In referring to the Malay proverb of “Raja Sehari”; literally translated as “One-day King”, the Malay proverb referred the groom (mostly) in a wedding as One-day King. There are several processes and rituals involving in the celebration of being a One-day King in Brunei Darussalam. These rituals had been practiced by Bruneian Malays for generations and are considered as one of the important aspects that coloured Brunei’s culture and heritage. This article will cover several wedding rituals and traditions that are practiced in Brunei Darussalam.
In celebrating being a One-day King, there are several wedding rituals that are mandatory: “berjarum-jarum”, “menghantar berian”, “berbedak mandi”, “akad nikah”, “malam berbedak”, “malam berinai”, “bersanding” and “Muleh tiga hari”. These rituals are the factors that makes Brunei’s wedding ceremonies a worthwhile experience. These wedding rituals are taken step by step over certain period of time. Let’s begin with the first ritual. The first wedding tradition is called “berjarum-jarum”. Berjarum-jarum is to be carried out when the groom side is interested in marrying the bride. This is almost similar to the western event called “proposal” however the difference is that the bride and the groom itself do not directly involve in this process. The groom will send his representative; usually his parents and they will visit the bride’s house. The groom parents will meet the bride’s parent and ask for their daughter’s hand in marriage. In addition, they will also exchange some poems and discuss the gifts for the next ritual to follow. This ritual involves in a lot of “push and pull” process. Once both sides agree, the second ritual will take place.
The next traditional event would be “menghantar berian”, this is where the groom send an official entourage to the bride. “Menghantar berian” literally means sending gifts, thus the entourage will visit the bride along with engagement gifts for the ceremony. In addition, these gifts consist of groom’s personal gifts and also what the bride’s family requested prior to the event of berjarum-jarum. The bride may also prepare gifts for the groom during this engagement. The gifts will be carried by men and women individually on a silver trays covered with decorated clothes. In the wake of the official wedding date, both bride and groom will undergo a ritual called “berbedak mandi”. This is where their close family members will “scrub” the groom and bride respectively using a traditional body scrub.
After this, “akad nikah” will take place which means “solemnization” of the couple. This will be led by a Kadi; a religious officer and this is when the couple becomes lawfully married. The event is quite an intense session for the groom as the groom will have to recite the official solemnization phrase in one breath that involves stating the bride’s full name. It is actually fine if the groom does not recite it in one breath, it can be repeated until the groom succeed. However, there is a strong sense of pride for the groom to recite it in one breath at his first try. The most difficult part of this is actually saying the bride’s name as modern Malay names are longer compared to the past.
After the solemnization, both the groom and bride’s families and friends will be invited to their respective houses for a ritual of “malam berbedak”. This event is where the bride and groom are dressed up in traditional clothes and their families and friends will scatter a mixture of shredded Pandan leaves with flower petals, scented with perfume onto the palm of bride or the groom. This signifies as an act of giving blessing to the couple. There will also be “malam berinai” where the family members apply henna to the bride’s palm. Sometimes, “malam berinai” and “malam berbedak” takes place simultaneously; but there are some who prefers to do it on a different day.
“Bersanding” is the climax point of the wedding ceremony. This is where wide circle of friends and family will come and this event recognizes the couple as official husband and wife in the eyes of the public. Bersanding is a grand event where lots of food will be provided visitors. In the past, this will mostly take place in the vicinity of their home however currently, most Bruneians prefer to book a hall for it. The setup of this bersanding event is similar to a banquet style where food in buffet form will be served. There will also be an event similar to wedding reception called “makan ambil-ambilan” where both bride and groom’s relatives will meet and celebrate the couple. Lastly, “muleh tiga hari” is where the couple moves to the bride home and stay for three days; and also move to the groom’s home and stay for another three days. This will let them decide whether or not they will stay or move out to live on their own in the future.
As time progresses, more and more rituals are tend to be skipped and modified in the trends and demands. However, though there are certain adaptations, for example, creating an event in wedding hall instead of in the vicinity of their own respective homes, the essence and the meaning of each ritual is still kept and practiced. It is important to continue to preserve these traditional wedding rituals, as all of these are done, in a Muslim’s perspective, is to give blessings to the bride and groom and their families respectively. These valuable knowledge are like guidance and teachings from ancestors, and hopefully our future Brunei generation will bring along these knowledge and pass it down from generation to generation.
By Mohamad Akmal Fauzan ABU BAKAR, ASEAN Correspondent from Brunei Darussalam