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Malay weddings are grand affairs where the couple is treated as royalty. Weddings are usually spread out over several days, starting with the Henna-staining ceremony, followed by the Nikah ceremony and ending with the Bersanding, which is the actual wedding day.
As soon as a man announces his wish to marry, an engagement date will be set when families of the couple meet to discuss the wedding plans.
The excitement begins three days before the wedding. On this day, the bride-to-be shows off her trousseau, changing five to six times throughout the day, as a sign of good luck. Her friends and relatives are invited to view her wardrobe. A day after this, the wedding ceremony proper starts with the henna-staining ceremony. During this ceremony, yellowish oil, extracted from henna leaves is applied on the fingertips of the couple by friends and relatives. It announces their forthcoming unity.
Religious solemnisation of the marriage takes place on the wedding eve. Known as the Nikah ceremony rite is required by both the Islamic law and the civic law to legalise a Malay wedding.
The actual wedding day is the Bersanding. This literally means the "sitting together of the bride and bridegroom on the bridal couch". Known as the Pelamin, this couch is the centrepiece of the whole ceremony, and two pelamins are required - one in the bride's house and the other in the bridegroom's. As the Bersanding ceremony customarily takes place in the afternoon, the bridegroom entertains guests at his own house in the morning. At the agreed time, he is escorted in a procession with a hadrah or kompang band (male music group) to his bride's house. On arrival, he has to pay a 'tax' in the form of money to the girl's family before he enters each door leading to the pelamin to take his place besides his bride. An astakona, a tiered pedestalled tray, is also placed in front of the pelamin. Each tier contains a mound of cooked yellow rice studded all over with red-dyed eggs. This tray will later be presented to the emak pengantin (a close friend or relative chosen to be the matron of honour for the marriage) as an act of appreciation for her help during the ceremonies. The groom then sits with the bride on the pelamin. After this the couple returns to the bridegroom's house in a procession. They are normally accompanied by the hadrah band, with men beating a rhythm on their timbrels and reading verses from the Koran. The music proclaims their marriage to the world. At the bridegroom's house, the Bersanding ceremony is repeated for the benefit of the bridegroom's kinfolk. This is followed by feasting and merry-making, called the kenduri. The wedding celebrations come to an end when the bridal pair returns home to the bride's house to pay respects to her family.
Rakunathan Narayanan, 2002
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The information in this article is valid as at 1997 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.
Ethnic Communities>>Customs and Traditions
Marriage customs and rites--Singapore
People and communities>>Marriage and weddings
People and communities>>Social groups and communities