Attending a Wedding in Malaysia

In Malaysia, due to the multi-ethnic and religious makeup, marriages are a colourful and meaningful affair that is full of tradition and grandeur. Come as we look at the various ways each culture celebrates this celebration of love:

Malay Weddings

There are 3 main stages of a Malay Wedding which are the merisik (asking the hand in marriage), akad nikah (wedding solemnisation), and bersanding (wedding reception).

During the merisik, traditionally the parents of the young man will visit the home of a potential bride for a friendly “investigation” into the compatibility of the couple. If everything goes well, then serious wedding discussions will take place. With everything settled, the next step is the meminang (proposal) stage and the specific details like the dowry, date and time of the actual wedding, and the wedding gifts are deliberated.

The actual religious solmisation of the wedding is during the akad nikah. This is the Islamic ceremony that is required for the marriage to be considered valid.  Only the immediate family will be present and the couple will present themselves before a juru nikah (Muslim wedding official) who will provide a brief sermon on the rights and responsibilities as a married couple from the Islamic perspective. The marriage registration and certification will be finalised then.

A few days before the bersanding, the couple will undergo a henna ceremony (berinai) which signifies blessing and protection from evil. The wedding reception will then take place which starts off with the groom walking with his entourage which consists of decorative flower bearers with kompang (Malay hand-held percussions) beats resounding in the air as they journey to the bride’s home. A pencak silat (Malay martial arts) performance is done for the groom’s party as a sign of welcome and respect. The bride and bridegroom (who are known as Raja Sehari or Royalty for the Day) are then sat together on a platform (pelamin); the couple are then sprinkled with rose-scented water, henna, sandalwood paste, and rice flour paste to signify their union publically. The newly-married couple will then join their guests for lunch, and the usual entertainment are karaoke and joget (Malay dance) sessions.

What to Wear?

The bride and groom are usually dressed in their traditional Malay garb which is a baju Melayu for the groom and usually a baju kurung or baju kebaya for the bride. They will be elaborately dressed to signify them as royalty for the day. For guests, if the reception is done in a kampong, (village) it can be quite warm as it is usually held in a community hall or outdoor void decks thus semi-formal dressing is fine like a short-sleeved or a batik shirt with long pants for men, and baju kurung or anything that is decent and conservative for women. If the reception is done in a hotel however, then formal dressing is expected.

What to Give?

As for wedding gifts, guests are not exactly expected to bring anything but the hosts will be more than grateful to receive a cash token (at your discretion) in an envelope or a green packet.

Malaysian Chinese Weddings

A Malaysian Chinese Wedding differs from a traditional Chinese Wedding as it is amalgamated with Western Wedding traditions. Numerology plays an important factor in the Chinese community especially when it comes to a couple’s compatibility. If the stars align, then preparations are done for the big day.

A study is then conducted to find the best time and date for the wedding according to the Chinese Lunar calendar. The bride and groom’s birth date and time analysed by an expert, and once an auspicious date is found, that will be set as the wedding day.

On the day of the wedding, the bride will wait in her home with her wedding dress for her groom to “collect” her and bring her back to his home. The bride’s family will prepare an offering for the gods so that the couple will have a blessed wedding. When the groom arrives with his entourage, they would blast their car horns along the way to increase the mood of the wedding and to scare away evil spirits. This is a modern improvisation of the traditional olden day’s method which involved gongs and drums. The groom must wait for the bride’s brother to open the car door for him.

The groom then must go through several fun “tests” like eating weird food and playing games before he is deemed “worthy” to have access to his bride-to-be. He is then let into the house and the next step is the Chinese Tea Ceremony whereby the couple will present their parents with tea as a sign of obtaining their blessing. The parents in return will give the couple their blessing in the form of jewellery for example. Tea will then be served to all elder relatives of the bride. The couple will then go to the groom’s family and the process is repeated. A light lunch will then be served before the reception in the evening, during the toast to the bride and groom, the Chinese will usually shout Yum Seng! many times as in Cantonese, Yum Seng means “drink to victory”.

What to Wear?

The Wedding Reception is very similar to a Western Wedding reception and is usually done in a hotel ballroom or formal Chinese restaurant. The usual dress code would be formal, men should dress in suits but not necessarily black tie, for ladies a cocktail dress or long dress preferably in a light or bright colour as black and darker colours are closely associated with funerals.

What to Give?

For wedding gifts, cash is preferred and though not a must, the amount to give depends on where the reception is held. For example, if the reception is done in a 5-star hotel, then a minimum of RM200 is given. This is so that the bride and groom can cover the cost of the wedding reception which can be an expensive affair.

Malaysian Indian Weddings

Due to the number of different and diverse Indian ethnicities in Malaysia like Malayalee and Telugu, we will focus on the Tamil culture being the largest Indian group in Malaysia.

Like the Chinese culture, a Hindu priest will calculate the best date and time for the wedding according to the bride and groom’s date of birth and Indian star sign. In the Tamil culture however, the time the wedding is done is very important so it is not uncommon to have weddings at 4:00 am.

During the day of the wedding, the groom’s best man (usually the brother of the bride) will wash the groom’s feet and put a toe ring on it. The groom will then present a gold ring to his brother in law as a sign of gratitude.

The groom and the bride’s brother will then sit on a platform, and then later the bride will join. The platform is called the Manavarai which symbolises Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi. After the priest performs his duty and solemnises the wedding, the groom will tie a thali on his bride which is a golden necklace which symbolises eternal love.

The guests will then throw rice with turmeric powder to the couple three times for good luck.

The bride and groom will be dressed in the traditional Tamil wedding dress of a kurta for the groom and a saree for the bride. As with all weddings, they will be elaborately dressed especially the bride who will be decked in gold accessories.

What to Wear?

Guests may come dressed in either a kurta for men and saree for women

What to Give?

Cash is preferred and the minimum to give is RM51. Why the odd number? It is because the amount can’t have a zero in it as it will mean zero prosperity to the newlyweds. These are just three examples of the three main races in Malaysia. Being a melting pot of cultures, Malaysia has a lot more to offer and feel free to experience the joy of romance in Malaysia.