Details Published on Friday, 11 August 2017 08:30 Written by Hana Maher
We are just days away from witnessing what will be one of the most awaited moments for the Johor Sultan and his Permaisuri, as their only daughter, Tunku Tun Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah weds the love of her life, Dutchman, Dennis Muhammad Abdullah this August 14.
The Johor Princess earlier relayed her father wanted the wedding to showcase the Johor royal family’s unique traditions and heritage for fear “that our uniqueness as Johoreans will be lost forever,” whilst also revealing her chosen attire, a traditional ‘Baju Kurung Teluk Belanga’.
In a time where traditions are often deemed as irrelevant in today’s modern society, we laud the princess’s appreciation towards her roots. But do all Malaysians feel the same way, and how significant is it to preserve such traditions?
Traditional Weddings Are Slowly Becoming A Less Popular Choice
Our curiosity led us to ask 50 young couples on their ideal wedding, whilst recounting on their parents’ and grandparents’ wedding, and our findings revealed that traditional Malay weddings are becoming less popular from generation to generation:
We also got in touch with 20 married couples, who got married between 2007 and 2017 and had a full-on traditional Malay wedding, whether it was their preference or on the behests of their elders:
We then spoke with Habibah Osman, who had a traditional Johor-cum-Javanese ceremony for her wedding in 1947.
“Aside from ‘merisik’ (asking for hand in marriage), engagement and solemnisation, we also had the ‘berpagar’ (blocking) custom, ‘ambo-ambo’ (money showering) and wore traditional Johor attire for the wedding,” the 88-year-old recounted.
“For my husband’s side, we had a traditional Javanese wedding where we wore traditional batik, traditional accessories and headgear, decorated the house with ‘tarub’ (plant decorations) and had the ‘kuda kepang’.”
Blessed with five children and over 20 grandchildren, Habibah lamented that she is distressed over the fact that the Malay tradition is slowly losing its grip in Malaysia and urged that preserving the heritage is of utmost importance as it is part of our history.
For 54-year-old Negeri Sembilan lass Mashitah Ali whom married her 56-year-old Kelantanese husband in 1989, she recalls her traditional wedding that honours her Minangkabau heritage, as well as a more Islamic inclined wedding for her husband’s reception.
“My husband’s side was pretty straight forward – we ‘berarak’ (marched) towards the ‘meja beradab’ (VIP table). We waited for the ustaz to recite prayers and proceeded to eat and mingle with our guests.
“For my side of the reception and solemnisation, we wore traditional Minangkabau attire and conducted the solemnisation process as per the Negeri Sembilan customary ‘poem:’
‘Pertama kerat pusat,
kedua upah bidan,
ketiga sunat rasul,
keempat khatam mengaji, tindik daing,
kelima nikah kahwin’
“Loosely translated, it speaks about what the groom owes the bride before they enter the fifth phase, which is tying the knot,” she conveyed.
Acknowledging that some of the Negeri Sembilan customs that is stipulated in their ‘adat perpatih’ goes against the Islamic teachings, she lamented that the state customs and traditions is disappearing and this is evident as even the elders are discouraging the continuation of some customs.
However for 33-year-old Nora, she opined that it is important to exude certain traditional Malay elements in weddings, but at the same time ensure that it adheres the Islamic teachings.
“Some of the traditional elements that we kept were wearing baju melayu and songket kurung modern for the solemnisation, traditional Malay cuisine during the solemnisation and both receptions, and played traditional music throughout all the events.
“I was born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, but my ancestors are from Perak, Terengganu, Negeri Sembilan (Minangkabau Indonesia) and Thailand. Regardless if we are living in a modern age, I personally believe that every couple should either have a semi-tradition wedding or at least have a traditional Malay wedding for one of their receptions.”
Tradition Can Be Interpreted With A Modern Twist
With traditional weddings slowly becoming a less popular choice, we sought the experts’ opinions on the preferences of couples today – who enlightened us tradition is very much kept alive, but given a more modern and creative twist.
No stranger to majestic and captivating wedding setups, Reka Teemor made of husband and wife duo, Faiz Sabariand Rozana Mumtaz, has emerged as one of Malaysia’s top wedding planners since 2006.
Planning four to three weddings on a monthly basis, the couple revealed that a small population of today’s bride and groom do take their tradition and heritage into consideration when planning for their wedding – but not too elaborate.
“They love the Malay concept, but not too detailed. As a matter of fact, we’ve done a few weddings where the couple actually considers having traditional elements such as ‘majlis bersiram‘ (customary shower with flowers), henna night and ‘majlis khatam Al-Quran’ (Quran recital ceremony),” the couple recounted.
The couple believe the lack of knowledge is a leading factor that brides and grooms are foregoing their traditions and heritage.
“They’re not really aware of what a traditional wedding consists of, which is partly due to the evolvement of time as we now live in a more modern age.
“Other than that, majority of young couples often opt for garden weddings – so their preference may not blend with a full-on traditional Malay wedding,” the couple relayed based on their experience, adding modern couples prefer to keep their wedding “simple.”
