28 Malay Wedding Traditions You May Know or Not (with explanations)

I had gone through Filipino’s wedding traditions in my previous post so obviously, I will be covering Malay wedding traditions. There are more than I thought so bear with me. All info is from a mixture of my own knowledge, the internet but mostly from my mother who is culturally inclined because she grew up while all these practices are still dominant. The info may not be 100% accurate but the best information retrieved.

In this generation, some of these Malay wedding practices are getting uncommon and even if it’s practiced, some people don’t even know the reasoning behind it. So let’s get enlightened.

01‘Merisik’/ Spy (to investigate) 

There are always confusion with ‘merisik’ and ‘meminang’. ‘Merisik’ also means ‘memeriksa’ which is to investigate if the lady in question is single and available to be engaged and getting to know her family. In the olden days, dating is taboo and the common practice is match making or simply visiting the lady’s family to ‘check her and her family out’

The guy’s parents/ family usually would visit the lady’s parents have lunch/tea/dinner (of course with a heads up) and basically chit-chat. Previously, it’s usually done in poems. Examples can be found here.

02. ‘Meminang’/ Proposing

For Malay proposals, a family entourage of the guy’s side will visit the lady’s house bearing gifts (to be exchanged with the lady) and intentions. Gifts include, a ring, cake, fruits and a proposed dowry but in denominations of tens. If ‘mahar’ (dowry) is meant to be $8,000, $80 will be given. Usually poems are exchanged too with a declaration to propose to the lady in question.

‘Meminang’ is usually a small and simple affair but nowadays, it can be pretty grand in my opinion with henna, special outfits and more people invited almost like a wedding. To each its own.

03. ‘Mandi Bunga’/ Flower Bath


There are a few other cultures that practice this and one of them is Javanese. This flower bath consists of  any7 types of flowers such as ‘Sundal Malam’, ‘Mawar’, ‘Cempaka’, ‘Kenanga’, ‘Tanjung’, ‘Melur’ and ‘Kesidang’. Flowers are dismembered, mixed with scented oils or lime juice and water. This bath usually done the night before the solemnization. It is supposedly best to bathe at midnight.

This ritual is supposed to disperse bad luck and ward off bad spirits. Please take note that is ‘shirik’ (sin of practicing idolatry or polytheism in Islam). But a normal flower bath (without recitations) can be done to give the BTB a flowery scent. Think it as a major perfume shower before the wedding. There are SPA centers that cater them such as Aura Royalis.

04. ‘Malam Berinai’ atau ‘Berinai kecil’/ Henna Painting Ceremony

Henna is tainted on the tips of groom and bride’s fingers to signify their newly wedded status. As this is also heavily practiced by Hindus but in more elaborate designs, Malays eventually follow suit. Although there are arguments on whether it’s allowed to henna ourselves according to Islam, it’s still a dominated practice. I touched base a little on this in an old post.

Usually, a huge celebration is done just for painting henna on the bride’s hands and feet. Think it as a party with food, drinks and entertainment. A’las, it’s a practice for Hindus or rich Malays for obvious reasons. Nowadays, there are barely any henna parties and if there is, it’s a very small and simple one with closest family and friends.

05. ‘Berewang’/ Working Together


This is a common practice in the ‘kampung’ days when everyone knows everyone and everyone was superbly helpful and hands on. Regardless whatever ceremony which includes a wedding, everyone would help 1 or 2 days before the wedding; preparing ingredients, cooking and setting up the wedding.

Since catering, décor and such are outsourced, not THAT much help is needed. It’s still practiced but with lesser work. Family and sometimes friends would come the day before the solemnization to help with preparing the wedding favors or ‘bunga rampai' and such. Food is usually served on that day to accommodate and a way of saying thanks.

