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When was the last time you attended a Malay kenduri kahwin (wedding) in the rural area of a kampung? If you’ve never attended one and are curious to know more about it, then this article will be of some enlightenment to you. A week ago, I was in Perlis (in the northern part of Peninsular Malaysia) to attend a relative’s wedding and today I will show you a little bit of what goes on in a typical kampung wedding.

My uncle Pak Long‘s house is in a kampung called Jejawi, located in the heart of where my father was born and grew up. Sawah padi (paddy fields) and pokok kelapa (coconut trees) are prominent features of the landscape.

The road to Pak Long‘s house is still only wide enough to allow one car to move in one direction at a time.

If another car is coming in from the opposite direction, one car will eventually have to give way by gingerly pulling to the side of the narrow road to let the other vehicle through.

God help you if there’s a muddy sawah padi right next to your car. If so, then you proceed cautiously on a wing and a prayer.

And what happens if you come across a group of ladies walking down the same road?

Well, either you slow your car down, or if you’re mean, you speed up a little to scare them into thinking they’re in some walking marathon, hehe!

We were finally approaching the wedding venue. Because the wedding fell on Merdeka day, a Malaysian flag is proudly hoisted on a tall bamboo pole to commemorate our 46th independence day.

Once we had arrived, we were greeted by our many relatives clad in colorful Malay attires, as were we. Malays really love bright colors for their formal clothing.

That’s Pak Long‘s house in its traditional design splendor. Malay houses in the kampungwere typically made out of strong wood and were mostly on stilts to protect the people inside from wild animals like slithering snakes and crawling giant lizards (biawak).

My uncle has since renovated his house but retained its original stilt foundation; the house is now partial brick, partial wood. He has converted the house’s bottom portion into a living room for guests when it used to be an empty lot. The neat window doors with the railings are a common feature in traditional Malay houses. When morning comes, the family inside would open all the windows to let rezeki (good fortune) in.

A Communal Affair, indeed!

Weddings that take place in the kampung are extremely communal affairs; chances are if you’re a friend of the groom or bride’s parents, you will help the family by participating in the wedding operations.For example, you might be heavily involved with cooking the food to be served to the wedding guests.

I was told that not one, not two, but three kampungs of people were expected to turn up for the wedding! Therefore a lot of food had to be prepared. The men here are makingkurma ayam, which is chicken cooked with kurma seasoning and coconut milk. It’s rich and very delicious especially when eaten with white rice.

You can see the man in the white shirt pouring out the santan, or coconut milk, into the mix, as the bloke in blue literally uses a dayung (an oar) to stir the bubbling dish!

Row, row, row your gravy, gently in the pot!

Mr. Blue is obviously having the time of his life stirring all those ingredients inside the big pot with his wooden oar! The huge pile of wood you see in the background is use to make the cooking fire.

I startled this nice old lady when I took her picture, causing her to spill some of that lovely chicken gravy she was handling! (“Oh mak pocot!“) 🙂

And of course, if you’re expecting three villages of guests to attend your wedding, you have to have a team of dishwashers, ready to take up the task of plate cleaning with speed and efficiency! Here they all are, ready and poised for action. No dirty plate will stand a chance of escaping!

Makan time!

All the photographing of people cooking has had me worked up an appetite! It’s time tomakan! Since everyone eats rice the traditional way, i.e. with their hands, these teapots were laid on the tables everywhere.

This particular teapot set, which is called kendi in Malay, contains clean water with which people use to wash their fingers prior to and after eating. (Please don’t pour the water into a glass to drink; you’d look really silly doing that!) You’d lift the pot, pour a bit of water onto your right hand which you’d hover over the base as you wash; the base is supposed to catch all the used water.

When the kendi base is already full, the dirty water will be thrown out and fresh water is once again filled into the kendi teapots.
Since there were so many people present, my uncle decided to serve lunch in a practical, buffet style.

There’s that yummy kurma ayam chicken dish on the most left. There were two types of rice being served: nasi putih (plain white rice) and the aromatic nasi briyani (briyani rice). The briyani rice was very popular and was always the first rice to run out.

Since this is a kampung area, people are more conservative and therefore proceed to sit in segregated areas separated by sexes. Here you see the ladies and children chomping away in their self-designated territory. The men were located on the other side of the turf.

As you’re eating, you’ll be presented with a small token of appreciation from the host, usually in the form of a boiled egg wrapped in colorful decorations usually called bunga telur. But at my cousin’s wedding, sweets in cute paper bags were given away. Children are more appreciative of candy than boiled eggs. I know I’d be. 😛

That’s my niece, Naneen, helping out with the distribution of the sweets.

The Live Band!

What indeed is a wedding without music! My uncle had invited a group of musicians from a nearby kampung to play at his son’s wedding, and the music played is a unique type of Malay traditional music called gendang keling (also referred to as gendang tari inai). It is music specialty of the northern states of Kedah and Perlis typically played at weddings.There were four men playing the gendang keling music: a serunai player, a gong beater and two drummers.

