Brunei, like all South East Asian countries, is a nation with very rich traditions and customs. This richness of tradition can be reflected through many cultural ceremonies one of them being the wedding ceremony. A typical Brunei Malay wedding generally consists of 5 momentous ceremonies: Proposal Ceremony, Gift sending ceremony, Powdering ceremony, Solemnization ceremony and Reception ceremony. However, as time passes, many of the younger generations have allowed modernity to seep into their lives. Gradually, this has led to many of the customs being simplified or skipped during a wedding ceremony. Hence the reason the Brunei Royal Wedding is an interesting spectacle to all generations alike is that it had retained and preserved the traditions and customs, with an added touch of grandeur.

5th April 2015.: Royal Proposal Ceremony

The “Istiadat bersuruh Diraja” (Royal Proposal ceremony) indicates the start of the series of spectacle. Unlike the proposal event that most of us are familiar with, whereby the groom asks the bride for their hand in marriage; the proposal ceremony of a Malay wedding engages families of both Bride-to-be and groom-to-be in the proposal ceremony. In this event, the Prince’s entourage proceeded to the Bride-to-be residence and announced the intention of marriage to the family of the Bride-to-be. This event too was laced with royal regalias or ceremonial objects such as “dian” (ceremonial candles) and “Bintang Petian” (traditional teapot).

7th April 2015: Opening ceremony of the Gendang Jaga Jaga

Following the Proposal ceremony was the Majlis Istiadat Membuka Gendang Jaga-Jaga (Opening ceremony of the “Gendang Jaga Jaga”) that took place in the Royal Ceremonial Hall (Lapau). The Gendang Jaga Jaga is a set of traditional music instrument played by the royal orchestra. This ceremony was a beautiful showcase of Brunei Malay Traditional musical instrument. With the advent of modern musical instruments such as pianos, drums and clarinets, such traditional musical instruments nowadays is a rare sight, let alone to be heard played by the younger generations. The musical instruments in the set are called the Nakara (Kettle drum), Gendang Labek (Small drum), Serunai (Oboe), Canang (a handcrafted traditional gong) and the gong.

Every night from 7th April- 11th April: Night of Vigil (Malam Berjaga Jaga)

The Gendang Jaga Jaga opening ceremony marked the opening of the Night of Vigil (Malam Berjaga Jaga). To put it simply, until the conclusion of the wedding event, the nights in the palace would be filled with people reciting prayers, traditional ceremonies being held or playing traditional games such as the congkak, to fill in the atmosphere with joy.

8th April 2015: Royal Engagement ceremony

As the wedding events proceeded, every subsequent ceremony became more intricate and included richer customary details than the preceding ceremony. One of the highlights of the Royal engagement ceremony could be seen at the start of the event, whereby two young girls and boy, all dressed in a Brunei Malay’s complete set of bride and groom outfit, entered the hall followed by gift bearers. The ceremony also saw 40 male youths carrying royal regalia items such as the spear, sword, shield and a shield embellished in gold and silver.

9th April 2015: Royal Powdering ceremony

In the powdering ceremony, as the name indicates, members of the groom’s family and the Bride’s family applied coloured powders and scented oil to the palms of the Bride and Groom, as a symbol of blessings to their matrimony. The powdering event for the bride and grooms are usually at a separate time and place. The Bride’s attire during this ceremony was especially exceptional as Bride was don with a bright red attire beneath the traditional Jongsarat (an intricate hand woven fabric, woven with gold threads). Additionally the bride’s head was crowned with a beautiful headgear. Furthermore, both the Bride and Groom were fully accessorized with gold necklace, arm bands and ankle bands. The royal powdering ceremony saw all of His Royal Highness the Prince’s parents, siblings and extended royal family gather and take turns to powder His Highness and the Bride Dk Raabiatul Adawiyyah’s palms in separate ceremonies.

The Solemnization and Reception ceremony shall be continued in Part 2.

Thank you for reading.

By Nur Atiqah RADUAN, ASEAN Correspondent from Brunei Darussalam