Muslim Weddings in Malaysia
Like other Muslim countries, young men and women in Malaysia seldom interact together in public, much less in private. However, Malaysian men have more say about who their future partner is going to be than in some other Muslim countries.
The selection of a woman is initiated by the young man, who suggests his choice to his mother. The mother will discuss the choice with her husband, and they will determine if the girl is free or not. If so, a gathering of information takes place, with the parents of the hopeful groom asking their close relatives and friends to find background on the girl and her family. If she is of good repute and if her parents are agreeable, preparations begin for the engagement ceremony. The formal proposal and the acceptance are conducted by go-betweens (syaraks) from both families.
The engagement is formally announced by the village headman at a mosque during Friday prayers. After prayers, the families meet to discuss the date of the wedding, wedding arrangements, and the time when the token of commitment (hantaran) will be sent.
Along with hantaran, the groom will often send the wedding ring to his bride. He may also include a portion of the bride price, but this is usually sent at another time which is arranged by the syarak. The syarak will also deliver the bride price, and both families at this time will convey good wishes.
Guests are informed of the wedding through either through invitations or, more commonly, through word of mouth passed on by close relatives of the couple. It is not an exclusive affair, however, as most people in the village will attend. In fact, many people in the village will assist with preparations, which begin a few days before the ceremony.
The bride will take her place on a dais, where she will sit in state (besangin) before the ceremony begins.
The ceremony is called berinai besar. The groom wears his formal wedding attire and makes his way to the house of the bride’s family, accompanied by other men who play musical instruments. He begins the berinai ceremony, which is the staining of the bride’s hands with elaborate henna decorations. After he has done a bit, he takes his place beside his bride, while others finish the procedure. The couple are then sprinkled with yellow rice and scented water as a blessing. Guests typically receive gifts that symbolize fertility, such as eggs and flowers, or artificial representations. Guests may also “feed” the couple by placing a portion of rice into their hands).
The imam then performs the marriage readings and blessings, and formalizes the matters of payment and gifts. The bride price is made, and the couple is announced as husband and wife.
As in many Muslim countries, the gifts of the guests are given to the bride, and are considered hers alone. These are brought forward to where the couple is sitting by the bride’s syarak.