Tuesday, October 4, 2011


The Malays call the wedding couple "RAJA SEHARI", which simply means King for the Day. On that day their wish is their command and everyone is obliged to comply, at least in theory. Actually in the old days, this was taken very seriously.

Truly traditional Malay weddings can be a really drawn out affair. It begins months before that and would involve the entire village. In the old days about two weeks before the wedding proper, the villages will gather at the house of the groom to discuss what needs to be done for the occasion. Tasks and parties responsible for their execution will then be identified. Everyone chips in labor and material contributions depending on what they can afford. The lesser endowed members of the village would still contribute something, be it a bundle of firewood for cooking. By this time the villagers take over the entire management of the event relieving the groom's parent of the headache.

So whilst the men would head to the jungle to gather the materials required for the event infrastructure, the women would be busy designing and preparing the various ornaments and decorations for the event. Apart from the usual shelters to accommodate the guest the most important structure would be the bridal diaz on which the wedding couple would then be displayed to the guests. As in any other culture announcement of the wedding is important to avoid any misconception when they are seen later going together in public, what more with a child or two in tow. 

So the two weeks prior to the actual day is actually a festival of sorts where work inter-mix with socializing for the entire village. Yes, I mean the entire village. There is no such thing as a restricted guest list, everyone is invited. So we can imagine the cost involved as well, but since everyone contributes the burden is lightened. As the Malay saying goes "berat same dipikul, ringgan sama dijenjeng" - the heavy load will be shared by all shoulders whilst a lighter load will be carried by all hands.

So the final day arrives and the groom is prepared in all splendor to go to the bride's house, where the same busy preparatory madness has been going on for weeks. To make sure that he looks his best the Mak Andam is employed. The Mak Andam is more than just a make-up lady. In the old days she would also have certain mystical skills to enhance the presentation of the bride and bridegroom as well as to thwart any ill intention from any party (jealousy or just plain meanness) by way of magic or witchcraft. Nowadays, the most effective counter-measure against such unseen dangers is of course the all-mighty dollar.

So off went the groom to the bride's house accompanied by an entourage of close family members and friends, not forgetting the customary "warrior" to ensure that nothing untoward befall him when he is at the bride's place. Those days social gatherings are not always a time of cheer and joy. In a world then of pride and valor, there will occasionally be misfits who, based on misplaced pride and valor, would want to test their skills on unsuspecting visitors. So it a time of great anticipation, a mixture of celebration and the anticipation of possible intrigue.

Upon arrival at the bride's house they will be received with a display of traditional dances and traditional martial arts. The marriage is then solemnize through a marriage contract whereby the father or his representative marries the bride to the groom for a certain dowry. The dowry is a symbol of respect to the bride. It should be only a token amount but today it has grown into ridiculous levels. The groom has to announce the marriage vow in public in one breath clearly audible to two witnesses. After all the stress and pressure over the past weeks, it comes as no surprise sometimes that the groom falters under sheer fatigue and nervousness. When that happens the announcement of the vow can be a lengthy affair. Rumor has it that some groom has to take a cold shower to calm his nerves. Well, maybe his mind was too fixed on something else.

The groom also has to audibly declare the right of the wife for divorce if he fails in certain areas. So it seems the Malay society had some inkling of KPI's for some time already.

Passing through this phase the couple can now touch each other for the first time (hmmm...). Rings are exchanged and they now sit on the dias to be admired, scrutinized, dissected or criticized, depending on your preference. Again cultural performances are displayed and everyone grin ear to ear hiding their exhaustion from two weeks of furious planning and preparation. Lunch or dinner is then served.

The fun is not over yet. The next day the couple then gets ready to go the groom's house, where the same hustle and bustle takes place with hundreds or even thousands of people. Minus the vow taking, there is the usual procession, diaz display and performances.

The fun is still not over yet. The couple now have to go the individual houses of senior members of both sides to personally introduce themselves. This will ensure that they are adequately occupied and employed over the next few weeks, and take their mind off from any intimacy. Yet the grand-aunties would matter-of-factly inquired when can they sight their great-grandchild.

After all that whilst the rental of the bridal costume is still valid, they would rush off to some nice location, like ULUHATI for their photo shoot, to help them remember that a wedding actually took place and for once in the lives they looked like Kings and Queens. So here we are.

Photographed at ULUHATI

Photographs taken by J & M Photo - Joe. 019 2345864 / 017 2670975

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