While the couple conveyed that deeming traditions as a hassle is naught but perception, they emphasised that some elements should be maintained or modernised to fit with today’s modern time and to ensure that it does not go against the Sharia:
In short, most of the traditional elements that the Award Winning Wedding Planner advised that should be maintained are mostly arts and crafts as it symbolises our culture and heritage.
“But in the event that couples would like to go down a more traditional route, then they can consider adjusting it to modern times,” the wedding planners advised.
As an example, they said, for the ‘tepung tawar’ (blessing ceremony), rice can be replaced with flower petals instead as using rice may be regarded as wasteful.
“We believe that it’s important to preserve our tradition and it should be encouraged. Some of the events prior the solemnisation that our culture is blessed with, such as ‘majlis bersiram’ and ‘malam berinai’, should be kept as it encourages family gatherings and it livens up the atmosphere.
“In fact, don’t be confined with the word ‘tradition’ as we should embrace the culture and tradition, and interpret it in our own way to make it more appealing in today’s society,” they said, emphasising that tradition can be interpreted in various ways.
The couple pointed out, it is however important to plan weddings as per our five senses – sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch – as guests expect to use their five senses when they attend weddings. By doing so and when each element is cohesive, it ensures that the guests are bestowed with an entertaining and well-planned wedding atmosphere.
If We Lose Our Tradition, We Lose Our Identity
With Malaysia blessed with 14 states, it is understandable that the Malay culture is diverse – which honours each respective state.
In our enquiry to random heritage establishments throughout the nation, we found that there are at least 23 Malay wedding traditions:
To clarify further on the traditions, we spoke with a long-time member of Badan Warisan Malaysia, who is also an avid collector of traditional antiquities, but wishes to remain anonymous.
The self-proclaimed lady who “passionately appreciates the Malay culture,” gave us an insightful interview which shone the light about Malay wedding traditions.
“Each Malaysian state shares more or less the same traditions and customs when it comes to weddings but some are more distinguished with their traditions and customs than others, like Johor and Negeri Sembilan,” she opened up.
Sharing the history of certain customs, she reveals, “Back in the day, the Tepak Sirih and Sirih Junjungwas regarded as a sign of respect, used to greet the guests and as a token of welcoming the bride into the grooms’ family.
“While the Mak Andam is tasked with blessing the bride, telling her the facts of life and basically sending the brides to their rite of passage in preparation for the wedding,” although today is seen rather differently as the individual who ensures the bride is well-groomed.
She then pointed an interesting fact while parents these days are very much involved in their child’s wedding process and planning, in the past, parents were never involved and discussions only took place between intermediaries.
“They will always have representatives to conduct negotiations, agreements – especially in regards to the hantaran,” she detailed.
“Speaking from my own history, understanding and knowledge, traditions existed long before religion came into the picture. In fact, the Bugis people initially resisted Islam and only embraced the religion in the 1600s.
“Due to the absence of religion, each culture and race had its own tradition and elements played a vital role in planning or celebrating the wedding,” the enthusiast shared and opined that some of the minor customary events came to exist for get-together purposes.
“There wasn’t much to look forward to in the olden days – hence why the whole community often gets involved in the wedding preparation, to make the experience and atmosphere more exciting.”
Highlighting that traditional Malay weddings are slowly fading away in the mists of time, she laments this exclusion of traditions clearly signifies that we are losing our culture and heritage – and if this persists, someone else might claim that our traditions are theirs.
“Once tradition is lost, it will remain lost forever,” she stressed, adding that religion and tradition should also work harmoniously, and that religion should not be used as an excuse to forget our tradition.
Although she notes the younger generation view traditions and customs as old-fashioned, she ensures that her family and lineage maintain them in good faith of being proud of our roots.
“I understand that these elements will be modernised with the passing of time but I strongly believe that the original traditions, customs and rituals should be documented so that we have something to refer to help appreciate our culture’s history better.”
Aside the changing times, she blames the lack of knowledge which leads to the Malays often forgetting their roots as well as their unique culture and heritage.
“The Malays are blessed with rich and diverse culture, if we forego and forget our history or roots, we will not only lose our culture but we will lose our identity as well.
“For instance, in Johor we have Bugis and Javanese roots, while in Negeri Sembilan we have Minangkabau roots. So how can we acknowledge ourselves as Malays, when we know nothing of our history, traditions and culture?,” she posed the question.
“The Malay community has also moved from the kampung to the city and we cannot bring the camaraderie that we had (in kampung) to town as the community living – if there is any – it is different,” she added.
Emphasising on the importance of preserving the Malay traditions, she points out that in her observation, tradition is very much related to our ‘budi bahasa’ (mannerism) – which ultimately reflects who we are.
“Traditions and customs help shape the kind of person we are as it teaches us good moral values such as to respect our elders and modesty,” she concluded, stating her hopes to one day witness a Malay Museum which honours the Malay traditions and heritage.
At the end of the day our traditions and heritage makes us who we are, so together we should preserve and embrace it as part of our history and culture.
– Malaysian Digest