So you’ve come to Malaysia, got settled in, made some close friends, and suddenly, you’re invited to a Malay wedding. Well, don’t panic! Now is probably the right time for us to let you know that Malay weddings are fairly easy to breeze through. There aren’t any confusing customs that you should memorise and you need not worry about being too cautious at the wedding.
That said, it’s still good to know some basics about the ceremony and the dos and don’ts at the event. Here’s a mini guide on how to attend Malay weddings:
First things first, Malay weddings are usually separated into two parts – akad nikah (solemnisation ceremony) and majlis bersanding (reception). The akad nikah, which is the actual wedding ceremony, is typically held early in the day at the bride’s parents’ home or at a local mosque. The ceremony is officiated by a kadi (Muslim marriage official) or imam (Muslim priest) and typically, only close friends and family are invited.
As for the majlis bersanding, they’re usually done after the solemnisation ceremony (in the afternoon), and will be held in community centre halls, multi-purpose halls, void decks of apartment blocks, or the yard/garden of a residence. There’s no fixed itinerary per se during the event apart from the bride and groom’s appearance on the pelamin (bridal dais) and cultural performances (if any), so guests may come and leave as they wish within a certain time period.
Some couple might opt for a grand reception in the evening instead, which is held in restaurants, hotel ballrooms, or country clubs. This is more of a formal affair, with a set multiple course dinner and fewer guests.
Who should I bring along?
Just like most weddings, this solely depends on what is stated on your invitation card. Sometimes it’s stated as your name with your partner or family, and sometimes it’s written as just your name. We understand that no one wants to attend a wedding alone, so in Malay weddings, you’re allowed to bring a plus-one or more, within reason. They generally like the concept of the more the merrier, but do inform the bride or groom beforehand, especially for a dinner reception held in a hotel or restaurant where there are limited seats available. However, it’s advisable not to bring a busload of people, unless they were formally invited as well.
What should I wear?
We all know how crazy the weather can get in Malaysia, so the golden rule here is to wear something comfortable, modest, and appropriate. For women, you can choose to wear a traditional baju kurung or anything that is decent and conservative. We would also want to point out that guests should refrain from wearing shorts or skirts/dresses that are above knee length or tops that are too tight or revealing. If you’re attending the akad nikah ceremony in a mosque, then be sure to wrap a scarf over your head.
As for men, wearing baju Melayu with songkok and songket is probably the best pick, but a simple long or short-sleeved shirt with long pants would suffice. When it comes to colour code, Malay weddings generally don’t restrict you, so go wild (not too wild, of course).
What should I bring?
Generally, you’re not expected to bring any form of wedding gifts, but in Malaysia, guests typically contribute a cash token kept in an envelope. Since both the groom and bride will be busy entertaining guests on that day, it’s totally acceptable to pass the money to the parents or siblings of the couple. The amount that you want to give entirely depends on you and how close your relationship is with the couple.
What do I do when I arrive?
Once you’ve reached the venue, look for the entrance arch or the registration table, as there is where you can find the newlyweds’ parents or guest ushers. Introduce yourself and you will be asked to find a place to sit or you’ll be ushered to your table to settle down and eat. Malay wedding receptions normally feature a buffet line with tons of traditional delicacies, so do make it a point to sample each one of the items served. After completing your meal, you can walk up to the bride and groom to congratulate them, but if you can’t find them or if they’re too busy entertaining other guests, it’s perfectly fine to look for their parents to greet and pass your cash token. However, in the Malay culture, it’s a complete no-no to shake hands or salam with the opposite sex, unless they initiate it.
As a whole, a Malay wedding is all about eating good food, taking loads of photos, congratulating or blessing the happy couple, and most importantly, enjoying yourself to the fullest!