Malay Wedding Customs and Traditions: A Comprehensive Guide

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0. Introduction

Looking to dive deeper into the vibrant and rich world of Malay wedding customs and traditions? You’ve come to the right place! Weddings are a cornerstone of Malay culture, and understanding the importance of the customs and rituals that have been handed down through generations is key.

In this all-encompassing guide, we’ll be exploring the many pre-wedding, wedding day, and post-wedding traditions that come together to form a Malay wedding. From the proposal and the sitting-in-state ceremony to the powder ceremony and betel leaf ritual, we’ll take a deep dive into these beautiful and significant celebrations.

It’s important to note that not all traditions are practiced in modern times, but learning about these customs can still offer insight into the beautiful and unique culture of Malay weddings. So let’s get ready to explore the wonderful world of Malay wedding customs and traditions!


1. Pre-Wedding Customs and Rituals

Weddings in Malay culture are more than just a day to celebrate the union of two people in love. They represent the coming together of two families and the fusion of their customs and traditions. The pre-wedding customs and rituals are important in symbolizing the couple’s engagement and commitment to each other and their families.

These pre-wedding traditions include the Adat Merisik or the proposal, the Akad Nikah or solemnization ceremony, and the Henna Night. These age-old customs have a deep cultural significance and reflect the values and beliefs of the Malay community. Join me as we explore these traditions and what they mean.

A. Adat Merisik (The Proposal)

The “Adat Merisik” proposal is the first step in the marriage process in Malay culture. Inquiries concerning the woman’s suitability for marriage are made at this point by the guy or his family by sending a representative to the woman’s family. The envoy must provide gifts because it is a formal and respectful approach to the woman’s family. These presents, known as “hantaran,” typically include things like flowers, fruits, and customary cakes.


In addition to finding out if the woman is available, Adat Merisik also seeks to forge ties between the two families. With this custom, both families can get to know one another better and talk about how compatible the couple is.

The woman’s family will need time to consider the offer, and the proposal procedure can take some time. They will take into account a number of things, including the man’s moral character, the reputation of his family, and his financial situation. After a few days, the man’s representative would visit the woman’s family to get their reaction.

The couple will proceed to the next stage of the wedding procedure if the woman’s family approves the proposal. The man’s family must, however, respect and move on if they reject the proposition.


Ultimately, Adat Merisik is a crucial stage in the Malay wedding ceremony since it establishes the link between the two families as well as the couple’s future together.

B. Bertunang (Engagement Ceremony)

An essential component of Malay wedding traditions is the bertunang, or engagement ceremony, which signifies the couple’s official engagement. The bride’s home is typically the location of this ceremony, which is attended by close relatives and friends. As a symbol of their intent to propose marriage, the groom’s family presents gifts to the bride’s family, such as fruits, clothing, and jewelry.

The bride and groom exchange rings as a sign of their commitment to one another throughout the ceremony. The family can get to know one another better and talk about planning the wedding at the engagement ceremony.


One of the essential events in the pre-wedding traditions, the bertunang ceremony is an important step in the marriage process and a lovely way to honor the couple’s dedication to one another.

C. Hantaran (Gift Exchange)


A distinctive and significant feature of Malay engagement ceremonies is hantaran. In accordance with custom, the families of the bride and groom exchange gifts to show that they have accepted each other’s marriage proposals. The items contained in the trays—which are typically given as gifts at Hantaran—can differ depending on the bride and groom’s tastes.

To make each tray as appealing as possible, gorgeous floral arrangements and other ornamental accents are added. The average number of trays transferred is an odd number, most frequently five or seven. Each tray’s contents are likewise carefully chosen, and they typically include things that are meaningful to the couple.

The giving and receiving of gifts is viewed as a significant expression of respect and appreciation in Malay society. Gifts are exchanged between the families of the bride and groom during Hantaran as a sign of goodwill and to deepen the tie between the two families. Both families can show off their inventiveness and generosity at the gift-exchange ceremony. The families will be increasingly impressed with one another as the gifts become more extravagant.


In Malay culture, hantaran is a lovely and significant tradition that has been passed down through the years. It not only symbolizes the Malay community’s traditional ideals but also represents family harmony and deference.

D. Akad Nikah (Solemnization Ceremony)

In Malay tradition, the Akad Nikah, sometimes referred to as the Nikah Ceremony, is used to solemnize marriages. A religious leader, or qadi, performs the legally binding contract between the bride and groom.