06. ‘Bunga Rampai’/ Assortment of Flowers


‘Bunga rampai’ are usually passed around after the solemnization of the bride and groom to close families and friends. They are not exclusive to solemnization only but also circumcision ceremonies, engagement etc. It is not mass distributed like wedding favors with just an average of 30 mini boxes/ baskets per side.

It is basically made of several types of flowers and pandan leaves which are thinly sliced and mixed with perfumed water such as jasmine, rosewater or whichever is preferred. It does not have a great meaning behind but just to fill the ceremony with a flowery fragrance. A modern version of it is potpourri although its fragrance is not known to last long.

07. ‘Berandam dan Berasah gigi’/ Beautifying and Grinding of Teeth


‘Mak Andam’ (beautifier) is usually recognized as a Bridal make-up artist but originally, it was not the case. ‘Berandam’ is a practice of the trimming or shaping baby hair on the BTB’s forehead and eyebrows and her removing facial hair. This is to beautify the face. Some would say this is ‘Haram’ (illicit in Islam) because we are not supposed to change the way we look but if that’s the case, we should not wear make-up either. This is an uncommon practice as far as I know. I have plenty of baby hair and I would be devastated if someone trimmed it!

And yes, you read the 2nd part right, grinding of teeth. It does sound very tribal but once a upon a time, people do this (for those who does not have straight teeth) along with shining the teeth so that the BTB will look presentable.

08. ‘Marhaban Perkahwinan’/ Wedding Welcome with Prayers

‘Marhaban’ is common in all kinds of Islamic celebrations and that includes a wedding. It’s optional and I believe it’s quite uncommon in weddings. It’s a way to welcome guests and prayers or ‘zikir’ are recited for the bride and groom as well wishes and prayers for their wedding and marriage.

09. ‘Akad Nikah’/ Solemnisation

Originally, Islamic solemnization is very, very simple and straight to the point. All you need is a ‘wali’ (guardian), 2 witnesses, a small amount of ‘mahar’ (dowry) and/or a ring with a small dinner ‘walimah’ (celebration). Now, additional wedding gifts and dowry are expected. Usually ‘akad nikah’ is done the night before the big ‘walimah’ but sometimes, it can squeezed in a day. Bride and groom is officially married after this ceremony. 

10. ‘Mahar’/ Dowry
[pinterest - nameeeeera]

'Mahar' is a gift given by the groom to the bride during the solemnization ceremony. It symbolizes the beginning of a husband's responsibility towards his wife in fulfilling her everyday needs. 'Mahar' can be in cash or benefits, such as gold, silver or money. 'Mahar' is the bride's right and she owns the 'Mahar'. Thus, she has the will to dispose of it as she wishes. The current minimum rate for the 'Mahar 'in Singapore is S$100 cash.

11. ‘Hantaran dan Wang Hantaran’/ Gifts and Money gift

Wedding gifts consists of an exchange of ‘Kitab’ (book of Quranic verses), prayer mat, watch, shoes and whatever the couple agreed upon. The number of trays exchanged can be from 3 to 12. Average number is 8.

Ranging from $5,000 to even $12,000 cash and sometimes cheque, ‘wang hantaran’ is a customary gift from the groom to the bride’s family for the ‘walimah’. This amount is usually discussed between 2 families and can be quite controversial because sometimes the amount asked is not in lieu to the groom’s financial standing. Note that parents of the bride would receive it since usually they cover the cost of the bride's event as an reimbursement.

12. ‘Sirih Junjung/ Sirih Dara’/ Betel Nut Leaves flower arrangement.

Along with ‘hantaran’ both bride and groom also bears ‘sirih junjung’ from groom and ‘sirih dara’ from bride to signify their virginity. Yes! Both not just the lady. In the olden days, after the wedding is completed, other single men and women would 'fight' for the top of the 'sirih dara' for luck in relationships. For some reason, only ‘sirih dara’ are more commonly used for the bride's side and it ends up as a cultural decoration.

