’) for the blessing ceremony and photo taking with friends and family.
13. ‘Silat Pengantin/ Malay Self-Defence Art for Bride and Groom
As soon as the bride and groom are seated, a few men or boys, will perform ‘silat’ 1 at time for the bride and groom. Long time ago, ‘silat’ is usually performed for Sultans to showcase their skills and fighting capabilities. Since the bride and groom are considered as “king and queen” for the day, it evolves to ‘silat pengantin’.
For the skill and knowledgeable, every ‘silat’ movement has its own meaning, for example, blessing the couple, respect the “royalty”, protection and etc. But mostly now, ‘silat asal boleh’ (anyhow ‘silat’) is also welcomed because it’s also a form of entertainment.
14.Menyembah Ibu-bapa dan mertua/ Respecting the parents and in-laws
After the ‘silat pengantin’, everyone will settle down, parents of the bride would sit on the ‘pelamin’ so both bride and groom can ‘salam’ (greet by kissing their hands) as a form of respect. This is repeated when they are at the groom’s location.
15.‘Tepuk Tepung Tawar’ / No Direct Translation
The bride and groom are then seated back to their ‘thrones’ for the commencement of ‘Tepuk Tepung Tawar’. Starting from the eldest of the family tree, they will:
1) Take a small amount of a mixture of yellow/ white rice, roasted wheat/ popcorn (‘bertih’) and sometimes flowers, sprinkle it onto the groom and bride to signify celebration and happiness.
2) Sprinkle rosewater onto bride and groom. Onto eyebrows signifies ability to handle problems well, onto shoulders signifies able to handle burden and responsibility and onto palm of hands for strength to work hard in life.
3) A pinch of henna paste smeared onto the couple’s palms to signify their marital status.
4) Running a boiled egg or raw egg around their faces to “absorb” any bad or ill luck.
5) Odd numbers of people are encouraged but not necessarily.
This practice is somewhat controversial in Islam due to the wastage of food by throwing rice, the act of blessing the couple and believing that a boiled egg would “absorb” bad luck. But some say for ‘culture’ sake, as long there is no belief while doing the act, it should be fine.
16. ‘Makan Beradab’ / Cultured Eating
After all the ceremony (and picture taking) the bride and groom will be guided to their own dining table to have their lunch but not before feeding each other first. There is no specific reason behind this but just an act of being romantic to each other as a husband and wife.
The same is done after cake cutting although there is no such thing is cake cutting in the Malay culture originally.
17. ‘Bertandang’/ Visiting
After an outfit change and with his bride on his side, the couple will have their wedding march (‘berarak’) to the groom’s side with the same procession of entourage, ‘kompang’ and/ or dancers. The entire practice done at the bride’s side is repeated; the ‘silat pengantin’, ‘salam’ the in-laws and parents, ‘tepuk tepung tawar’ and ‘makan beradab’ along with an additional practice, ‘mandi berhias’.