Traditional Malay Wedding


The Malay wedding

The Malay wedding is a great affair. The bride and groom are treated as king and queen for a day.


The pre-wedding meeting between the bride’s and the groom’s parents will determine the dowry that is to be given to the bride as well as the date of the solemnization. This may be as early as a year before the wedding itself so that arrangement could be made in advance.


This is henna application that is held prior to the wedding. The bride’s palms and feet are decorated with the dye from the henna leaves. Sometimes this is followed by the the “tukar pakaian” (costume changes) and the bride and sometimes the groom wear different outfits for the photo-shoot. The “pelamin” (raised dais) will be beautifully decorated for the purpose.

Akad Nikah

Wedding ceremony is an important affair and akad nikah which means the wedding contract, effectively forges the union. The solemnization in normally presided by a “kadhi” (a religious official of the Shariat court. In older days, it was customary for the bride’s biological father to perform this function. The akad nikah ceremony is in effect a verbal contract between the bride’s father or his representative (in this case the kadhi) and the groom. A small sum of money called “mas kahwin” seals the contract. The dialogue is as follows, and must be articulated clearly as to be heard by three witnesses.

Kadhi: I marry thee to (so and so) with the mas kahwin of (sum of money)

Groom: I accept this marriage with (so and so) with the mas kahwin of (sum of money)

The simplicity of this ritual belies the tremendous responsibilities of the groom to care for his bride, and this is reinforce in a brief lecture on the wedding and its responsibilities delivered later by the kadhi. The groom is also reminded that, should he fail to provide both spiritual and physical sustenance for his wife, the wedding may be dissolved if a complaint is made to the shariat court.

The small sum of the mas kahwin is to ensure that the “hantaran” (dowry) has been noted. This sum of money may go up to thousands of dollars. Often, the hantaran takes the form of both cash and jewellery or clothing.

The “istiadat hantar belanja” (sending of dowry and gifts) and “upacara akad nikah” (solemnization) often take place at the bride’s place. The recent trend , though, is to hold the solemnization in the mosque as was performed during the prophet Muhammad’s (saws) time. The solemnization is usually conducted by the kadhi (marriage official) in front of witnesses after both partners are asked separately if they consent to the marriage. Gifts are then exchanged and there may be recitation of the Quran.

Gifts from the groom are checked to ensure that they are as promised. They will then be displayed in the bridal chamber. Gifts of clothes, toiletries and even prayer mats (to signify their adherence to the religion) are presented in intricate boxes or forms known as “gubahan”.


Guests are invited to partake of a meal on Sunday. This is usually held in the void deck of a housing board flat so as to accommodate the large number of the guests invited. Besides cutting down on costs, holding the feast in the void deck also enables the guests to view the bridal chamber and the “bersanding” (sitting in state) ceremony often held in the “pengantin’s” (bride/groom) home. The wedding preparation is often based on the “gotong-royong” (cooperation) among friends and relatives., for which the Malays are most well known that such tasks be undertaken by caterers.

Guests are presented with a “bunga telur” each. Literally, this means (flower and egg). Previously, the gifts were eggs dyed red placed in a cup or container with some glutinous rice at the base. Sometimes a paper flower is added to decorate the gift symbolizes a fertile union and the hope that marriage will produce many children. Most gifts are commercially prepared and take the form of the chocolate, jelly or even a cake of soap.

The feast is often a noisy, lively and informal affair. This is further enhanced by the colorful costumes worn by the guests themselves. A Malay band group may be hired to have a great atmosphere. The arrival of the groom is heralded by the “hadrah” (some teenagers singing and drumming). The groom is often flanked by “bunga manggar” (palm blossoms) carried and a busload of relatives and friends.

The “mak andam” (beautician) as well as members of the bride’s family will be waylay the groom and ask for and “entrance fee”. Only when they are satisfied with the amount the ceremony takes place.