Reading upon this article and just feel like sharing for better understanding (especially for the BTBs and GTBs out there)and I’ll update what I have to say about this on my next post 🙂
The akad nikah is an important ceremony usually held at the bride’s house on the eve of the wedding. The ceremony may also be held at the mosque or at the Registry of Muslim Marriages.11
The ceremony is officiated by an imam (religious leader) or a kadhi (also spelt kadi; a religious official). In the past, the bride would wait in a separate room and only emerge to sign the marriage certificate. Now, the kadhi would ask for the bride’s consent to marriage before proceeding with the solemnization ceremony.
During the ceremony, the kadhi recites verses from the Quran and speaks to the groom about his duties and responsibilities to his wife. Following this, the kadhi solemnizes the marriage by making certain pronouncements, and the groom is then required to make the relevant declaration correctly and clearly to all present. After this declaration, the bride and groom sign the marriage contract. The contract is sealed with the mas kahwin, which can be in cash or kind. The mas kahwin symbolises the beginning of a husband’s responsibility towards his wife in fulfilling her everyday needs.
The akad nikah is often followed by the berinai ceremony during which the bride’s and groom’s fingers and nails are stained with henna. Traditionally, there are three berinai ceremonies: berinai curi (curi means “steal” in Malay), berinai kechil (“small”) and berinai besar (“big”). Berinai curi is conducted for the bride by her bridesmaids, The other two ceremonies involve both the bride and groom. Berinai kecil is held before akad nikah, while berinai besar takes place after.
Bersanding and other ceremonies
Most bridal couples choose to wear traditional Malay attire on their wedding day. Clothes made of songket – a hand-woven fabric embroidered with golden threads – are a popular choice. A mak andam is often engaged to serve as the bride’s beautician and consultant for the day. She ensures that the bride looks beautiful and that traditional rites such as the sending of the sirih lat-lat (betel leaves arrangement) are carried out. The sirih lat-lat is delivered to the groom’s house to inform him that the bride is ready to receive him and his entourage.
The wedding ceremony begins with the groom going to the bride’s home, usually accompanied by a kompang or hadrah (Malay drum) band, bunga manggar (palm blossoms made from tinsel paper) carriers, friends and relatives. The kompang band members usually sing verses from the Quran, seeking blessings for the couple. The kompang band lends an air of festivity to the occasion and creates an atmosphere of gaiety.
When the groom arrives at the bride’s home, her friends and relatives will try to prevent him from reaching the bride. The groom will then give a present of money to bribe his way to his bride. Sometimes, the groom has to pay the mak andam to remove the fan she is holding in front of the bride’s face.
The highlight of the wedding is the bersanding, when the bridal couple, in their wedding finery, sit on thrones placed on the pelamin (dias). They are treated as king and queen for the day. During the ceremony, friends, relatives and guests offer their blessings and congratulations, and sprinkle yellow rice and flower petals – both items are symbols of fertility – on the bridal couple.
After the ceremony, the bride and groom will eat together in the makan berdamai or makan bersama ceremony. In the past, this ceremony used to be held in the bridal suite in the presence of senior family members, during which the bride serves her husband food for the first time. Today, the bridal couple usually feast together with their guests.
When the wedding is held over several days, the couple may choose to have a second bersanding ceremony – the bertandang – held at the groom’s home a few days later. In Singapore, this process has been simplified and the couple usually proceed to the groom’s home for the bertandang after the bersanding on the same day.
The reception after the bersanding ceremony typically consists of a feast, accompanied by band performances or guests singing karaoke. In the past, guests would bring dishes to the feast, and friends and relatives would also arrive a few days early to help with decorations or provide other forms of assistance. Today, most couples engage professional caterers and hired help.
Traditionally, the wedding reception is held at the courtyard of the family home. Nowadays, the wedding reception usually takes place at the void decks of Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats or at the housing estate’s communal areas such as community centres. The void deck is, however, the preferred choice as it is representative of the “home” of the couple and their families. It is also more cost-effective to host the celebration at the void deck instead of commercial venues, especially when the guest list is long. The void deck is usually lavishly decorated for the wedding.
Guests do not have to remain for the entire duration of the reception. Before they leave, they would usually present a gift of money to the couple. In appreciation of their attendance, guests are traditionally given a bunga telur (literally translated as “flower egg”). The bunga telur, which is a symbol of fertility, is a hard-boiled egg placed on a base of glutinous rice in a cup made of sticks or wiry paper flower. Today, many couples have replaced the bunga telur with chocolates, sweets or cakes.
Traditional wedding items
Despite changes to wedding rituals and ceremonies over time, most Malay weddings still retain some traditional features. A traditional symbol of Malay weddings is the bunga manggar, which symbolises prosperity and expresses the hope that the couple will have many children. When it is tied to a road sign, lamp post or placed at a bus-stop, the bunga manggar serves as a directional landmark to help guests locate the wedding reception.
Other items commonly seen at Malay weddings are the sirih dara and bunga mayang. These are floral arrangements symbolising the chastity of the bride, and are usually gifts from the groom to the bride’s family.
The pulut pahar, which represents fertility, is found on the pelamin. This plant-like structure is made of hard-boiled eggs. After the reception, half of it is given to the mak andam and the other half returned to the bride’s family.
Dos and Don’ts
Although there are no hard-and-fast rules about what should and should not be done during Malay weddings, there are certain expectations as to how the bridal couple and guests should behave. For example, the bridal couple are traditionally not allowed to talk too much or even laugh during the bersanding, and guests are expected to dress their best. Most Malay guests turn up in traditional Malay attire. Female guests are expected to dress modestly, and off-shoulder or sleeveless clothes are avoided.
Jaime Koh and Stephanie Ho