THE CULTURE AND CUSTOM OF THE MALAYS: THE MARRIAGE CUSTOM
The wedding custom of the Sarawak Malay community has many similarities with that of the same community in Peninsular Malaysia. The custom covers merasi (match-making), enquiring, and the wedding ceremony.
A man who wants to get married requests his parents to look for his partner. The parents then give this job to a match-maker. The match-maker becomes a medium for the man family and gives his opinion about the suitability of a girl.
After the match-making, the man family makes an official request to the girl family regarding the girl status. This action is called kerisik kerimun. Normally the girl family requests a time frame to give their decision.
Bertekul means enquiring before an engagement ceremony, depending on a person willness to be engaged. For this custom a dowry of money or gold jewelry, like gold or a diamond ring, are given to the girl signifying that an engagement ceremony is going to be held.
1. MARRIAGE SOLEMNIZATION
The preparation normally takes a long time including printing of invitation card, looking for a Mak Andam (the person who grooms the bride), and others. The Mak Andam is important in dressing the bride and preparing as well as decorating the dias.
For the Malay community the religious ceremony is the marriage solemnization, while the non-religious are blessing, sitting on the dias, and eating a special wedding dish. The solemnization ceremony is normally held a day before the sitting on the dias ceremony. The girl is officially the man wife after the marriage solemnization is recited by the groom.
The Bergendang, an entertainment event, is also held in merriment for seven days and seven nights.
b) Types of Solemnization: True Solemnization (Nikah Benar), Incorrect Solemnization (Nikah Salah), Surrender to the Girl Family (Nyerah Diri), and Surrender to the Man Family (Ngekot)
True Solemnization is a marriage that adheres to Islamic principles or that follows the custom, like enquiring and engagement, and is blessed by both families. Incorrect Solemnization is when the man and the girl are found to act indecently and they are forced to marry. The marriage ceremony is simple and moderate.
Surrender to the Girl Family is when the man surrenders himself to the girl family due to insufficient fund to cover the wedding expenses. This type of solemnization involves the girl from an affluent family while the man is unwealthy. They are married moderately but, however, this kind of marriage embarrasses the girl family.
Surrender to the Man Family is when the girl surrenders to the man family and both man and girl are married off. This action is not due to financial problem but more of the girl family unaccepting and unblessing their daughter choice of life partner.
2. WEDDING CEREMONY/SITTING ON THE DIAS CEREMONY
The blessing of the bride is held in the evening a day before the sitting on the dias ceremony, which is usually followed by the smearing of henna on the bride hands. This ceremony is made merrier by silat (martial art) performance, as well as Malay drums and dance performances. The bride is bathed by the Mak Andam in a mandi perantan (bathe ceremony) that ends with the bride taking the wudhu (cleansing of oneself according to Islamic rites).
Mak Andam dresses up the bride of which she is forbidden to look at the mirror while being made up to avoid losing her bridal aura. Among the usual wedding dress for the bride is the kebaya songket, a silk gown with golden thread embroidery, and the gajah holen, Sarawaks Malay traditional attire. The groom normally dresses up in warrior attire or that of the hajj attire of white or black robe with head dress.
Before the groom entourage parades in a procession to the bride house, the bride side sends a traditional mat, called a mat to take the groom, wrapped in a shawl embroidered with golden thread, to the groom house. The mat arrival signifies that the bride side is ready to receive the groom entourage. The procession begins with uttering blesses to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) followed by the beating of the hadrah (hand held drums). The groom procession is either in a car or boat. Upon arrival at the bride house the entourage is received with a silat (martial art) performance as an event opener.
The groom is brought into the house and seated beside the already seated bride on the dias. During the sitting on the dias the berjembak ceremony is held whereby the groom touches the bride forehead with his thumb and a small scented towel folded into flower shaped. This action is equivalent to the custom of disqualifying oneself from performing the compulsory prayers. The newly-wed couple is then blessed with prayer recitals, followed by the beating of the hadrah. After that the couple does the descending and ascending the staircase ceremony for seven times.
The eating a special dish ceremony by the couple is held in the afternoon or evening. This is to familiarise them with family life and thus erasing shyness among them. This event is held together with family members, relatives and friends.
AFTER THE WEDDING
Normally the custom of visiting the parents-in-law by the bride is held seven days after the wedding. In this ceremony the mother-in-law presents a wedding gift to her daughter-in-law to show her acceptance and happiness in getting a new daughter-in-law.