Posts Tagged ‘Malay culture’

Singapore Malay wedding

Farhana’s henna decorated hands added a traditional touch of radiance.

On my recent trip to Singapore, I was lucky to be able to celebrate with my large, close-knit extended family, the wedding of a niece, Farhana and the engagement ceremonies of two nephews, Cassim and Ebrahim.

The Malay wedding is a bustling affair with hundreds of guests and relatives streaming in throughout the day, enjoying the camaraderie and the briyani rice spread.

The engagement ceremony, according to the Malay custom, usually takes place at the lady’s home. The elders of both families discuss issues such as the date of the marriage and the wedding dowry. The young woman is then presented with the engagement ring, and gifts, beautifully decorated, are also exchanged.

After the formal discussion, there will be lots of food and members of the two families chat and get to know each other.

I’m posting some close-ups of the events.

….Love still makes the world go round.

bridal cupcakes

Putting together the wedding cake.

lovely cake

The wedding cake: a lovely centerpiece.

Malay water jar

A Malay water jar for guests to wash their hands before a meal. (Wedding photos taken by a professional photographer.)

engagement flowers

A man who knows his flowers: Ebrahim hand-picked the flowers for the bouquet to be presented to his fiance.

engagement ring

The box with the engagement ring, decorated by Sarah, the artist in the family.


Cassim’s gifts to his fiance were carefully chosen to reflect her preferences. (Pic by Shireen)

engagement party feast

Fine tableware and a delectable spread graced the engagement ceremony.

For another post on a Malay wedding, please see The Life of a Malay Wedding.

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personality insight

I came across an interesting study which indicates that people with a sweet tooth are nicer people.

Researchers from North Dakota State University and Gettysburg College reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology that people with a sweet tooth tend to be more agreeable and also more willing to help others.

Well, I sat down and thought about all the people I know known for their sweet tooth, and I think there might be some truth in this correlation.

But then again, I might be a tad biased as in our family we have had three generations of folks with a sweet tooth, and needing a dessert or a touch of sweet to end lunch or dinner.

And I am one of them. Sometimes, fruit can do the job, but definitely not all the time. We need a real dessert made with sugar and everything nice that comes with it. It could be something simple like a piece of chocolate or something more elaborate like the traditional Malay cakes.

One of my Mother’s favorites was ice cream with canned fruit cocktail. This dessert reminds me of the 70s, and sometimes, I serve it with vanilla ice cream for a bit of retro fun.

I like the traditional Malay name for dessert pencuci mulut, which is translated to mean something to cleanse the palate. It sounds courtly, and also makes it sound as if dessert has a beneficial function!

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Singapore Malay wedding

Iqbal and Haslina arrived in traditional Malay costume for the bersanding ceremony, the day’s main event.

A wedding is like a microcosm of life. Family, friends, hope, past, present and future all meet on that special day.

On my recent trip home, I was fortunate to attend the wedding of my cousin’s daughter, Haslina. It was wonderful to meet again so many people who have been a part of my life, including former neighbors whom I have not met in years.

Though the Malay community in Singapore lives in a thoroughly modern city, much of our heritage still permeates our lives. For instance, weddings still remain big, community affairs. This dates back from the kampung (which means village) days when all the neighbors and relatives pitched in to help with the preparations and celebrations. And relatives from Malaysia, and sometimes Indonesia, made the trip over to spend a few days with their relatives on the island.

The number of guests can easily be between 500 to 1,000 people. We have a large extended family, and my cousin Rashid is active in the community, so his guest list was quite extensive. There was a constant stream of guests from lunch time till dinner time.

Malays have been pretty adaptable people and have found ways to merge or synthesize the new and the old. In the old days, tents were set up in the front yard for the wedding celebrations. Today, most Singaporeans live in high-rise flats and apartments. To accommodate the number of guests, the spacious lobby of the apartment building, or what is known locally as the void deck, is utilized as the wedding venue. I think this is a uniquely Singaporean feature.

Singapore Malay Muslim wedding banquet

The newlyweds taking a little rest.

Weddings used to be the launching pad for budding musicians who entertained the guests. Today, live music is not such a common feature of weddings. Haslina’s wedding had a band which played Hindi songs, and it was really fun listening to the popular hits.

On Haslina’s side, we celebrate our Malay and Indian Muslim roots, while the groom, Iqbal, celebrates his Pakistani traditions. And this was seen in the costumes and the two groups of musicians and dancers, the kompang and the bhangra, that heralded the arrival of the couple.

Haslina and Iqbal make a wonderful couple, adding another branch to our kinship tree. And thanks to my cousin Rashid and his wife Masita for giving me an opportunity to get close to my heritage and all the folks that I cherish.

Singapore Malay wedding

The sounds of the kompang (Malay hand drum) musicians bring excitement at a wedding as they signal the arrival of the bride and groom.

Malay wedding Singapore

The bhangra musicians arriving. Bhangra, a dance and music which originated in the Punjab region of India and Pakistan, is popular at weddings which celebrate a connected heritage.

Malay wedding Singapore

Family and guests gathered to watch the bhangra dancers. (Watch the video clip below.)

Malay wedding Singapore

The band entertained the guests with classic and new Hindi songs.

Singapore Malay wedding

The “kitchen” area is the unseen HQ of a Malay wedding, serving briani rice and side dishes to a constant stream of guests.

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sunThe month of June, in many parts of the world, spells vacations and flowers. It  marks the beginning of the months when flowers are blooming bright and strong, courtesy of the summer sun.

Flowers are one of nature’s finest gifts to us. They not only enliven the home, but can also improve our emotional health. Behavioral research shows that the presence of flowers in one’s surroundings triggers happy emotions in both men and women.

Flowers have a long-term positive effect on a person’s mood, and being in the presence of flowers promote increased contact with family and friends.

Talking about flowers, I have observed that it is not so common nowadays to find people with floral names. Some time back, we could come across or meet people named Rose, Lily, Daisy or Dahlia. I guess today, these names sound old-fashioned, and maybe uncool to some.

It’s the same in my Malay culture, although I think the floral names went out of style earlier than the Anglo-Saxon ones.  Names like Melati or Melur (jasmine)and Cempaka (frangipani, also know as plumeria)  are now associated with ancient times or what we call zaman purba. And for some people, these names often recall fictional characters in Malay movies and novels set in the old days. If you are a fan of old Malay movies, perhaps these names remind you, as they do for me, of actress Latifah Omar who was so good in her roles as the kampung (village) beauty.

The best things about flowers is that they are a universal language of beauty. And so, I’m sharing photos of flowers from both sides of the Pacific. The daisy  and godetia are from my garden in California, and the other two were taken at a beach resort in Bintan Island, Indonesia.

Daisy yellow

I love these daisies for the cheery color, and the flowers bloom continuously.


The spider lily could be found in many gardens in my old neighborhood in Singapore. But with development, they were not easily seen. I first heard the name of the flower when I was a kid. It fired up my imagination as I began to wonder and imagine that the spider had a hand in creating or weaving the flower. Thus, when I saw the lily in Bintan, it was charmingly nostalgic.


Flowers and water: an unbeatable combination for tranquility.


I discovered the godetia flowers this year. It is actually a wildflower, and the pink hue adds a sparkle to the garden.

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