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As a matter of fact, I can! Let's take a look at historical Malay wedding customs and the meaning behind them. I'm glad to say much of this will be familiar to us today, though there are many differences

Before the actual marriage comes the betrothal. This began with merisik, just as it does today. If the boy's parents weren't sure whether the bride they chose has been spoken for, they'd send a messenger to the girl's parents
After making sure that the girl is single and informing her parents of the intention, the girl's parents prepare a meal and desserts (nasi dan kuih) in anticipation of the boy's representatives (rombongan meminang). The boy himself stays home during this time
The boy's side brings a case with betel leaf ingredients (tepak sirih) along with a gift of some jewellery, like a bangle (gelang) or ring (cincin). If the sirih is left unused during the meeting, it's a polite way of the girl's parents declining the betrothal
The tepak sirih has separate compartments for every ingredient. Each one has some symbolic meaning. The white colour of the lime represents purity, while the betel nut comes from a tall tree and stands for honesty…
During the actual betrothal (pinangan or tunangan), the two sides eat, chew sirih and discuss the marriage. If they agree, they decide on a rough estimate for when the marriage will take place. This was all done in the presence of 4 witnesses (saksi) chosen by the girl's side
There is no engagement ring or object of any kind. Instead, there's an exchange of question-and-answer pantun. Here's an example
Since all this is being arranged by the parents, you might wonder how the couple themselves felt about it. For the most part, it's not as bad as we make it out to be. The youngsters generally trusted their parents to find them a suitable match…
Yet at the same time, remember that the girl may or may not be asked for her opinion. Even if she doesn't agree, her parents have the final say…
Once they're engaged, the couple made sure not to meet until their wedding. And no, there was no secret rendezvous or anything, presumably because they believed the taboo was valid and could result in bad luck
This is what lead to the custom of hantaran (not to be confused with wang hantaran) where the couple exchanges gifts sent to the other through middlemen. In modern times this includes clothes, religious items, etc
But historical hantaran was different. The boy would normally send the girl fruit, eggs, or betel leaves. The girl would send the boy a chain carved out of a kacang pinang, or rice in bird-shaped containers made from palm fronds
The gift-giving could continue even after the marriage right up til the first child is born. Once the engagement period is reaching its end, the families decided on a day for the wedding itself. It's likely that a bomoh would've been consulted for this in pre-Islamic times
Once the day is set, preparations begin. Most of the wedding takes place at the bride's house so the groom's place doesn't have as much decoration. Both houses are decorated with vertically hanging strips of fabric, and ceiling cloths (langit-langit)
The central theme of Malay weddings is that of being king for the day (raja sehari), epitomised by the pelamin, the heart of the Malay wedding reception. Its significance won't become apparent til later but for now I'll just describe how it looked in the old days
The pelamin was a two-step dais with a mattress, quilt, and white sheet on top. A decorated curtain would hang over it, the kind normally used as a mosquito net. Both the dais and the curtain were adorned with bright red cloth. This picture isn't exactly like that but here you go
The colour red featured prominently in historical Malay weddings, the same bright red colour we see in Chinese weddings. The red dye was often obtained from the safflower (kesumba) which apparently reached Malaya from China and India
One important aspect of the pelamin was the cushions. Traditionally the number of large white pillows would indicate one's status (the highest being 5). Besides that, there would be a pile of smaller red cushions on the left side of the pelamin. The top one would be triangular
The triangular pillow is called gunungan, symbolising a mountain. Triangular shapes representing mountains are a recurring motif in Southeast Asian art and architecture, not just in Malaysia but also Indonesia, Thailand, etc. Why mountains?

