Participating in a Malay wedding as a bridesmaid or groomsman for the first time may seem intimidating. In general, here’s what you can expect:
- The wedding ceremony starts the evening before the main celebration, with the akad nikah or solemnisation either at the bride’s home or a mosque. A kadi or imam officiates it and informs the couple of their husbandly tasks and wifely duties. The ceremony concludes with the couple signing the marriage contract and the husband offering a mas kahwin or dowry to his wife as a symbol of his responsibilities as a husband.
- There will be several berinai or henna staining ceremonies, including one before the akad nikah with only the bride and bridesmaids, and two for the couple, one before the akad nikah and another after.
- The reception ceremony or walimah will begin with the groom travelling to the bride’s home accompanied by his groomsmen, family, other wedding guests and sometimes even a drum band or gamelan. Note that sometimes the walimah occurs right after the akad nikah, as is the norm nowadays, and not a day after.
- The bersanding will then commence with the couple sitting on elaborate thrones where guests will give them blessings and throw flower petals and yellow rice for fertility.
- What follows is the makan berdemai where the newlyweds will feast together, with the wife serving the meal to the husband.
- Traditionally, the walimah or reception happened in the family home’s courtyard. Nowadays, more and more Malay wedding planners in Singapore advise couples to choose other venues for convenience.
- The walimah will have lots of singing and dancing, as well as live performers depending on the wishes of the couple.
- Expect a bunga telur, which is a token of appreciation. It’s usually a flower egg, but more modern couples go for chocolates, cakes or pastries instead.
- Your attire will depend on the wishes of the bride and groom. It could either be a traditional Malay garb or a more modern outfit.
A traditional Malay wedding is among the most lavish and diverse traditions worldwide, so have plenty of fun.