Monday, 28 August 2017

Experience Brunei Malay Wedding

A time when two families come together and unite. A time where two becomes one. A time where a fairytale ends where you say happily ever after. A thing called a wedding. In this case, a Brunei Malay wedding.

Brunei Malay weddings are full of culture and traditions. To experience the full tradition of a Brunei Malay wedding is like no other. The Brunei Malay wedding usually starts with Adat Merisik, Adat Bertunang, Malam Berjaga-jaga, Akad Nikah, Malam Berbedak, Malam Berpacar, Bersanding, Malam Berambil-ambilan and lastly, Adat Mulih 3/7 Hari.

Adat Merisik is a Malay tradition where groom and bride's parents meet up to arrange the marriage especially the date of marriage and venue. In the old days, when it is time for a man to get married, the family searches far wide for a potential bride. Nowadays, a man would suggest who he wants to marry for the family to consider. When the potential bride is chosen, the Merisik ceremony will start.

In the Merisik, one or more representative from the man side will visit the family of the woman side. They will tell their purpose and the visit will give them a chance to see the woman. The woman's parents will also give note if the woman is interested or not. After the visit, then both sides can think about the possibility of marriage. This visit is not a formal proposal, hence if the visit falls through, they can another potential bride.

Nowadays, sometimes the family of the woman side wants to see their potential son/brother-in-law. They would meet up over dinner and talk about the man's background. This is usually for the woman's family to know if they made the right choice marrying the man to their daughter/sister.

Next tradition is the Adat Bertunang or known as Engagement Ceremony. When the Merisik ceremony is a success, an engagement date will be set for the family to set the wedding plans. At the engagement ceremony, the groom's representatives will come to the bride's place. Usually they will bring three things; Money, a ring for the bride and a ring for the bride's mother. The ring for the bride is a sign that she is engaged and the groom-to-be's mother will help the bride-to-be wear the ring.

A few days before the Akad Nikah, there is a ceremony called Malam Berjaga-jaga. This ceremony marks as a start of the wedding period. During this period, at night, family members and relatives come together and play some entertainments. In the old days, people used to play traditional games and sing traditional songs.

The night before they are getting married, both sides have a Berbedak Mandi ceremony. In this ceremony, the groom-to-be and bride-to-be are scrubbed with traditional body-scrub powder on their whole body by close family members at their respective homes. This ceremony symbolises fertility and wealth.

After that is the Akad Nikah, or known as marriage contract. This is when the man and woman will be officially brought together as husband and wife. The signing is done in front of a religious official known as Imam, and witnesses. The man will sign the marriage contract and agrees to provide the woman with Mas Kahwin. Mas Kahwin is literally means marriage gold and in can be in a form of money or goods. Nowadays, Mas Kahwin is usually given as money amounting to hundreds. The Mas Kahwin shows a sign that the man is willing and prepared to build a family with the woman.

The groom will then recite a sentence, something like "Aku terima nikahnya *bride's name* dengan Mas Kahwin *amount of Mas Kahwin* tunai" which means he wants to marry the bride by giving Mas kahwin in cash, while shaking the hand of the Imam. The Imam will then ask the witnesses if what they heard are clear and true by asking,"Sah?". The witnesses will reply,"Sah" if they approve what they heard and saw. The bride will then signs and close the contract, followed by a prayer. This part is usually the climax of a Malay Wedding where the bride and groom is officially husband and wife.

Nowadays, Akad Nikah is followed by Hantar Berian, which literally means sending gifts. Other than Mas Kahwin, the groom will give extra money which amounts to thousands where the bride can use it anyway she wants. Usually people use it to pay the costs of the event at the bride side. The groom will also send a string of gifts. It can be anything and/or things that the bride wants and requested. Each of these gifts is served on a Gangsa, in other words Bronze Plate. There is no minimum or maximum amount of gifts given. However, it is optional if the bride wants to give gifts also.