Mountains were sacred in Southeast Asian animism. With Indian influence, the mountain also came to represent Mount Sumeru. Pagodas across Asia are intended to simulate this Hindu-Buddhist cosmology
Now let's look at the people involved. Both the bride and groom had a few younger attendants or pengapit. These were the equivalent of bridesmaids and groomsmen. The groom had two pengapit, as young as 10 years old
In addition, the bride can't be without her mak inang and mak andam, both of whom were usually older ladies. The mak inang is a sort of duenna and personal assistant. The mak andam is the makeup artist and "beautifier" who'd make the bride look good
The mak andam would use chants to ensure a smooth event and protect it from harmful forces. She'd also trim the bride's eyebrows for the first time and remove any unwanted facial hair.…
The occupation of mak andam was often hereditary. The incantations they passed down are pre-Islamic. Fun fact, they were commonly transvestites or what we'd call transwomen, and nobody had a problem with that

One job of the mak andam was to prepare the bride's floral bath (mandi bunga). This is another pre-Islamic custom, a ritual cleansing of evil and bad luck (membuang sial). The water is mixed with 7 types of flowers, accompanied by the recitation of mantra…
It was evening by the time the decorations are all up, and everyone involved sat down for a meal. In a kampung environment, everyone got involved and there was no such thing as a caterer. After that began the malam berinai or henna party
On each night of the wedding ceremony, the entertainment consisted of music, silat demonstrations, and dikir or Quran recitals. More lavish weddings might include cockfighting and storytelling
Before the ceremony, the bride and groom might have their teeth filed and their first haircut, if neither had been done already. As I said in a previous thread, many Malays kept their hair uncut until their wedding

The main purpose of malam berinai is to stain the couple's fingertips with henna (inai). The henna plant is native to the Middle East, and the western part of South Asia. In both those regions, it was an important part of wedding customs. What it represents varies
Inai was introduced to Malay culture through India. For both Malays and Indians, it's not mere skin decoration. In fact, traditional Malay wedding henna is very simple and not particularly striking. Its meaning is explained in the following poem
As for what the bride wore during malam berinai, ever since the time of Hang Li Po..

"among the Malays of Malacca, Johore, Negeri Sembilan, and Selangor it is also customary to dress the bride in ancient Chinese costume on a night of the berinai ceremonies."
That's right, Malay girls historically wore Chinese clothes for berinai. This was done centuries before colonisation and became "an integral part of Malay wedding customs". Anyone wanna bring this tradition back?
There were three consecutive nights of berinai. One of them (berinai curi) was done in seclusion apart from the guests. Each one ended late at night, after which everyone went home, slept for most of the next day, then came back in the evening
There was no ready-made henna in a tube. The leaves were crushed into paste on the spot and applied to each fingertip (except the middle finger or jari hantu), the centre of each palm, and during the berinai curi, a line on the inner foot from the heel to the big toe
Next came tepung tawar. This is a paste made from rice flour that's applied to the forehead and back of the hands using a leaf brush. It's meant to neutralise spiritual fire and air, two of the 5 elements that make up the body in Malay metaphysics
After that, three pinches of rice were fumigated over the incense burner and thrown at the newlywed, following which they'd pay obeisance to each other with palms pressed together. The palm-to-palm salutation is not often seen in Malay society today except in silat
This ritual is repeated with an odd number of relatives. Each throws rice at the newlywed, dabs them with tepung tawar, and stains their palm with inai. One might assume this fondness for odd numbers comes from Islam, but it's actually common in Southeast Asian numerology
During this time, tarian inai is performed. There were several variations of this dance, but I think three still survive today. One is more Thai-influenced and was performed for royal circumcisions, another has movements taken from silat