13. ‘Walimah’/ Celebration

As mentioned above, there is always a celebration after the solemnization as a way to not only celebrate but also declare that the couple has officially gotten married to the public. Depending to the social life and budget of the bride and groom, a wedding can have 300 to 1500 people. Again, usually it’s a simple ceremony but now, karaoke, outfit changes, photo booths and much more are common.

14. ‘Sireh Lat-Lat’/ Betel Bouquet

Before the times of telecommunications, the bride side of the family would send the ‘sireh lat-lat’ to the groom to signify that the bride is ready and he and the entourage may proceed to their house. It is usually betel nut leaves shaped into a cone with flowers. The groom would then arrive to the bride’s house holding the ‘sireh lat-lat’ and pass it to the bride and it would be her bridal bouquet not like the big flower bouquets you see now. Superstition believes that if the groom accidentally drop it, it perceives as bad luck.

Now, ‘sireh lat-lat’ is mostly used as an adornment for the groom as he makes his entrance since brides now have their own flower bouquet. The groom will pass to the bride and bride will pass to the ‘mak andam’.

15. ‘Bunga Manggar’/ Flower Manggar

Usually just for decorations for any Malay celebrations, papers are cut, wrapped on a thin wooden bamboo skewers, poked onto pineapple that is fasten to a thick bamboo pole. Now, there are many variations of ‘bunga manggar’, using a cylindrical shaped Styrofoam, plastic colorful tinsel or even fake flowers.

At a wedding, you can find 2 ‘bunga manggar’; 1 on each side of the groom as he make his entrance to meet his bride. A few decorated skewers are also sometimes placed together with a directional sign to the wedding.

16. ‘Kompang’/ Drumming of handheld drums
[Kompang Al-Falah]

Following the groom to the bride is not only his entourage but also a procession of several men playing the ‘kompang’ as an announcement of his arrival. The men playing the ‘kompang’ also would also sing ‘ghazal’ (lyrical poems) and songs. Depending on the budget, the procession may also include ladies dancing a traditional dance.

Previously, ‘kuda kepang’ (men dancing on make shift horse) is common and sometimes accompanied by ‘gamelan’ (small gongs) since it originally has dark magic intentions, it’s considered as ‘shirik’. But again, it's 'okay' for a cultural purpose. This is a uncommon practice in Singapore now.

17. ‘Berarak’/ The March

It is the procession of the groom holding the ‘sireh lat-lat’ to the bride’s house with an entourage of family and friends, kompang and/or dancers with ‘bungga manggar’

18. ‘Hadang’/ Blocking

Before the groom can approach his bride, he will be blocked by several groups of people, from friends to family and the number of groups depends on the family. Poems, negotiations and small tokens of cash are exchanged. In some circumstances, the groom is also asked to do random acts like singing or dancing.

This is still a big practice in weddings as they make the wedding more festive and fun.

19. ‘Duit Kipas’/ Fan Money

The final part of the ‘hadang’ is giving money to the ‘mak andam’ which is called ‘duit kipas’ to let her reveal his bride as she is covering her with a hand fan and allow him to sit next to her. The amount is usually pre-discussed with the ‘mak andam’.

20. ‘Bersanding’/ Sitting together

Bride and groom to sit together on a decorated stage (‘pelamin’) for the blessing ceremony and photo taking with friends and family.

21‘Silat Pengantin/ Malay Self-Defence Art for Bride and Groom

As soon as the bride and groom are seated, a few men or boys, will perform ‘silat’ 1 at time for the bride and groom. Long time ago, ‘silat’ is usually performed for Sultans to showcase their skills and fighting capabilities. Since the bride and groom are considered as “king and queen” for the day, it evolves to ‘silat pengantin’.

For the skill and knowledgeable, every ‘silat’ movement has its own meaning, for example, blessing the couple, respect the “royalty”, protection and etc. But mostly now, ‘silat asal boleh’ (anyhow ‘silat’) is also welcomed because it’s also a form of entertainment.

