Malay Weddings

Category: Social Practices, Rituals and Festive Events

Malay weddings in Singapore are festive and celebratory affairs involving many relatives and friends. Despite modernisation and urbanisation, many Malay weddings continue to be deeply rooted in cultural and religious traditions, and Malays of different heritage and ancestry celebrate their weddings in different ways.

A Malay WeddingMalay wedding photo with family members. Source: National Heritage Board (Romance, Hopes and Dreams Exhibition)

An important component of the Malay-Muslim wedding is the akad nikah (solemnisation ceremony). The akad nikah is an agreement of marriage between the groom and the bride’s father or legal guardian, and is done in accordance to Islamic law. The signing of the marriage contract is done in accordance with Muslim rites, and in the presence of a kadi, a religious official qualified to solemnise Muslim marriages. The ceremony is usually held at the bride’s house before the wedding, at a mosque, or at the Registry of Muslim Marriages.

Following the akad nikah, a majlis jemputan (wedding reception) will be held, where guests are invited to celebrate the joyous occasion with the wedding couple and their families. The wedding is a regal affair, as the bride and groom are presented in a bersanding (‘sitting-in-state’) ceremony that signifies them as raja sehari, or king and queen for the day. Traditionally, the wedding reception is held at the courtyard of the family home. In today’s modern context, wedding receptions usually take place at the void decks of Housing Development Board (HDB) flats, or in communal areas in HDB estates, or hotel ballrooms and other event spaces. When held at the void deck, the space is usually lavishly decorated and, bands or music performances often add to the joyous atmosphere of the reception.

During the reception, the groom will wear the baju Melayu which consists of a long-sleeved tunic and trousers, paired with a kain samping around his hips and a matching tanjak or songkok (a headdress). The keris, an asymmetrical dagger synonymous with the Malay Archipelago, is also a common accessory for the groom and symbolises not only his masculinity but that the groom is the “king for the day”. The bride will wear a baju kurung (loose-fitting dress consisting of a long skirt and long-sleeved blouse) or a baju kebaya (tighter-fitting blouse paired with a sarong) that is often coordinated with the groom’s outfit.

During the reception, the groom will wear the baju melayu which consists of a long-sleeved shirt and trousers, paired with a tanjak (a headgear made of woven silk fabric). The keris, a Javanese dagger, is also a common accessory for the groom and symbolises that the groom is the “King for the day”. The bride will wear a baju kurung (loose-fitting full-length dress consisting of skirt and blouse) or a baju kebaya (tighter-fitting blouse-dress) that is often coordinated with the groom’s outfit.

In Malay weddings, flowers are used in many ways. During the wedding procession, the groom will be flanked by bunga manggar (palm blossoms) as he leads his relatives and friends to the bride’s home. Family members or a guest-of-honour also take part in a tepung tawar ceremony, a traditional practice of sprinkling rose water and rice grains on the bridal couple, followed by the smearing rice flour paste onto the couples’ palms to signify blessings and well-wishes. To commemorate the occasion, guests are also given bunga rampai, a potpourri of finely cut pandan leaves and flowers (bunga setaman) scented with rosewater or orange blossom water. The bunga rampai is traditionally wrapped in cones of sireh (betel) leaf, handkerchiefs or placed in small containers. 


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