We're probably all familiar with Malay wedding processions, where the groom makes his way to the bride's house after receiving sirih lat-lat. This has been the common practice for a century now. But in earlier times, the akad nikah actually came before the procession
The akad nikah began once everyone arrived at the bride's house. In the old days, the kadi wasn't involved; it was conducted either by the imam or very often by the girl's father. The bride herself wasn't present for this, and there was no "you may kiss" moment
The father asks if the groom will pay the stated amount to marry the girl. This dower, called mas kahwin, was originally paid directly to the parents as a bride price. With the introduction of Islam, mas kahwin became interchangeable with the Arabic mahar, which goes to the bride
They did retain the older custom of giving money to the bride's parents through the customary wang hantaran, belanja kahwin, and pemberian. This served as pledge-money during the betrothal, and part of the wedding expenses since the week's celebration was paid for by her parents
So once the groom agreed, the father or imam asked for confirmation from the witnesses, and then pronounced the marriage as officially valid. There was no wedding ring and therefore no such thing as the modern European-influenced upacara menyarung cincin
This concluded the akad nikah, the Islamic solemnisation of the marriage. You'd think this would be the main event of a Malay wedding, and many today consider it so... But it isn't. Or at least, it wasn't. That came the next day
Now for Hari Langsung. This was when everyone wore their finest clothes, not least of all the bride and groom. Modern couples borrow the European white wedding theme with bouquets and all, but what was traditionally worn?
The groom would wear something like this. I don't think there was any standard colour but yellow/gold was used in keeping with the royal theme. The samping was tied silang style, and a selendang would be worn across the shoulder(s)
Headgear varied. The songkok, introduced by Indian Muslims, has been popular for a century but isn't as old as Wikipedia wants you to think, and wasn't normally worn for weddings even just 100 years ago
The typical male wedding headdress was some form of destar or sigar. One common headdress was made of red cloth and resembled a Thai mongkhon but peaked at the right side like a tanjak, decorated with flowers
Arabophiles (or Aboos as I like to call them) will be glad to know that Malay men were wearing jubah and turban to their weddings since the beginning of the 20th century. It was not standard & confined to areas that were exposed to foreigners, but it's described as "not uncommon"
The woman's wedding dress was commonly a kebaya, often red in colour with a gold border around the neck, & sleeves reaching all the way to the wrist. This was not the silly loose kebaya that we sometimes see today; it's repeatedly described as being very tight and figure-hugging
Her sarong would be made of silk. Her jewellery would consist of bangles, earrings, and anklets all made from five metals (pancalogam). If she was from a wealthy family, she'd also have a crescent-shaped necklace like this
I've repeated enough times about how most Malay-Muslim women usually didn't cover their hair. This was particularly true of weddings. The hair was tied and capped with an interesting flower-like headdress (sanggul lintang)
You might notice there was quite a lot of Chinese influence in the bride's clothing. The red colour, the headdress, even the outfit itself. That Chinese influence is still apparent in many traditional Malay and other Nusantara outfits. Compare
Next the nasi adap-adapan is prepared. This was nasi kunyit in a tiered wooden box topped with purple or red eggs, coloured using a plant-based dye. In the centre of this box was a tree-like arrangement made from rattan, with eggs on each twig, decorated with red streamers
Wedding decor often incorporated dragons (naga) and the mythological birds garuda, jentayu, and walimana. Just like the dragon and phoenix pairing in China, this symbolised harmony in the marriage
Once the akad nikah is over, the usual entertainment resumes: music, dancing, silat, and food. This went on til late into the night, possibly even til daybreak. The next evening comes the procession as the groom makes his way back to the bride's house
The procession was lead by the women. Behind them, the groom is carried either in a carriage or on someone's shoulders. One of his pengapit fans him and the other holds an umbrella above him. To the front and back of the groom were often men holding spears
Included in the parade are the dancers, the pesilat, and the musicians with their drums and gongs. Everyone else sings on the way there. If you're wondering what are those tacky tinsel bunga manggar at wedding processions today, they were originally coconut palm blossoms
Also carried in the procession were the pokok sirih, an arrangement meant to look like a hornbill in a tree, made from betel leaves. It's not the same today, but betel leaf arrangements are still done for the sirih junjung
Once the groom arrives, the bride's side sprinkled rose-water and yellow rice over him before he enters and takes his seat next to the bride on the pelamin. Known as bersanding, this is the most important part of a Malay wedding
You might think the couple sitting together is just a photo opportunity, but it's far more than that. The pelamin has its origin in the Indian mandap. Bersanding was influenced both by Hinduism and the Javanese Panji cycle of stories

