In essence, ‘andam’, simply means to beautify or enhance one’s appearance.
It used to be that the Mak Andam was a woman typically above the age of forty who got into the trade handed down from generation to generation. Her role was sometimes mired in controversial practices, secret chants that were supposedly able to ensure the smooth running of the whole wedding event. Besides taking care of the bride, she was responsible for the adherence to the Malay wedding customs and rituals, should anyone violate the protocol.
So yes, back in the day, you could say that the Mak Andam was more than just a make-up artist. She was the maid-of-honour (attending to the bride’s every need), cultural adviser, spa-like treatment provider (preparing special ‘flower baths’ for the bride) and timekeeper (should there be multiple wedding outfit changes).
The practice of ‘potong andam’ was also commonly carried out by a Mak Andam then. Ask a bride today if they know what this ritual is, more likely than not her bewildered response would be “What’s that?”
Unbeknown to many, ‘potong andam’ would not be performed without the bride’s permission. It is a ritual that was practised in the bid to inject radiance to the bride so people would be mesmerized by her beauty. This practice generally involved the cutting of a few strands of baby hair from the forehead and the eyebrows.
Honestly, I struggle to understand how such simple ‘haircut’ could bring out radiance in a woman. But an older woman I spoke to claimed that there was more of the practice. In addition to exuding radiance, the ritual was also the Mak Andam’s way of finding out if a woman is a virgin. People back in the day believed that the Mak Andam has ‘supernatural’ powers that she could determine such a private detail of a woman’s life!
But gone are the days when the figure of the Mak Andam was shrouded in these mystical beliefs or her ability to ward off evil intentions through her use of black or white magic. It could well be a belief that is long gone, along with the notion that Mak Andam were revered old women with coiffed hair, clad in tight kebayas.
The Role Of A Mak Andam
The Mak Andam that we know today, for the most part, provides the basic ‘make-up’ service along with provision of wedding outfit for both the bride and the groom.
Generally, if a bride looks like a million dollars on her wedding day, the Mak Andam stands to get the credit. On the contrary, if a bride looks far from resplendent on her big day, fingers would start pointing at her Mak Andam.
The Mak Andam’s role as a make-up artist is a major one. However, her duties could expand depending on the services she provides.
A check on the various Mak Andam in Singapore reveals a plethora of services that the Mak Andam claims to be able to provide. These include :
- Wedding car
- Wedding planner
- Wedding cakes and desserts
- Photography and videography
- Wedding decor (dais and reception)
This list is certainly not exhaustive as there are other services which might be requested by a bride-to-be such as henna application or facial treatment for the bride.
In the words of a friend, the higher the cost of the Mak Andam, theoretically, the more services she would be eager to provide you. However, the services may not all come under one roof as the Mak Andam outsource them to others.
Mak Andam – Must You Have One?
Some couples prefer to engage in a ‘one-stop-shop’ with all their wedding needs from planning to wedding decor to photography/videography met by a Mak Andam.
Others choose to go the extra mile in soliciting services from different vendors for their various needs, believing that the best comes from specialisation. For this group, engaging in a Mak Andam is largely for the bride’s make-up as well as wedding outfit for the couple.
If you choose to engage in a make-up artist instead of a Mak Andam, then you would have to source for the wedding outfit(s) and manage dressing up yourself.
A relative experience
A relative who had her wedding ceremonies in Singapore, Bangalore and Germany compared her experiences with a Mak Andam/make-up artist in these three venues.
She had no maid-of-honour to attend to her in Bangalore and so relied on her sister to do her make-up as well as help with the wedding dresses.
In Germany, she engaged in a make-up artist whose role was of course, solely make-up and nothing more. Even though she was struggling with the heavy ghagra wedding dress, she did not get any help from her make-up artist. Unlike in Singapore, it is not the practice in Germany for a make-up artist to extend her assistance to the bride in putting on her wedding dress.
What’s worse, the make-up artist left right after she was done with the bride because she had another appointment to attend to!
It is a different story with her wedding in Singapore. As with the norm, her Mak Andam was with her throughout the whole ceremony, ensuring she looks her best with no sweat or tears in sight. Giving the bride her full attention, the Mak Andam succeeded in making the bride more relaxed and at ease. The groom was also not left to his own devices as the Mak Andam readily helped with his chosen traditional Malay outfit. So no struggle with the ‘kain samping’ and ‘tanjak’.
This relative’s separate ceremonies clearly exhibit the outcome of a bride’s experience in going with and without a Mak Andam. In Singapore, she felt assured as the Mak Andam gave her full undivided attention throughout the ceremony and perhaps wished that she had similar service in Bangalore and Germany.
How to Choose a Good Mak Andam
You might have your own criteria in choosing a Mak Andam that suits your needs. A lady who may be deemed a ‘good’ Mak Andam to one bride may not be the same to another.
What is a ‘good’ Mak Andam anyway?
To me, the ability to enhance a bride’s appearance through the use of make-up is but only one criteria in a ‘good’ Mak Andam. She must also be :
- A good adviser in the selection of outfit for the couple
- Trustworthy, for example, not engaged in another booking when she has already taken on an assignment
- Flexible, for instance, in a situation where a bride insists on wearing a dress that might not suit her, the Mak Andam can advise but the decision is ultimately the bride’s
- Someone with excellent sense of timing (punctual) and able to estimate the amount of time she needs to dress up the bride (and groom) so that the couple’s wedding program can be kept to schedule
Before pinning down on your chosen Mak Andam, perhaps you could consider the following:
- Choose someone who can offer services within your budget
- Ensure if there are extra charges for make-up re-application in the (hopefully) unlikely event that something untoward happens
- .Ask if the Mak Andam you choose will be the one to serve you and be with you throughout your event? Will her duties be delegated to someone else?
- Pick one based on recommendations from friends and relatives. Be strict with this. Consider someone who had actually served your friends or relatives previously so they can tell you their actual experience working with her
Any bride would want to look her best on her special day. Selecting a good Mak Andam is crucial, particularly if you, together with your partner, want to appear a radiant couple on your wedding day.
Sure you have the option of getting a make-up artist and separately, source for your wedding dresses. But is it wise to add stress on your big day with all these D-I-Y? So be prudent, choose wisely!