Malay Weddings

Category: Social Practices, Rituals and Festive Events

Malay weddings 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 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 bersanding (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 treated as king and queen for the day. The colours used for the wedding ceremony are bright and colourful, and often include yellow, which is the royal colour for Malays.

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 HDB estates, or in communal areas or 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 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. When the bridal couple sits on a raised dais (platform for wedding couple to sit on) at the bersanding (wedding reception), parents and relatives are invited to sprinkle bunga rampai (scented pandan leaves and flower petals) and rice on them, signifying the giving of blessings and well wishes for a fruitful union. 

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