Count yourself fortunate if you have the opportunity to attend a Malay wedding in Indonesia, the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak or Brunei. The fascinating wedding ceremonies and festivities give expatriates a unique chance to gain an insight into these communities' cultures and mores.
Given the broad diversity of ethnic groups in these regions, it stands to reason that wedding customs will reflect this diversity.
Each ethnic group has its own wedding dresses or attire and different marriage ceremonies and customs.
Within ethnic groups, those of different religious backgrounds will have different practices as well.
An expatriate living in Brunei, Indonesia, Sabah or Sarawak, may not know how to act, what gift to bring or what his or her role as a guest at the wedding should be. Here is a guide on what happens at most weddings.
If in doubt, consult colleagues or friends that you have been invited to a wedding and ask them what the appropriate attire or gift should be.
One of the most important concepts at Indonesian wedding seems to be "the more the merrier". Literally every relative, acquaintance, colleague or business partner could be invited to a wedding.
Joining a group of others that are invited, even if you have not received an invitation personally addressed to you, is okay (as long as it is not a sit-down dinner in which case the limit is clearly stated on the invitation).
In these countries, the families are truly honoured by your attendance at a wedding.
Attending shows that you care, that you respect them and reflects your relationship with them, that you honour the families and want to show your support for the newlyweds.
Don't question the intent of colleagues, upon short acquaintance, if they invite you to their daughter's or son's wedding. They really want you to come.
On the other hand, not responding to the invitation, or not attending can cause a significant insult and slight to the giver, which can cause problems in your relationship in the future.
Wedding invitations in Jakarta and other urban centres can be extravagant.
The date on the outside of the envelope is very practical if you receive many wedding invitations.
In rural areas, the invitations is done via visits from the family to neighbours and friends.
On the invitation will be noted the date, time and place for the "Akad Nikah", which is the actual wedding ceremony, as well as wedding reception.
Even though both ceremonies are noted on the invitation, the majority of people will only attend the reception.
If you would like to attend the wedding ceremony, as this is when most of the cultural ceremonies take place, be sure to ask the person who gave you the invitation if this would be okay.
They will probably say "yes", but it's best to clear it first as usually a much smaller crowd or just close family members are expected to witness the actual exchange of marriage vows.
For women, nice dresses, much as what is worn to a wedding in the expatriate's home country, would be appropriate.
For men, a business suit or long-sleeved batik shirt with trousers will suffice.
Malays traditionally wear Songkok, Baju Melayu and Sinjang at these ceremonies.
This is not compulsory as some men prefer to use simple attire.
It would be appropriate to wear a long-sleeved dress to a Muslim wedding reception. It is not necessary for an expatriate woman to cover her head, though many of the Indonesian, Sabahan, Sarawakian and Bruneian guests may do so.
A relatively new practice arose in the mid-90s where the wedding couple asks the guests not to bring gifts or floral displays by the inclusion of additional wording in the invitation.
The best way is to contribute cash instead of gifts.
At the reception desk, there will be a beautifully decorated box with a slit in the top, into which the guests can insert an envelope with money in Indonesia.
For Brunei, cash kept in an envelope can be given to the leader of the "Adat Berziarah".
In Sabah and Sarawak, the practice is similar to Brunei's.
During the wedding ceremony in Brunei and Sabah, the close friends and relatives normally give big sums of money - as much as RM100 (B$50) to RM2,000 (B$1,000).
This money will help lighten any financial burden for the bride and groom after the wedding ceremony.
Source: Borneo Bulletin Weekend
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