Guide to Malay Wedding Customs

Planning a marriage is never an easy task – and when you add culture and traditions to the mix, the task at hand gets even more laborious. This is especially true when it comes to any Malay wedding, which is rich in its culture and traditions.

Things can get pretty confusing, especially if you are not familiar with the customs, or if you are a foreigner marrying into the Malay community (my husband, who is a foreigner, was really confused as to what was going on!). Hopefully, this guide serves as a useful aid in helping you understand and better prepping yourself for your big day with your significant other!

Merisik

So, before the big day is even decided on, there is this very important tradition known as ‘merisik’, which translated literally, means spying! The elders from the groom’s family will visit the potential bride’s home to meet her and her family.

During this meeting, both parties will ‘suss’ each other out, to decide if the couple is right for each other. However, these days, ‘merisik’ takes a slightly different form, as many couples already know one another and their families. So instead of ‘sussing’ one another out, the meeting is usually to set a day for the engagement.

Bertunang (Engagement)

Malay Wedding Bertunang

In the Malay culture, a proposal does not equate to fiancé/fiancée status just yet (so hold your horses with the status update on Facebook if your significant other pops the question, lest you offend the elders in your family!).

Many families will usually hold a small engagement ceremony, where the elders from the guy’s side will visit the girl’s home with an engagement ring (that is usually placed on the girl’s finger by the mother of the groom-to-be) and some gifts.

During this ceremony, the matter of ‘duit hantaran’ and the duration of the engagement will be discussed. Generally, the groom-to-be does not attend this ceremony, but these days, it is becoming increasingly common for the groom to attend or to come over once the ceremony is over.

Find out more about ‘duit hantaran‘ in this post.

Pre-Wedding Preparatory Course

Ok, this is not a culture thing, but it is a compulsory thing, which is why it is up on this list! Malay Muslim marriages are conducted and legalized by the Registry of Muslim Marriages (ROMM) in Singapore.

As a pre-requisite to getting married, all Malay Muslim couples are to partake in this course, which is designed to help the both of you start a new life together. ROMM offers a list of places offering the program that you can sign up for. I suggest registering for the courses as soon as possible, as these classes get booked pretty fast.

Berinai (Henna Night)

Malay Wedding Berinai

Berinai is mainly about staining the hands of the bride, and sometimes groom, with henna. Intricate designs are drawn on the bride’s hand, and for the groom, it is usually just staining part of his fingers. While this culture originates from the Hindu custom, the Malay community very commonly practices it as well. Some families may keep it simple, by just inviting a few family members and friends, while others make a big night of it, with singing, dancing, and lots of food.

Khatam Al-Quran (Quran Recitation Ceremony)

This event is usually done a day or two before the nikah ceremony by the bride’s family. The bride’s religious teacher conducts the Khatam Al-Quran, and the bride will usually read a certain portion of the Quran. Usually, it is followed by a dua selamat (prayers) for a smooth wedding celebration and marital life.

Nikah (Soleminsation Ceremony)

Malay Wedding Nikah

After this ceremony is completed, you can update your Facebook status to ‘Married’! This is the moment that everyone waits for. For this ceremony to take place, the couple will require a wali (guardian for the bride, usually her father, grandfather or brother), two male witnesses, the kadi (solemniser), and the mahar/mas kahwin (the current minimum rate is SG$100).

Some couple choose to get this ceremony done at the mosque, while others prefer to have it done at home. This ceremony can also be done the day before the walima (marriage banquet), or in the morning before the walima.

Hantaran (Gifts and Money Exchange)

The hantaran consists of an exchange of gifts between the two parties, which can range from food items to luxury goods, such as bags, designer shoes, perfumes and more.

Within the concept of hantaran, there is also the custom of duit hantaran, which is money given from the groom to the bride’s family. This amount can range from $8,000 to $12,000, and above (though not too common), depending on the financial status of the groom and what the bride’s family has asked for. Some families may choose to have it in gold or jewelry instead of cash. The amount is pre-discussed between the two families prior to the engagement.

Menyambah and Tepung Tawar

The menyambah (paying homage) is a Malay wedding custom for the newly wedded couple to receive blessings from their parents and their close relatives, usually the elders in the family.

This is followed by the tepung tawar ceremony, which is a ritual in which rice flour, white rice, yellow rice and rose water, is sprinkled on the couple’s hands. Some also stain the couple’s hands with henna, which is then quickly wiped away so as to not ruin the henna design that is already on the bride’s hands. This ritual is to bless the marriage and to protect the couple from evilness. However, in this day and age, some families do not follow this ritual closely.

Bersanding

If you’ve ever desired what it feels like to be a model for a day, this is your chance! Some couples choose to don a variety of dresses after the nikah ceremony, which can range from traditional to modern outfits. You will then sit on the dias as family and friends join you for memorable photos taken by a professional photographer. As a groom, you’ll be pretty amazed at how fast the mak andam (make-up artist) can transform your blushing bride’s look to suit her outfit!

Walima

This is where the major festivities begin! Your guests can enjoy a live musical extravaganza/open-mic, cultural performances, and the light-hearted Malay wedding custom moment where the groom gets stopped by family and friends from the bride’s side to recite poems, dance and fork out some cash to see his bride (also known as the hadang!

The walima is a feast that is meant to announce the marriage to families and friends. The celebrations can span over two days, with the bride and groom having separate functions. However, these days, it is becoming increasingly common for both the bride and groom to have a joint function, which is also a great way at cutting wedding costs. The invite for the walima can range from hundreds to thousands, depending on the status of the family and their respective budgets.

Malay wedding customs can be dependent on individual family practices and choices, so it is always best to discuss the ongoing of your big day with your significant other to ensure you are both on the same page!

If you know someone who will be tying the knot soon, or who would like to find out more about how Malay marriages are done, do share this article with him or her via Facebook!

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