Have you ever attended a wedding where you felt your ear drums had just been ripped off by the wedding entertainment? Incessant loud music encapsulated the whole reception atmosphere to the extent that your conversation with anyone at the venue were drowned out as you resorted to the only possible means of communication – sign language. Well….I have.

How annoying to be part of that situation where the only solution is to hasten your meal and leave as quickly as your feet could take you.

Don’t get me wrong. Entertainment such as dance, music, even live bands are part and parcel at most Malay wedding reception. I have nothing against it because incorporating entertainment in a joyous occasion such as a wedding is not against Islam. As a matter of fact, I’m all for it as long as the form of entertainment is chosen tastefully, within acceptable social decorum, without being disrespectful or irritating to anyone attending the event.

What Is Appropriate For Wedding Entertainment?

While ‘akad nikah’ (solemnisation) is a quieter affair, wedding reception should be made more lively with some entertainment such as singing or dancing.

With various forms of entertainment to choose from, the issue then is what would be considered ‘appropriate’.

I might be rebuked for this, but I am not a fan of having karaoke at weddings. In such weddings, I realize that most of the time, close friends or relatives would be the ones hogging the microphone, regardless of whether they have worthy voices to be heard or not. It gets on your nerves if they start crooning their favourite tunes at the top of their lungs with little regard to what they do to guests’ ear drums!

I attended one wedding where the older relatives (pakcik and makcik) took over the mic and sang Malay oldies from the seventies, some of which were not even love songs. I was very sure I was not the only one wishing they had gotten a sound proof karaoke room for themselves elsewhere. Who amongst the younger generation could identify with such songs? With due respect, such individuals should be reminded that it was a wedding and not their own laid-back home karaoke session.

Draw Up a Plan

Having attended many weddings over the years, I can’t help but compare weddings with properly-planned itinerary against those without. My personal take is that it would not hurt to have an itinerary planned for your wedding. The reason is that your guests would not be left on the lurch. At the very least, they would know what to expect at certain times of the reception.

I would begin the event with ‘Qasidah’ – singing of praises in the name of the Almighty and our Prophet (P.B.U.H) to instill a sense of calm at the event. They say it is also a form of blessing for the newly-weds, so why not include it?

The Qasidah does not have to be long – perhaps half an hour, after which you can play your selection of songs. However, it would be good if you could hire a professional DJ to take over your reception’s entertainment for the rest of the day.

To me, the DJ’s job is not just about playing songs throughout the event. It is about having someone to ‘manage’ the day so your event does not fall off schedule. You would want to hire a real professional who can speak well, intermittently making announcements, for instance, about the couple’s arrival or anything else that needs guests’ attention. The point is to have someone with commanding voice and clout to reach out to your guests.

Another thing to watch for is the kind of songs played. Naturally, you would want wedding-related songs to be played at the reception. After all, one of the main purposes of music is to fill the event with the ‘right mood’. A repertoire of songs played could include those with love themes or specific to weddings such as popular Malay numbers ‘Selamat Pengantin Baru’ by Saloma or ‘Kompang Dipalu’ by Waheeda and Izam EYE.

As much as one might be inclined to play just English love songs, we ought to be mindful of our guests, some of whom have preference for Malay songs. Heavy metal or rock music might appeal to some but honestly, I don’t think weddings are the right occasions for them.

Arrival of Couple

The arrival of the couple is one of the highlights of any wedding reception and in that of the Malays, it is typically marked with the accompaniment of the kompang. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it is a must. Somehow the sound from kompang injects life to the whole reception and signals the imminent arrival of the couple.

I understand that some couples have to make do with recorded version of the kompang, as in one wedding reception I attended in a hotel. Although that would suffice for some, I feel it doesn’t compare with the real presence of kompang players singing ‘live’ to the tune of various Malay wedding songs to achieve that joyous aura of an authentic Malay wedding.

Wedding Entertainment - Kompang
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How Can Guests Be Entertained?

At a wedding event, sometimes guests stay for hours, catching up with friends or relatives and also tugging in on the spread of sumptuous meal.

You want to keep them entertained. In a nephew’s wedding a few years back, there was dikir barat. My relatives and I were split about having this at a wedding. Some are against it claiming this has no place at a wedding. Rather, it was a performance to be showcased in schools or official cultural functions.

I beg to differ. To me, it was a treat, particularly for the non-Malays – to be exposed to our culture by young, energetic performers dressed in coordinated multi-coloured traditional Malay outfit complete with ‘tanjak’ (head-dress for men).

Other performances like silat could also be an option, especially if you have friends or relatives who are into it.

Singing, whether planned or impromptu, is perhaps an easier option in comparison to dance simply because the latter involves choreography. A nephew who is into singing and dikir barat surprised his bride at his wedding with his rendition of Ed Sheeren’s ‘Perfect’, moving her to tears.

In contrast, I attended another wedding where an attempt by the bride’s siblings to belt out medley of songs (without much practice) turned awry and left much to be desired.

Performance Befitting the Venue

Having an itinerary of performances is but one consideration in planning a wedding reception’s entertainment. You would also need to consider if the chosen venue could accommodate the planned performances.

As an illustration, there was a wedding I attended where a ‘ghagra’ dance was included as part of the entertainment. I love the vibrancy of this dance. However, the HDB void deck with pillars around proved the least suitable place for the dance. With tables and chairs set up for the reception, buffet spread laid out and guests moving about the area, not to mention standing fans around, I thought the performance could be a potential danger. The dancers were brilliant but they were ultimately limited to a small area in performing their piece. Guests, on the other hand, had to crane their necks to catch just a glimpse of the performance.

A similar dance I witnessed came complete with an entourage of Indian drummers. The wedding was held in a hotel ballroom that doesn’t come with any stage. To say that it was squeezy as the dancers performed, is an understatement. It became stifling for me when family members started to join in the dance and twirled their way around. It might have been fun for them but to me, it was downright messy!

A Piece of Advice

To reiterate, there is nothing wrong in including some form of entertainment in your wedding. However, in choosing the type of entertainment to have, you must consider its suitability and the venue where the reception is to be held.

With performances requiring a lot of movement such as a dance, my take is that it requires a designated space. The idea is to treat your guests to some fun without compromising on their comfort. In that light, a dance performance or dikir barat are perhaps good to incorporate if you have a venue with a stage, such as in community clubs.

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