The mosque or another location designated for religious events is often where the ceremony is held. The bride is typically escorted by her female family and friends, whilst the groom is typically accompanied by his male family and friends.

The marriage contract’s terms and conditions, such as the bride’s mahr or dowry and the groom’s obligations to his wife, are agreed upon during the ceremony while the bride and groom exchange vows. The father or guardian of the bride also approves the marriage and serves as a witness.


The qadi recites prayers and pronounces the pair husband and wife following the exchanging of vows. The pair is then permitted to embrace and exchange rings as a sign of their union.

A wedding celebration, known as a kenduri, is typically held after the Akad Nikah ceremony to honor the newlyweds.

E. Berinai (Henna Night)

flickr/Khairil Yusof

The bride’s hands and feet are painted with henna during the pre-wedding tradition known as Berinai, also called the “henna night.” A gathering of the bride’s relatives and friends, who will also have their hands painted with henna, is frequently held in conjunction with this custom. The henna plant, which is indigenous to tropical countries in Africa, Asia, and Australia, is the common source of the henna utilized for the occasion.


Berinai has long been a part of Malay culture and is thought to have come from India. A few days prior to the wedding, a ceremony is done that is thought to bring the bride luck and blessings. The bride’s hands and feet have elaborate drawings on them that are supposed to fend off evil spirits and keep her safe.

Before the big day, the bride can strengthen her relationships with her family and friends at the henna night. The gathering frequently includes music, laughing, and delectable cuisine. The bride’s female relatives may also take the opportunity to impart counsel for her upcoming marriage.

Professional henna artists now create detailed and unique designs for the henna night, making it a more lavish occasion in recent years. A shared henna night is another option some couples choose, where the bride and groom jointly get their hands hennaed.


Ultimately, the berinai ceremony is a significant pre-wedding custom that is rich with symbolism and significance in Malay culture. The bride should use this time to reconnect with her loved ones and get ready for the next phase of her life.

2. Wedding Day Traditions

We’ve already covered the pre-wedding rituals, so now it’s time for the big day itself. In this section, we’ll explore the joyful and colorful traditions that take place during the wedding day, including the elaborate and ornate Bersanding ceremony, the special meal shared between families known as Makan Berdamai, the exchange of wedding rings in Tukar Cincin, and the traditional decorations of Bunga Manggar and Bunga Telur. So, get ready to immerse yourself in the vibrant world of Malay wedding customs and let’s dive right in!


A. Bersanding (Sitting-in-State Ceremony)

The Bersanding ceremony, sometimes referred to as the Sitting-in-State ritual, is one of the most important and opulent aspects of the Malay wedding ceremony. The pair is first formally acknowledged as husband and wife during this customary ceremony that commemorates their official union.

The Bersanding ceremony typically takes place on the actual wedding day, and it involves the newlyweds sitting on a dais that has been decorated while being surrounded by friends, family, and other loved ones. Both the bride and the groom typically wear traditional Malay clothing, with the bride donning the gorgeous baju pengantin and the groom donning his baju Melayu.

Guests are invited to stand up and give the newlyweds their blessings at the Bersanding, and the pair is frequently showered with gifts, cash, and flowers. Traditional music and dance performances uplift the mood and create a lively, joyful ambiance.


In addition to honoring the newlyweds, the Bersanding ritual serves as a symbol of the Malay culture’s value of community and family. The qualities of love, unity, and respect are displayed in this lovely and comforting tradition, which is at the very heart of Malay wedding customs and traditions.

B. Makan Berdamai (Reconciliation Feast)

Following the ceremony of sitting in state, the newlyweds and their families come together for the Makan Berdamai, a feast that represents the coming together of two families. The families can come together over this lunch, which is frequently served at the bride’s home, and make up for any previous misunderstandings or problems.

In order to strengthen their relationship, the bride and groom also formally introduce their families to one another during the Makan Berdamai. It is a private event where close relatives and friends get together to taste traditional Malay foods like rendang, ayam masak merah, and nasi minyak. A lively and joyful environment is created at the feast by performances of traditional music and dancing.


The Makan Berdamai is a moment for families to express their gratitude and respect to their elders as well as a celebration of love and union. As a sign of respect and appreciation for their influence and importance in their lives, it is customary for the couple to serve their parents and grandparents first. The elders, in turn, give the young couple their blessings and well wishes while sharing their knowledge and experience with them.