For Hindus, the married couple embodies the sacred union of the gods Vishnu and Lakshmi. The Indian wedding vows even refer to the groom as Vishnu incarnate
Even without the Hindu connotation, persandingan is meant to recall a king and queen sitting in state on their throne. The couple is once again anointed with henna and rice-paste, and feed each other a handful of nasi kunyit... Just like in embarrassing photos we see today
The bersanding is so crucial that a couple wasn't considered married without it, even after their akad nikah. Such cases were called nikah gantung: they were technically married according to Islam but couldn't live together until after bersanding. This could take up to a year
If the groom reeeeally couldn't make it to the wedding, his keris could take his place, since the weapon symbolised one's own identity. Sending the girl's family a keris was also a sign that you'd marry her by force
After bersanding, the nasi adap-adapan was distributed among the guests, and each was given one of the coloured eggs on a stick (bunga telur). To not receive one was insulting. Here's one my dad got from a recent wedding
The final ritual was the bathing ceremony. Known as mandi tolak bala, mandi air selamat, or mandi limau, it was a ritual bath while clothed. After the usual tepung menawar, water was poured over the couple using bamboo stems
This ritual bath was yet another pre-Islamic custom meant to protect the couple from bad luck. This was done as soon as possible after the wedding, no more than a couple days later
After everything was completed, the couple was expected to live with with the bride's parents for about two years before they're free, though this period was often considerably shorter. After leaving, the standard practice was to live with the groom's parents
Friends & family could visit after that to wish them well. Common wedding gifts at the time were livestock like buffalo (kerbau), cattle (lembu), goats (kambing), plates (pinggan mangkuk) and various jewellery. The buffalo were dressed up in cloth with their horns covered
The girl's earrings were taken off seven days after marriage. A divorcee who was still a virgin kept her earrings. Virgin or not, the ceremony for marrying a divorcee was abridged, and her mas kahwin & other expenses were reduced or halved
Or at least, that was the custom in the 1800s. For how long it existed is uncertain. There was little to no stigma around Malay girls who lost their virginity in earlier times
Curiously, there were also customs regulating socially unacceptable marriages known as panjat (literally meaning climb). This made it mandatory for a man to pay double the expenses and gifts if he kidnaps the bride or coerces her parents to approve
This should not be taken to mean that Malays justified panjat. Comparable to the laws for rakshasa and paisacha marriages in Hinduism, it regulated the crime by placing an extra burden on the potential criminal, and providing an avenue for negotiation
He would need to be financially well-off, with a gang to protect him because he could lawfully be killed on the spot. Apparently this worked as prevention, since some would-be kidnappers were said to have retreated after finding they couldn't meet the requirements
Men who resorted to panjat were described as "jantannya berlebih", roughly meaning "excess manliness" (toxic masculinity?). This ties into the traditional Malay concept of the ideal man being in touch with both his masculine and feminine side

Are Malay weddings Muslim? Hindu? Something else? Well Malay weddings are nominally "Islamic", with the akad nikah and all. But in the end, they're cultural occasions and not religious ones
All the Malay wedding customs would remain completely intact if the Islamic elements (Quran recitation, imam's speech) were removed. In fact, foreign tourists who have Malay weddings in Malaysia do precisely that
Despite all the Hindu symbolism, Malay weddings aren't a carbon copy of Indian weddings either, and don't include important Vedic rituals like Panigrahana or Saptapadi
With that said, we know for a fact that Malay weddings are heavily Indian-influenced. This is unanimous among experts. Inai isn't even native to Southeast Asia and couldn't possibly exist before contact with the outside

And while some Malay wedding customs are common elsewhere (eg. throwing rice), some are too unique to be coincidence. Bersanding is not just sitting down together. I don't know by what stretch of the imagination it exists in ancient Egypt or Palestine

Many of the customs and beliefs surrounding Malay weddings do originate from indigenous animism. But we simply don't have records of prehistoric marital rites and can't presume to know what they would've been like before the Hindu-Buddhist Malay kingdoms existed
For a real local animistic wedding without any outside influence, you'd have to look to the orang asli. And that doesn't resemble Malay weddings at all
It's all the more unique that Malay weddings blend indigenous beliefs with Indian and Chinese influence and managed to stay mostly intact even after the conversion to Islam. Why ruin that with nativist revisionism?

Best thing about older weddings? No cameras, and no dabbing
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