A wedding is the ceremony in which two people are united in marriage or a similar institution. Wedding traditions and customs vary greatly betweencultures, ethnic groups, religions, countries, and social classes. Most wedding ceremonies involve an exchange of wedding vows by the couple, presentation of a gift (offering, ring(s), symbolic item, flowers, money), and a public proclamation of marriage by an authority figure or leader. Special wedding garments are often worn, and the ceremony is sometimes followed by a wedding reception. Music, poetry, prayers or readings from Scripture or literature are also optionally incorporated into the ceremony.A Malay wedding is usually performed when either one or both spouses are Malay. Malaysian law defines a Malay person as a Muslim.Malay weddings are grand affairs where the couple is treated as royalty. The traditional wedding ceremony is in two parts. The first part is the akad nikah (marriage contract), which is the legal and religious part of the wedding. The second part is the bersanding (enthronement), which is a family celebration. It is usual for the two parts to be celebrated over two days. However, it is becoming common for there to be a gap between the parts of the wedding, during which the couple are legally married, but saving up for an elaborate bersanding. In cases where the couple have family spread around the world, a number of bersanding may be held in different countries to allow everyone to wish the couple well.
The adat merisik (asking ceremony, or more literally 'spying custom') is the traditional Malay system for arranging marriages. When it is time for a young man to get married, his family will look around to identify a number of potential brides. Nowadays, the man might suggest to his family who he would like them to consider, and it may be that a romantic link already exists between the man and woman. Having decided upon one particular woman, the merisik, or investigation process, takes place.
For this ceremony one or more representatives (wakil) of the man's family pay a friendly visit to the family of the woman whom they have in mind as his potential bride. The visit is purely for the purpose of further investigation, and it gives the visitors the chance to see the woman. A hint will be given to her parents regarding the purpose of the visit, and their reaction will be assessed. The woman's parents may also give the visitors some idea as to whether or not their daughter would be interested in the match. The merisik does not constitute a formal proposal. Following the visit both sides can begin to think more seriously about the possibility or otherwise of a marriage. It is possible that no progress may take place, and the man's parents or representatives will then look for another possible bride.
As soon as a man announces his wish to marry, an engagement date will be set when families of the couple meet to discuss the wedding plans. The adat bertunang (engagement custom) is normally held at the bride's home.
A Malay wedding proper begins with the akad nikah (marriage contract) ceremony. The groom signs the marriage contract and agrees to provide the bride with a mas kahwin(mahar,literally 'marriage gold' in form of money or goods or anything as requested by the bride).It is opposite to dowry where the mas khawin is paid by the groom to the bride. The mas khawin is a symbol to show that the men is willing and are prepared to build a family with the lady he chose to get married to. The contract signing is done before a religious official and is accompanied by prayer.
If the bersanding is to take place the next day, the couple's hands are dyed with henna during the berinai besar (great henna-ing) ceremony. The bride's hair is also trimmed, eyebrows shaped and make-up applied by a beautician, known as the mak andam. Then the bride puts on her tudung (hijab or headscarf) to cover their hair and a selendang, or embroidered and beaded shawl over that. A crown is also placed on top of the shawl. If the bersanding does not take place on the day following the nikah, these preparation customs are delayed until thebersanding.
The actual wedding day is the Bersanding. This literally means the "sitting together of the bride and bridegroom on the bridal couch". Known as the Pelamin, this couch is the centrepiece of the whole ceremony, and two pelamins are required - one in the bride's house and the other in the bridegroom's. As the Bersanding ceremony customarily takes place in the afternoon, the bridegroom entertains guests at his own house in the morning. The bersanding (enthronement) ceremony begins with the groom's procession with friends, relatives, musicians and people waving bunga manggar (palm blossom) to meet the bride. Often various good-humoured attempts are made to waylay or stop the groom from getting to the bride. The main part of the bersanding involves the seating of the bridal couple on a dais and sprinkling them with yellow rice and scented water by family members, relatives and guests as a sign of blessing. Each guest will receive a bunga telur (egg flower), a decorated egg with a fabric flower, as a sign of fertility. The couple are considered royalty for the day, and so various royal customs are performed for them, including musicians playing court music and 'bodyguards' performing a display of Silat (traditional Malay martial arts).
After the bersanding ceremony
After the bersanding ceremony, the wedded couple and their guests attend a celebratory feast called the makan beradab (formal meal). This involves the bride and groom feeding each other sweetened rice. The celebrations are concluded by posing for family photographs.
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