All things considered, the Makan Berdamai is a lovely custom that highlights the value of family and reconciliation in Malay culture. It underlines the idea that a happy marriage requires the support and love of not just the couple but also their family and sets the tone for a peaceful and joyful wedding celebration.


C. Tukar Cincin (Ring Exchange)

All wedding ceremony must include the exchanging of rings, and Malay marriages are no exception. The giving and receiving of wedding rings represents the couple’s dedication to one another and their desire to spend the rest of their lives together.

The exchange of rings occurs at the sitting-in-state or Bersanding ceremony in a Malay wedding, though it currently typically occurs immediately following the nikah ritual. On their left hands’ fourth finger, also referred to as the ring finger, the bride and groom exchange rings.

The pair may make vows to one another before exchanging rings, or a religious leader may make prayers and blessings. The couple’s hands are frequently sprinkled with fragrant water or flower petals before exchanging rings.


In Malay marriages, the wedding rings are often plain gold bands, though some couples may choose more ornate styles. The Makan Berdamai, when the couple and their families have a meal together to celebrate their union and develop their relationships, is typically held after the ring exchange.

D. Bunga Manggar and Bunga Telur (Wedding Decorations)

Wedding decorations are highly valued in Malay culture because they represent the couple’s happiness and delight on their special day. The traditional floral arrangements known as bunga manggar and bunga telur are among the most important ornamental components at a Malay wedding.

The bride’s residence or the entrance to the wedding location typically have bunga manggars, which are tall, cone-shaped floral arrangements. Several kinds of fresh flowers are frequently used, and the colors and patterns are adjusted to the couple’s tastes. The bunga manggar is used to announce weddings to the community and is regarded as a symbol of good fortune and wealth for the happy couple.


The bunga telur, on the other hand, is a more compact floral accent that resembles an egg and is typically placed on the tables at wedding receptions or presented to guests as a gift. Also, the bunga telur is made to coordinate with the wedding’s colors and theme, and it frequently comes with a little gift or sweet treat inside, such chocolates or nuts.

Overall, bunga telur and bunga manggar are crucial ornamental components that enhance the beauty and significance of a Malay wedding. They add a touch of tradition and cultural richness to the wedding celebration and serve as a symbol of the couple’s happiness and good fortune.

E. Bersanding Gifts

Guests present gifts to the newlyweds during the Bersanding ceremony as a symbol of their blessings and best wishes for the couple’s future. These presents, referred to as “hantaran bersanding,” usually include odd-numbered things like fruits, pastries, and flowers that are artistically arranged in baskets.


Fruits stand for fertility and success, pastries for sweetness and happiness, and flowers for love and beauty. Each of these objects has a symbolic value. The couple’s undivided love and commitment are said to be symbolized by the odd number of goods.

Gifts are also exchanged between the bride and groom at the Bersanding ceremony. The bride often gives her groom a traditional Malay blouse known as a “baju Melayu,” while the groom typically offers the bride jewelry like a necklace or bracelet.

The couple’s devotion to one another is symbolized by the exchange of presents, which also helps to cement the relationship between the two families. The Bersanding ceremony marks the beginning of a new chapter in the couple’s lives as well as the merging of two families.


3. Post-Wedding Traditions

For Malay couples, the party doesn’t finish on the wedding day. Many post-wedding rituals and traditions are equally significant to the newlyweds and their families. These traditions, which have their roots in Malay culture, serve as a means of showing love, thanks, and celebration to the family and friends who have helped the couple along the path. We’ll examine in more detail at a few of the post-wedding customs and traditions in this part that you won’t want to miss. Let’s get going!

A. Bunga Rampai (Flower Confetti)

The newlyweds and their entourage depart from the wedding ceremony and make their way to the bride’s home or the reception location for the after-wedding festivities. The throwing of bunga rampai, a concoction of fragrant flowers, herbs, and pandan leaves that is historically used to freshen the air, is one of the first events that take place.


In this custom, as the newlyweds enter the location, relatives and friends toss handfuls of bunga rampai over them. The aroma of the flowers and herbs is thought to fend off negativity and ill luck while fostering a happy and comfortable environment for the newlyweds to enjoy.

Bunda rampai is used to decorate the wedding venue in addition to being tossed at the newlyweds, bringing a lovely and aromatic touch to the celebrations. This custom has been carried down from one generation to the next and is still a significant component of Malay wedding festivities.