Instead of trying to describe to you what the music sounds like, why don’t you watch and listen!

Video clip is 30 seconds long.
Thank you to for post-production.

I was particularly fascinated with the wind instrument called serunai. If you’ve ever heard Thai traditional music before, especially the music that is played just before a Thai kick boxing tournament, the sound of this Malay serunai is similar to that of the Thai’s. It is not surprising actually, considering that Perlis is very near to Thailand, so some assimilation of the two cultures is to be expected.

What’s even more interesting is how this serunai was being played by the man. Throughout the duration of the music playing, we noticed that the player had a unique way of inhaling his breaths in such a way that the serunai sound was continuous with no breaks in between! It was amazing indeed.

Fairy speaking with the band members of the 'gendang keling'I kneeled down to speak with the old timers; they were very friendly and were probably pleased that a youngster such as me took so much interest in learning more about the music that they played. I asked the man with the red checker shirt to name me the two particular drums that were being played in the music, and he gave me the most classic answer which sort of stunned me:

Ha’ tu gendang besaq (pointing to the big drum), ha’ ni gendang kecik(pointing to smaller drum)!
(Translation: That’s the big drum, and that’s the little drum!)

I honestly was expecting a more glamorous name for the drums! So gendang ‘besaq’ andgendang’ kecik’ they were.

In case anyone’s confused about the drums explanation, please refer to photo with descriptions below:

Fairy speaking with the band members of the 'gendang keling'That plate of daun sirih (beetle nut leaves) are a treat for the band players who would roll the leaves up with a little bit of kapur (chalk) and chew them like we would bubble gum. Old people seem to like sirih very much. I’ve tried chewing some before as a child when my dad tricked me into thinking that it tasted sweet. It was anything but sweet! I didn’t like the taste at all; daun sirih is very pahit (bitter!) and makes your mouth all red. I spat the remnants out in a hurry, of course!
All this talk about kampung weddings and we have yet to see the Raja Sehari (“king of the day”)! The cousin in question finally made his groom-like appearance.

Two guesses on who the groom is!

Now, the groom is dressed in a fancy yellow baju Melayu with a sampin wrapped around his waist. Tucked in his sampin is a commonly used wedding accessory, a keris (Malay dagger, you know, to make him look all macho). The headgear on Kamal’s head is called a tengkolok, which is commonly worn by Malay sultans even today especially for formal ceremonies.

That old man next to cousin Kamal is (I honestly have no clue who he is, but anyway) in charge of chaperoning the groom to his bride who is to arrive with her own party of people.

While the groom waits for his bride, we pried him away from his escort for a digital Olympus moment.

My sisters, cousins, nieces, nephews, and uncle are seen in this photo.

I’m almost embarrassed to say this, but we didn’t stick around for the bride to arrive; she was taking too long to reach the house and we were already running late with our Padang Besar plans! Hence the lack of bride pictures. (My, what fine relatives we make.)

Attending this wedding has made me better appreciate and value my Malay roots, so I’m really glad I decided to leave the hustle and bustle of city life for a few days to be with my family in my Dad’s kampung.

Bertunang / Engagement

This is an article on an actual Malay Wedding Ceremony. The bride is our cousin “Irenna” and the name of the groom is “Raja Shaiffulizam”.
Well, like many other presant days young couples, they were friends at first, then lovers courting for a numbers of years. They felt that they cannot part one another, got to get the blessing from parents of both sides.
Then it was followed by the engagement or bertunang ceremony. The bride in her best waiting patiently in her room for the party on behalf of the groom who are supposed to be here by 8.00 pm. Here we see Encik Hashim standing on the steps infront of his house waiting for the party or group of elders and on behalf of the groom to propose the hands of their daughter ‘Irenna’ Here comes the party and the leader is explaining the ‘hantaran’, and with pantun (Malay old poem) are expressing their intention of …. trying to get the permission of the owner of this beautiful garden to pick for the groom the flower that is blooming in Encik Hashim garden. And so on ….. bla-bla…bla…. After the long bla…bla by the leader of the party, and after all are satisfied and terms agreed, a member from the groom’s put on a ring on a finger of Irenna, signifying that she’s engaged to the owner of the ring. After the ‘bertunang’, they are officially confirm by all parties that they are now fiance and fiancee. Hantaran / Pemberian – gift whether in the form of money or things given by a husband to a wife at the time of the marriage – [ Islamic Family Law Enactment

Aqad Nikah

A certain period lapsed for both sides to get settled and ready for the day and date of the actual marriage Nikah ceremony.

