Following are things that should be considered before Malay couples get married.
When the man pops out the question and of course, the woman agrees, the engagement date should be set. It is done usually when the families of the couples meet up to discuss their plans to marry.
Marriage Preparation Course
Before the Malay wedding countdown begins, the couple should take part in a mandatory preparatory course prepared by the court of Syariah. It’s a three to four day seminar held at a few Islamic organizations and mosques to give basic knowledge to the couple about some Malay marriage intricacies. Though not actually an exhausting course, it covers basic issues like the significance of planning financially, compromise and others. For details regarding course schedules, check the link provided here.
When the course ends, the couple is awarded a certificate of participation. It should be presented upon collecting the marriage certificate.
An impending marriage registration should be done in advance within seven to a hundred and fifty days. The couple should go to the ROMM or Registry of Marriage for Muslims to register their solemnization date.
The future groom, future bride and a witness (the bride’s father) have to go to an interview with a ROMM official. He’ll ask questions based on topics like duties of the husband and wife and challenges one might encounter as a couple. Religious knowledge and issues are also tested. Once it’s done, a solemniser notes the date intended for solemnization. Marriage registration fees are S$39 for a Singaporean and PR party or S$128 for both foreigner parties.
A classic Malay wedding lasts for two days for the solemnization and the wedding feast. But there are weddings that go on for days. These extra days before the ceremony of solemnization are for the bride’s application of henna in taking their hands to a ceremony called Berinai. In these days, they’ll also parade and change their bridal wear or trousseau.
Gifts of Betrothal
In the approaching solemnization ceremony, the closest relatives and acquaintances of the couple are invited to the event. The couple’s families prepare gifts of betrothal in forms of personal items and food.
During a wedding preparation, one significant gift being exchanged is called “Sirih Dara” that literally means “Betel Leaves Virgin”. It’s a special flower and leaves of the betel nut arrangement. It’s given by a groom to a bride to indicate the bride’s virginity. It is placed on a wedding dais, a platform used by a groom and bride for sitting and being looked at.
As mentioned a while ago, the gifts are adorned and prepared to be exchanged by the couple’s families. These decorations nowadays are theme-coordinated. It should match the selected color scheme based on the groom or bride’s preferences. There’s nothing as lucky colors in Islam, and that is why the couples aren’t restricted with the colors.
Aside from that, a “Mahr”, also known as bride money, should be prepared by the husband to be given to his wife. This gift in Singapore typically comes in the forms of cash that ranges from $6,000-$15,000.
Akad Nikah or Ceremony of Solemnization
A typical Malay Wedding starts off as a ceremony of solemnization that happens in a bride’s house or mosque.
It involves some influential people in the couple’s lives:
1. The Groom
2. The Bride’s father (if not around, the succeeding family male member on the paternal side like the brother, grandfather or uncle) that serves as a witness and a person giving away the bride
3. The Solemniser (an official at the court of Syariah)
As required by the laws of Islam, the father of the bride’s role in giving away the bride. That’s the reason why the male hierarchy is being observed in case the father is not available.
Before starting the Ceremony of Solemnization, the solemniser asks the bride if she agrees with the marriage.
When consent is given by the bride, the ceremony called Akad Nikah starts with verse recitations from a Koran. After that, the groom makes an agreement in marrying the bride, saying it loud then shaking hands with a solemniser. He’ll take the marriage oath with a solemniser to guide him.
When it is finished, the marriage ceremony is completed. The groom and bride are now pronounced as husband and wife legally. The process is, therefore, the most essential part in a wedding for Islams.
NOTE: There’s nothing like a lucky day and time to be had at a wedding for Islams. The time is typically chosen in the marrying couple’s convenience and the solemniser’s availability.
Not like your usual Chinese banquets, the Malays typically hold separate banquets for the groom and bride’s guests.
In my friend, Nazehaa’s case, she held her family and friends’ wedding dinner after the ceremony of Nikah whilst her husband held his family and friends’ wedding lunch after the ceremony of Bersanding the next day.
Ceremony of Bersanding
The wedding day symbolizes Bersanding, which means of the groom and bride’s “sitting together” on a Pelamin, a bridal chair. Two chairs are needed for this ceremony, one for the groom’s house and one for the bride.
At a chosen period, the groom will be escorted at a procession with a loud trumpet blast of a Kompang band (Malay tambourine) and making way to his bride’s home. Upon entering the doors to a pelamin, he’s required to give payment in cash form to the bride’s family.
A layered pedestal tray called astakona is placed facing the pelamin. Every layer has a huge pile of yellow rice, cooked and studded with red-colored eggs all over. The tray will be presented later to an emak pengantin or a chosen close relative or friend to be a matron of honor as an appreciation sign for help throughout the wedding. The groom sits on a bridal couch with his bride.
The couple then returns, in procession, to the groom’s house. They’re typically with a hadrah band which consists of men having a rhythm using timbrels and reads Koran verses. Their music serves as a worldly proclamation for the marriage of the couple.
The Ceremony of Bersanding is repeated in the groom’s house for his family. It is followed with a wedding banquet. The celebration ends as the couple returns to the bride’s house in respect to her family.