B. Berbedak (Powder Ceremony)

One of the most cherished and happy traditions in Malay post-wedding customs is the Berbedak ritual. The newlyweds are blessed with a unique powder made from turmeric, sandalwood, and other natural components a few days after the wedding.


The bride and groom are seated in front of one another and surrounded by loved ones and close friends during the Berbedak ritual. The bride’s face and neck will then start to get powder from the groom’s side, and vice versa. This is done as a gesture of blessing and protection and is thought to drive away any potential evil spirits or negative energy.

A lot of laughter and friendly teasing between the bride and husband characterize the celebratory Berbedak ceremony. While they celebrate the union of their loved ones, the two families get the chance to connect and get to know one another better. The Berbedak ceremony also serves as a significant reminder of the wedding’s cultural and spiritual significance as well as of the couple’s commitment to one another and to their families.


C. Berinai Sungai (River Henna Ceremony)

The Malay culture is distinguished by the customary post-wedding ritual known as the Berinai Sungai or River Henna Ceremony. The bride and groom drive to a nearby river for the ritual, where they sit by the bank and get their hands and feet painted with henna. The henna used in this ritual is manufactured from the henna plant’s leaves and is thought to represent the newlyweds’ good fortune and blessings.

Close family and friends typically attend the Berinai Sungai ceremony and participate in the festivities as well. The sounds of the flowing river and traditional Malay music are frequently played during the ceremony, which helps to create a calm and serene ambiance.


The newlyweds wash their hands and feet in the river after the henna treatment is finished as a way to symbolize the purging of past transgressions and the beginning of a new life together. A lovely and heartfelt manner for the couple to commemorate their union and express gratitude for the benefits bestowed upon them is through the Berinai Sungai ceremony.

D. Kenduri (Wedding Feast)

The kenduri, or wedding feast, is one of the most significant customs that follow a wedding in Malay culture. Family, friends, and neighbors come together for a dinner and to honor the newlyweds at the kenduri, a big celebration.

The kenduri can take place in the couple’s home or a hired location and is typically hosted on the wedding day or a few days after the wedding. Traditional Malay foods like nasi minyak (oil rice), ayam masak merah (chicken fried in tomato sauce), and beef rendang are served as a sign of the happy event (spicy beef stew).


Guests will also have the chance to congratulate the newlyweds and present them with gifts at the kenduri, typically in the form of cash. The total amount received by the couple is thought to bring luck and prosperity to their new life together. This sum of money is called as the “duit pengantin,” or present amount.

The kenduri is a significant way for the newlyweds to thank their guests for coming to the wedding and for the visitors to express their love and support for the pair. One of the most loved and cherished moments of a Malay wedding, it is a time for celebration, laughing, and togetherness.

E. Sireh Dara (Betel Leaf Ceremony)

The Sireh Dara, sometimes referred to as the betel leaf ritual, is a Malay post-wedding custom that usually takes place after the bridal feast. As a sign of their appreciation and respect, the bride and groom at this ritual exchange betel leaves with their respective families. The daun sireh, or betel leaves, are a traditional Malay bridal decoration and are symbolic of fidelity and good fortune in the union.


The bride and her family, as well as the groom and his family, exchange betel leaves. The families of the bride and the groom will alternately bring the betel leaves to the newlyweds, who will accept them and express their gratitude. Typically, areca nuts and cloves are used to decorate the leaves, which are also usually wrapped in a gorgeous container made of gold or silver.

The betel leaf ritual not only serves as a sign of appreciation and respect, but it also allows the families to come together and fortify their relationship. The newlyweds might use it as an occasion to thank their family and formally recognize the significant role they have played in their lives.


The Sireh Dara ritual is a lovely and significant way to end a Malay wedding, and it highlights the Malay’s rich cultural legacy.

4. Conclusion

And that’s a wrap on the beautiful Malay wedding customs and traditions! Each ritual and ceremony carries with it deep significance and meaning, making the day a truly special and memorable one for the couple, their families, and their guests.

Although if not all of these customs are strictly adhered to in modern times, they nonetheless play a significant role in the Malay people’s cultural history. For the sake of appreciating and enjoying these traditions in the future, we must continue to uphold them.

We sincerely hope you have enjoyed learning about these fascinating traditions and the beauty they bring to the happy event of a Malay wedding. There is no denying the beautiful customs and rich cultural past of the Malay people, whether you are a member of the community or not. Till then, keep sharing love and good vibes!


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