Evelyn Low, a wedding planner with Lagun Sari, one of the leading Malay/Muslim wedding service providers, says,
“For most, it is more than just a custom. It is that once-in-a-lifetime experience of being able to marry off their child in a ceremony that is familiar to them. In doing so, they are actually bonding as well as every parent was also once a newly-wed.”
The Malay Muslim community has its own set of customs to be followed for marriage:
Before the wedding
A date for the adat bertunang (engagement custom) is set for the couple's families to discuss the wedding and the date for the akad nikah at her home.
The groom may or may not be present for this. The potential bride stays in her room while everything is settled and his representatives hand over trays of gifts, including a dowry. Then a female relative places the engagement ring on her finger, and she presents gifts for him to his representatives.
On the big day
The kompang (drum band) announces the Malay Muslim groom's arrival at the bride's place.
In Malay culture, the hantaran (part of the dowry) is a gift from the groom to the bride, and vice versa. There is no fixed rule in terms of items to include, but some have given branded shoes (which she uses for the wedding), a new laptop, and so on.
There is also the tradition of duit hantaran or gift of money to his bride's family. The amount would have been agreed upon during the adat bertunang.
During the malam berinai, the bride's nails and hands are stained with an intricate henna design to beautify them and to repel evil spirits.
Loosely translated, this means night of henna staining for the bride, and occurs three days before the akad nikah. She and her female relatives and friends gather to decorate their hands and feet with henna. Her design, of course, is the most intricate.
On the hands, the henna is believed to repel evil spirits, on the nails, it makes her appear lovely, on the palms, it guards her, and on her feet, it ensures that she won't walk away from the groom.
Akad nikah or solemnisation
This most important ceremony in a Muslim wedding usually takes place on the eve of the celebration, and is presided over by a kadi or Muslim marriage solemniser. The groom has to make a declaration correctly and clearly to all present.
After this, they sign the marriage contract, which is sealed with the mas kahwin (dowry) in cash or kind that symbolises the beginning of the groom’s responsibility towards his bride in fulfilling her everyday needs.
Hadang and the bersanding
The couple are treated like a king and queen at the bersanding or sitting-in-state ceremony.
After the akad nikah comes the hadang and the bersanding or sitting-in-state ceremony.
This begins with him visiting her home in the company of a kompang (drum band), bunga manggar (palm blossoms made from tinsel paper) carriers, friends and relatives. The drummers usually sing verses from the Quran, seeking blessings for the couple.
Before he can fetch his wife, the groom must complete tasks, like reciting pantuns (poems), and give cash. Later both are treated like a king and queen at the bersanding as guests offer blessings and congratulations, and sprinkle yellow rice and flower petals for fertility over them.
This article was first published in Her World Brides March issue. All images are by FadVisual.