Chapter 16 – Brother’s Big Day


A few nights prior to the “akad nikah” (solemnization) ceremony, in accordance with the Malay tradition of “berinai”, (henna application) the bride’s palms, fingertips, toes and soles of her feet were ‘decorated’ with the dye made from crushed henna leaves. This is an indication to one and all that she is soon to be wed. After all the preparations had been finalized, family and a few close friends assembled on February 2nd at the Shariah Court for the akad nikah ceremony between Brother and Rahimah. They both wore the traditional “baju Melayu” (Malay clothing) for the occasion. (Click on thumbnail on the right.) [The Shariah Court in Singapore is an Islamic Law Court that also serves as the Registry of Muslim Marriages. The Marriage Registry chamber has a “pelamin” (a raised and decorated dais) for the newlyweds to pose for photographs for those without families or those who cannot afford any lavish celebration afterwards.] The akad nikah ceremony is in effect a verbal contract between the bride’s father or his representative (in this case the “kadi” (an official of religious standing, appointed to solemnize Muslim marriages) and the groom. A small sum  of money called the “mas kahwin” (dowry) [it was S$22.50 in Singapore at the time] seals the contract. Instead of the cash payment, Brother chose to give his wife-to-be a gold bracelet. [The small sum of the mas kahwin is to ensure that even poor people can marry, for marriage is encouraged for all healthy Muslims.] The contract is complete after the following dialogue has been clearly articulated as to be heard by at least three witnesses:

Kadi: I marry thee to (so-and-so) with the mas kahwin of S$22.50. 
Groom: I accept this marriage with (so-and-so) with the mas kahwin of S$22.50.

The marriage certificate is then signed by both the bride and groom in front ofwitnesses. They are now officially married.

Guests were invited to the wedding feast and to witness the “bersanding” (sitting in state) ceremony at 3pm on Sunday at Rahimah’s family home. Since we don’t have any Muslim relatives, I sought the involvement of my friends and a few of Rahimah’s relatives. We congregated at my home where Brother was assisted into his traditional Malay wedding outfit, complete with a “tanjak” (stiffened head-kerchief usually worn by a sultan) befitting the image of being a “king for the day”, by his Muslim groomsmen. We then travelled in convoy to a designated area not far from Rahimah’s family home for the “bertandang” (coming over) ceremony. There to meet us as pre-arranged were a couple of Rahimah’s relatives to help co-ordinate the traditional arrival of the groom. A “hadrah” troupe consisting of a group of teenaged boys had been hired to beat the “kompang” (shallow hand drums) while “singing” Quranic verses of good wishes, to herald the arrival of the groom. Brother was flanked by his groomsmen, with a couple of my mahjong partners’ husbands each carrying the “bunga manggar” (“palm blossoms” made by using colourful crepe paper twisted and glued to coconut palm frond main stems and stuck on the top of a wooden pole). Accompanied by many curious “kampong” (village) folks who had probably never seen such a cosmopolitan wedding entourage, we slowly made our way to the wedding venue.

Upon the groom’s arrival at the wedding venue, the “mak andam” (beautician) as well as several female members of the bride’s family blocked his entrance into the main room where the resplendent bride was seated. They demanded an ‘entrance fee’ and some ‘bargaining’ were done by the groomsmen on behalf of the groom. This tradition is to symbolize that to reach something precious in life, one must never give up. It is also a way of having a bit of fun at the expense of the impatient groom. When they were satisfied with the amount given, Brother was finally allowed to join his bride on the pelamin. Following tradition, the bride and groom wore lots of expensive yellow gold jewellery (symbolizing richness) and as ‘king’ and ‘queen’ for the day, they sat on their ‘thrones’ while accepting good wishes from their guests. Rahimah also followed the “tukar pakaian” (costume changes) tradition and donned on different costumes throughout the afternoon for photographs to be taken.

Unfortunately, digital photography wasn’t even heard of at the time so I only have a few snapshots of this happy occasion, using my 35mm Pentax camera. Due to her Javanese heritage, she wore an exquisite Javanese costume (pictured left), then changed into a Filipina costume, followed by a Japanese kimono.
Finally, both bride and groom changed into Western wedding clothes. Relatives then sprinkle the newly-weds with rose petals and rice, the symbol of fertility.

Meanwhile, a live Malay band had been hired to entertain all present and add to the gay atmosphere as the guests sat down to a traditional Malay feast of “Nasi Minyak” (literal English translation is “oily rice” but it is actually ‘scented’ rice). [Nasi minyak is long grain basmati rice cooked with ghee or butter,
screwpine leaves, ginger, coconut milk, spices, raisins and blanched fried almonds. This celebratory dish is popular at weddings and official functions.
When a young Malay person is asked by an elder when he/she is going to serve Nasi Minyak, it is a subtle way of asking when the young person is planning
on getting married.] The Nasi Minyak was served with chicken curry and various side-dishes, ending with dessert of a variety of Malay sweetmeats. Of
course in accordance with Islam, no alcohol was served, instead, our thirst was quenched with soft drinks or red rose cordial. Each guest, regardless of age or gender, were presented with a traditional gift of a “bunga telor” (flower and egg) to take home. The gifts were hard-boiled eggs in their shells and dyed red. Each egg was then placed in a decorative little container and decorated with a paper flower. The egg symbolised a fertile union and the hope that the marriage would produce many children.

The celebration ended that evening with the couple paying respects to their parents. As Brother had no living parent, the wedding celebration ended there, otherwise, the newly-weds would then make their way to the groom’s family for further celebration. My friends and I parted company after the festivities and I came home, happy in the knowledge that Brother would be lonely no more.

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