After the Akad Nikah, the bride usually performs a Malam Berbedak and Malam Bepacar. The bride usually wore a traditional Berbedak attire and covered by a Kain Jong Sarat, which is a Malay traditional woven fabric and given by the groom during the Hantar Berian ceremony. She also wears a heavy brass headgear which consists of a statue of a Naga (Dragon) and wrapped by Bunga Melor (a type of scented flower). Accompanying the attire are gold plated armbands, ankle bands and necklace. It is almost the same attire as the groom but instead of a brass headgear, he wears Dastar, which is a crown made of Songket cloth.

During the Malam Berpacar, the bride sits on a Dias like a throne with her hands on her lap and facing up. Close family members will come and apply a pinch of Pacar (Henna) on the bride's palm. Usually, there are 8 different kinds of coloured Pacar. After that, Bunga Rampai (shredded of fragrant Pandan and flower petals) are scattered across the bride's palm as a sign of blessing. The same event also occurs at the groom side.

After the ceremony, the bride will go to her bridal room and meets her Penganggun. A Penganggun is usually the person who takes care of the bride during the whole wedding ceremony, where she does rituals and reminding the bride on restrictions according the Malay traditions. At the bridal room, the Penganggun will light up three candles where she where she gives on to an elderly lady on the bride's bed and the other one to whom follows behind her. The bride puts her arms around the Penganggun and led around her bed three times. The bride proceeds onto the bed and blows out the three candles to end the initiation. This part of the ceremony is usually done in weddings at Brunei-Muara District.

To show off the newly-weds to the world, it is tradition that they do the Bersanding ceremony. Bersanding is when the newly-weds sits on a Dias for guests to see. When the guests arrives, they are given small gifts courtesy of the newly-weds. The bride and groom, at their respective venue, will wear simple Songket fabric attire and they will move around the venue to greet all their guests with their close family members. During this time, the guests take the opportunity to congratulate the newly-wed and if the guest wishes, they could give gifts in terms of money or things.

After that, the groom and bride will wear custom-made Songket attire and gold-plated accessories. The groom will wear additional Dastar, Sinjang (a Songket cloth wrapped around the waist) and a Keris (a type of dagger), and the bride will wear a tiara and holds a bouquet of flowers.

The groom will then go to the bride's venue. Upon arrival, he will be led by flower girls, boys carrying special ceremony candles, an Imam and an umbrella will always be opened for him until he arrives at the bride's place. In front of the entrance of the bride's venue, the whole group will move in a circle three times and greeted by the bride's family member at the door. A fan will be put between the groom and the bride's family member, and Bunga Rampai will be tossed at the fan for a few times. At some places, it will be followed by cleaning the feet of the groom. After that, the groom will meet the bride, sits on the Dias and a prayer will be performed by the Imam. The newlyweds will then go outside and show themselves to the guests at all sides of the venue.

To finish the Bersanding ceremony, the newlyweds will do the Adat Makan Bersuap. Adat Makan Bersuap is a ritual where the bride will feed the groom using her hands. The foods are usually Nasi Kuning (a type of rice recipe), water and other traditional cuisines.
This is usually where people finish their wedding ceremony; however there are two more ceremonies if they want to perform it. At the night of the Bersanding, there is a ceremony called Malam Berambil-ambilan. Malam Berambil-ambilan is like a wedding reception, where the newlywed celebrates their wedding. They will wear different coloured Songket attire. 

At the Malam Berambil-ambilan, the newlyweds would be spending time getting to know the family of the other side, cutting a wedding cake, dancing and karaoke. In the old days, it is mostly dancing and Bermukun, where elderly ladies exchanging four lines quatrain while hitting a Gendang (a traditional drum) to a beat.

The other ceremony is the Adat Mulih 3/7 Hari. It literally means going back home after three or seven days. When a groom weds a bride, he will live at the bride's home for three or seven straight days.

After that, he will bring his bride to his home. The groom's family will usually shower them with gifts as they arrive. This ceremony marks the end of a Brunei Malay wedding.
To feel the culture of Brunei, one must attend a Brunei traditional wedding. If it is possible, attend all the ceremonies. Families in Brunei will usually try to perform all the ceremonies if they can afford it. Brunei Malay weddings are full of traditions; it may vary across Brunei but the experience is like no other.

Article by Arif Zainal
ASEAN-Korea Centre Blog Correspondent from Brunei Darussalam

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