Perkahwinan – The Malay word for marriage

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I count myself privileged if I have the opportunity to attend a traditional Malay wedding. Having to fulfil the requirements of a traditional wedding, a lot of preparation needs to be done and the Muslim practices are needed to be followed. Given the broad diversity of ethnic groups from where I live, it stands to reason that wedding customs will reflect this diversity. Each ethnic group has its own wedding dresses or attire and different marriage ceremonies and customs.

Filled with enthusiasm, I settled myself with all my close family members in the groom’s house. Everyone was as eager as I was waiting anxiously for “akad nikah” to happen. I’m dressed in my newly made “baju kurung” which was silky purple and had these little cute flower prints on them.

The house, decorated with all different coloured neon lights with little decorations and streamers hanging onto it and the dais decorated with fancy balloons and banners, just stood out among all the other houses in the neighbourhood. It was beautiful.

The bride who was dressed with a beautiful green “baju kebaya” with little diamonds sequins scattered all over them. They look like shining stars and was absolutely gorgeous. The couple came out separately. The “Imam” said some prayers and asked if the bride and the groom will take each other. From what I learnt, this is an unofficial wedding. What I found different from any other weddings that I ever attended was that the bride and groom could not face each other as their religion believed that it would bring bad luck to their relationship.

Two days after that, the “berbedak” ceremony was took place. My cousin looked a bit worried and tired from everything had no choice but to get ready for this ceremony. It is one of the most important events in the whole wedding preparation. It is where the guy’s family goes to the girl’s side of the family and places coloured ointment on their hands as signs of blessing. “Malam berpacar” is the night where the couple will sit on a dais while the family members come up one by one to place henna on their fingers and palms. I did mine with little flowers on them but mum didn’t really like the idea.

On the actual wedding day, “Hari Persandingan”, I woke up extra early and got myself ready an hour earlier than the rest of my family. My dad, sick of my constant pleading to go a bit earlier to the wedding gave me a long lecture on how I was suppose to behave in front of important guest. I did not care about what he said as I was too excited about everything.

Soon after, we left. Mum looked extremely beautiful with her “baju Melayu” which was light blue in colour and everyone in the family wore similar coloured attired. After what seemed like forever, we finally arrived. Many guests arrived much earlier than we did. The atmosphere seemed tense with all the other “important” guests gives you a glare. This is not what I expected but I ignored it hoping things would get a bit better later on the wedding.

I sat myself down with a group of people that I thought was pretty pleasant looking and friendly. Next to me on my left was this older woman who had huge gold jewellery around her hands, fingers and neck and her attire was sewed with diamonds all over. She must be someone from the higher position, I thought to myself. Everything else around me seemed very quiet and I dare not say anything. The intense silence then broke when the older woman’s daughter fell off her chair. I tried helping her up but I got a bad response instead. “Jangan pegangkan anak perempuan saya!” I stood shocked, not knowing how to respond. She warned me not to touch her daughter! I could feel these tears building up in my eyes and are about to fall but I calmed myself down and kept reminding myself that this is suppose to be a happy day.

The atmosphere grew even more intense as more guests continue coming. I found myself not aware of what was happening around me. When the bride and groom came out of the house to greet guests, I was blocked by all these taller people. In the Malay tradition, “the more the merrier” is the reason why they have to invite all of their friends to this ceremony. I got shoved far behind as the other guests brought themselves forward to meet the bride and the groom. I couldn’t believe what was happening, all I wanted to do at that moment was to cry.

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