22. Menyembah Ibu-bapa dan mertua/ Respecting the parents and in-laws

After the ‘silat pengantin’, everyone will settle down, parents of the bride would sit on the ‘pelamin’ so both bride and groom can ‘salam’ (greet by kissing their hands) as a form of respect. This is repeated when they are at the groom’s location.

23. ‘Tepuk Tepung Tawar’ / No Direct Translation

The bride and groom are then seated back to their ‘thrones’ for the commencement of ‘Tepuk Tepung Tawar’. Starting from the eldest of the family tree, they will:

1) Take a small amount of a mixture of yellow/ white rice, roasted wheat/ popcorn (‘bertih’) and sometimes flowers, sprinkle it onto the groom and bride to signify celebration and happiness.
2) Sprinkle rosewater onto bride and groom. Onto eyebrows signifies ability to handle problems well, onto shoulders signifies able to handle burden and responsibility and onto palm of hands for strength to work hard in life. 
3) A pinch of henna paste smeared onto the couple’s palms to signify their marital status.
4) Running a boiled egg or raw egg around their faces to “absorb” any bad or ill luck.
5) Odd numbers of people are encouraged but not necessarily.

This practice is somewhat controversial in Islam due to the wastage of food by throwing rice, the act of blessing the couple and believing that a boiled egg would “absorb” bad luck. But some say for ‘culture’ sake, as long there is no belief while doing the act, it should be fine.

24. ‘Pulut Pahar’ atau ‘Bunga Telur’/ Tray of Glutinous Rice or Flowered Egg

Boiled eggs or salted eggs are attached to artificial flowers and sometimes paired with glutinous rice or 'wajik' are presented on a tray with a stand. Every person who does ‘tepuk tepung tawar’ will receive a ‘bunga telur’ as a way of saying thank you.

Since the act of ‘tepuk tepung tawar’ is uncommon, ‘bunga telur’ is now mostly a cultural decoration and simply distributed to guests.

25. ‘Makan Beradab’ / Cultured Eating

After all the ceremony (and picture taking) the bride and groom will be guided to their own dining table to have their lunch but not before feeding each other first. There is no specific reason behind this but just an act of being romantic to each other as a husband and wife.

The same is done after cake cutting although there is no such thing is cake cutting in the Malay culture originally. 

26. ‘Bertandang’/ Visiting

After an outfit change and with his bride on his side, the couple will have their wedding march (‘berarak’) to the groom’s side with the same procession of entourage, ‘kompang’ and/ or dancers. The entire practice done at the bride’s side is repeated; the ‘silat pengantin’, ‘salam’ the in-laws and parents, ‘tepuk tepung tawar’ and ‘makan beradab’ along with an additional practice, ‘mandi berhias’.

27. ‘Mandi Berhias’/ Ornated Shower

Upon the arrival of  bride and groom, the eldest of the family would sprinkle or shower yellow rice, roasted wheat/ popcorn (‘bertih’) and coins onto them. It signifies celebration and abundance of blessings unto them. Family and friends are allowed to pick and collect the coins thrown to have a piece of their “blessings”

This act is uncommon as it’s a dying practice for it’s controversial of food wastage and act of blessing the couple.

28. 'Membukti Keperawanan'/ Proving Virginity

In the past, woman's virginity is severely important. On the wedding night, husband and wife will 'sleep' *wink wink* on a white cloth. The next morning, the husband is required to show to his mother as a prove of his wife's virginity. If she is not, (no blood stains on cloth), it will lead to a large problem which most likely to lead to a divorce. This practice is usually done in secret between the newly wedded couple and their mothers. 

This routine is no longer practiced. 


And that's 28 Malay Wedding Traditions. How many of them do you know? I, myself had learnt something new especially the details of some of the traditions. Note that each family may have their own practice so it maybe slightly different from others. 

Thanks for reading to the end and share the knowledge.

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