Today is the day, where Irenna’s father witnessed by the Religious Officer and the families of both sides holding the hand of Raja Shaiffulizam in a solemn and serious instant will wed Raja Shaiffulizam to his daughter ‘Irenna’ with the ‘maskahwin’ of RM….. cash.
Encik Abu Hashim in Red & Raja Shaifullizam in white Malay ‘Baju’
As soon as Encik Abu Hashim stops those solemn words, Raja Shaiffulizam has to reply in a breath that he agrees to be wedded and be husband to ‘Irenna’ with the ‘maskahwin’ of RM…. cash. After being confirmmed by the relegious officers and the witnesses, the ‘Doa Selamat’ – was read. They (Raja Shaifullizam & Irenna) are now officially husband and wife

Maskahwin according to the Islamic Law means – the obligatory payment inconnection with a marriage or for any other cause in accordance with the Hukum Syarak whether in the form of money or things – [Islamic Law Enactment].

Mas Kahwin

To further complete the ceremony the ‘Mas Kahwin’ is officially handed over to the bride.
The Groom hands over the Mas Kahwin and received by the bride.This is done and witnessed by the mother and the unties of the lady’s side in the bride’s chamber.
After receiving the Mas Kahwin and as an appreation of thanks the bride, now officially the wife kisses the hands of the groom, now the husband. Then the first phothograph of the couple, now the newly husband & wife are shot together with their parent at the ‘pelamin’ or bridal stage.


Then the occasions are followed by the ‘Majlis Berinai’ – Berinai Ceremony. The Groom left the residence of the bride to change to a different set of costumes. When the groom comes back this time he will be received by a ‘Kompang Group’. The bride with the same colour of costumes invited the groom, and they are escorted to a beautifully decorated bridal stage called ‘pelamin’ in Malay.

Here they are seated side by side, this is called ‘bersanding’ in Malay and the families, led by the elders take turn to perform the berinai.

The ‘berinai or menepung-tawar’ is being performed by an auntie “Mak Long Maimon”.
The ceremony ends at about 11.00 pm and it will be continued the next day for the ‘Hari Langsung’- Final Day.

Foot Note:-
Inai – henna; Lawsonia inermis [Malay English Dictionary by R.O.Winstedt]

Hari Langsung

Date:- 24 Jan. 1999
Day:- Sunday
Today is the auspicious day for the family of Abu Hashim bin Talib and his wife Maznah binti Lazzan.
Most of the close relatives had already gathered since a few days ago. Last night was the ‘Majlis Aqad Nikah’ and followed by the ‘Majlis Berinai.’
We all woke early today to assist the family to get things in order before the guest arrived. The actual ‘Majlis Bersanding’ is scheduled at about 12.30 pm. Before the Majlis Bersanding they had the ‘Majlis Khatam Alquran’, Irenna flaked by her cousins, read verses of the Holy Quran signifying that they had completed all the Chapters of the AlQuran. This was led by the Village’s Ladies Group who also recites the Marhaban the Verses of Arabic Chorus praising god and the prophet.
The guests starts to roll in at about 11.00 am, and were invited to the big canvas tent where they were served with buffet styled ‘nasi briani’ – Briyani Rice and other foods.

Here comes the groom led by elders, stops and waited about 100 metres from the bride’s residence, here again they are greeted by the ‘Kompang’ group.
The bride comes forward to greet the groom and later together they walk towards the house.
Walking together towards the house led by elders, bunga manggar both sides followed by the kompang group, and behind them are the friends & relatives of the groom.

Hari Langsung

Oh No !! The bride got through. Here is a road block, they have to pay toll in order to get to the ‘pelamin’ or the bridal stage.

Pak Daud, is checking them, a token sum is paid in order to pass through him.

After much bargaining, and further more he is going to be part of our family, I’ll let him to the stage – says Pak Daud.
Another series of Majlis Berinai or Menepung Tawar continues again. And as a closing event Encik Hashim was invited to do the said ritual.
Raja Shaiffulizam, kisses his father-in-law’s hands & and as from now on he calls Encik Hashim – PAPA/FATHER and no more PAKCIK.

Makan Berdamai
After the Majlis Bersanding and Berinai, all the guest that came together with the groom were invited to the feast. The Feast Fit For the King. Well as you know, the bride and groom are treated as a king today. Malay says ” Raja Sehari” roughly translated as King for the day.

Here we have the king helping the queen to a spoon of nasi briani.


A Malay Wedding in the Kampung

by fairy farah madhzan  (7-Sep-2003) |  link to

GM:  Fairy’s wedding reception bila lagi? Jemput jangan tak jemput…


Filed under: Customs & Etiquette,

2 Responses

  1. H Hussain Rahman says:

    Lamanweb menarik dan informatif.Mesti dikunjungi. Tahniah.

  2. peacebuy says:

    Kecil tapak tangan, nyiru hamba tadahkan,” terima kasih kerana melawat pondok yang tak seberapa ini…

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