Monday, April 23, 2007

April Feature : Brunei Wedding Ceremonies Part I

At a traditional Chinese wedding, all is done in one whole day. A Malay wedding, on the other hand, may last up to two weeks depending on the individuals. There are about eight ceremonies that a Brunei bride and groom traditional go through at a Malay wedding.

In a previous article, I wrote about the ceremonies often held before a wedding, the informal "approval to woo" ritual and the official engagement ceremony. Once an engaged couple are certain that they have found each other, and believe they are fated to be together, then the decision to tie the knot is often next on the agenda. Finding the perfect date for their solemnization ceremony plays an important role for many couples.

Majlis Hantar Berian

Upon confirmation of a couples destiny to be united in holy matrimony, the first ceremony would be "Majlis Hantar Berian". It is basically the exchanging of gifts between the bride and groom. The number of trays varies between 7 to 21, never an even number, always odd. During the yesteryear's, gifts were given only to the bride to help with the preparation of the wedding, for instance material for her to make her wedding attire, cash to help with the purchasing of food and accessories for her to use on her wedding day. With this, it was no obligation for her to return the favour. Yet, nowadays, it has become accustomed for the bride to respond in kind and shower her groom with gifts too, if she is financially able.

The four most important gifts of the Hantaran are the first four trays. The first one is the Sirih Junjung which symbolizes our tradition and culture. Sirih Junjung is a decoration consisting of Sirih Melayu Leaves which are wide, dark green leaves that hold the scientific botanical name Piper betel Linn or Betel Nut leaves. These leaves are arranged into different designs and often fresh flowers are added to enhance the creation.

The second gift is the holy Quran and a prayer outfit. This special gift from the Groom to the Bride shows that Islam is of great importance to him and with the guidance of the holy Quran, their marriage will be a happy one. The third tray, often labeled as Mas Kahwin or the wedding dowry often consists of about $100 to $300 Brunei Dollars, a wedding ring and Kain Jongsarat, which is four metres of traditional material woven with gold thread as a family heirloom.

The fourth most important gift is the tray labeled Belanja Hangus or Wedding Expenses. There is no limit to the amount the Groom may give to the Bride. It can be any amount ranging from $3000 to $20,000 depending on amount quoted by the Bride's family during discussions at the Engagement ceremony. This amount of money is given to the Bride and she may decide to keep it or offer it to her family to help with the financial preparation of the wedding.

Other trays from the Groom may normally comprise of make-up for the Bride, Jewellery, shoes, handbags, material, watches and scarfs. The Bride may respond by giving her Groom, shoes, socks, Working attire like shirts and ties, toiletries, perfume, watches, cuff links, wallets, fountain pens, fruits, chocolates and if tradition is followed certain dishes that the Bride and her family have prepared can also be included to show the Groom's family that she has culinary skills.

On this auspicious day, the grooms entourage will make their way to the Bride's house bearing these gifts. This ceremony is carried out before the solemnization ceremony (Nikah). There is a minority of the Brunei people that carry out this ceremony days before the Nikah but commonly, this ceremony is proceeded by the Nikah ceremony on the same day.

Majlis Mandi Berbedak

The Majlis Mandi Berbedak is a ceremony to bless the soon to be Groom and Bride by close family members, especially parents, siblings and elders. This is done in their homes respectively. Mainly they are scrubbed with traditional body scrub powder which is applied to the whole body by close family members and often their Penganun, an
elderly that looks after them throughout the whole wedding. This in Malay is called Belulur. This symbolizes fertility and wealth. At this ceremony, the Bride/Groom is escorted to the bathroom and is surrounded by four young girls holding candles. The Penganun then says a prayer and blesses the water consisting of "Langir" and "Limau Nipis", then she washes the Bride/Groom down. This acts as a cleanser as well as body perfume. The penganun will then take a lighted candle and the bride/groom will spit out the flame. The candle is lighted again and the process is repeated two more times. The bride/groom then dresses into a white outfit. This traditional ceremony, personally, I think does wonders for any Bride and Groom as it brings out the beauty in them and believe you me, it leaves one glowing with beauty.

Depending on the penganun, after this ceremony, the bride/groom who is often dressed in white, will be escorted into a room and the ritual of "Bertangas" will begin. Here the Bride/Groom is coated with the smell of 'kemenyan' or incense.

Majlis Malam Berbedak

Majlis Malam Berbedak is carried out in the evening. Nowadays, Brides and Grooms enjoy celebrating it together but traditionally it is celebrated individually in their respected homes. Guests attending this ceremony is not limited as Majlis Mandi Berbedak. On this night, the bride or groom dress up in traditional Brunei Malay Wedding Attire. For the Groom, he will usually wear his traditional Cara Melayu with the accessorise such as Kopiah Berpisnin and serbang as his head gear, Kuas for his shoulders, Kanching and Mudapun around his neck, Puntu, Gimat and Gelang Penguluan on his arms, Panding and Kain Jong Sarat around his waist, Gelang Geroncong on his ankles and lastly his Keris.

The Bride on the other hand, will wear the complete head gear which comprises of Ayam Si-Naga, Tajok, Sisir, Serbang and Bunga Goyang. She will also wear the same accessorise as her groom, the mudapun, Kanching, Panding, Gelang Penguluan, Kain Jong Sarat and Gelang Geroncong.

During this ceremony, may it be that the Bride and Groom are together or individually, they will both be escorted to the stage where all family members will bless them with seven various coloured powders mixed with perfume which is applied to the palms of the bride or groom followed by the
sprinkling of shredded pandan leaves over their palms. As this ritual is going on, Dzikir Marhaban is often heard in the background.

Majlis Malam Berinai

Before the Nikah ceremony and most often after the Berbedak ceremony, there will be a ceremony called Malam Berinai or better known as Berpacar. Applying Pacar or Henna to the fingertips and the palms of the Bride and Groom is a traditional ritual to indicate that they are getting married. The bride/groom dress in appropriate attire and proceed to the wedding dais. As the bride/groom sits quietly, members of the family will take turns applying henna on her/his palms. The duration of applying the henna often takes a long time and so the actual application of henna is done at the Majlis Masuk Berinai.

Majlis Masuk Berinai

Before the henna is applied, a candle is lit and held by a volunteer while the bride/groom holds on to the penganun from behind and they walk around her bed three times. A prayer is then said by the penganun and the candle is blown out.

The Bride/Groom will then make themselves comfortable, while their Penganun will proceed with preparing the henna mixture. The Penganun with much talent and patience will apply bit by bit of the henna to the fingertips of the Bride or Groom, then the palms then finally the soles of the feet. The henna is usually left on for two hours or so. The longer it is left on, the darker the henna will turn on. The colour of the henna usually lasts from three to six months.

To be continued...
Next Month's Issue Part II


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