May 7, 2009
I went to a village wedding yesterday. A female colleague from the finance department married a former classmate from our college. They had studied together four years ago.
Riding my motorcycle northward, along the coastal road, it felt good to get out of town and out of my normal routine. Although the town in which the wedding kenduri was held was small, I still got lost and ended up traversing the entire downtown section before locating a landmark.
Malay weddings are held over several days, and in different locations. There are several specific steps, including an investigation (is she available?), an engagement (tunang) discussion that includes deciding upon the marriage fee (mas kahwin) and amount of gifts to be exchanged (hantaran). Rings are also exchanged around this time (tukar cincin). After the engagement period has run its course (several months to several years), there are two formal events, called the akad nikah (solemnisation of vows) and a bersanding (couple sits "in-state").
Finally, friends, family and neighbors are invited to one of two kenduris, held at each of the family houses: i.e., the groom's parent's place and the bride's parent's home. Usually these are held on different weekends, but this particular couple, scheduled their kenduris in the same week, on a Wednesday and Friday. Basically, a family hires a caterer, or gets assistance from neighbors, to prepare a wedding feast which guests share underneath a canopy, out of the searing sun. The couple sit indoors where mostly women go in and out, offering their congratulations to the youngsters.
Outside, I accepted the greetings of the bride's father and identified with his giving away his daughter since I had done the same several years ago. It is also good manners to press some money into his palm at this time, to help offset wedding costs.
Some female colleagues made the trek to the bride's home on Wednesday, whilst another group (of females) went on Friday, taking only a half day of work.
I linked up with the family of one colleague since I didn't want to go alone. The colleague brought a sister and brother-in-law with. Each has a daughter born in the same year and same month, but they could almost be twins.
Later, I watched the four children while the parents shopped in the small downtown. These village kids were quite content to hang onto a coin-operated ride even when my small change ran out and the machine went dead.
The Malay village (kampung) is a special place and has a deep root within the Malay psyche. Although I am sure that it could seem dull after a while, Malays reflect back to their village-upbringing as a time when life seemed simpler, and perhaps more content.
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