Malay Wedding Cultural Ceremony & Step-by-Step Process

I was curious about how much does the average Malay wedding costs. But before I dive into the cost, I needed to know the step-by-step process of a Malay wedding.

Unfortunately, the information that I got online does not satisfy me. So I interviewed my married friends to validate my findings with what they had gone through in their wedding.

In this article, I will explain the step-by-step process of the typical Malay wedding.

Malay Wedding Terminologies

Let’s get the basic Malay Wedding terminologies out of the way to get everyone on the same page:

TermDefinition
BrideThe girl who is getting married
GroomThe guy who is getting married
Kadi(Jurunikah): The Islamic Officiant to legalize the union
WaliThe bride’s male guardian (father, uncle, or brother)
Mas KahwinDowry, money set by the state Islamic office
Wang HantaranCash gift to the bride and her family
Dulang HantaranGift exchange served on a dulang (traditional tray)
– Dulang Hantaran Tunang (optional)
– Dulang Hantaran Nikah
MerisikProposal or Survey
TunangEngagement
NikahLegally married in accordance to Islamic law
KahwinThe wedding ceremony or reception
Malay Wedding Terminology

Malay Wedding Ceremony Process Simplified:

After extensive research and interviews, I have compiled my findings of the Malay wedding processes into a neat table:

OrderMalay
Ceremony
English
Equivalent
Ring
Involved
Gifts or Money
Involved
Stage 1MerisikSurvey or ProposalCincin MerisikGifts optional during visit
Stage 2MeminangEngagementCincin TunangDulang Hantaran Tunang (optional)
Stage 3Paperwork Wedding course
Stage 4Akad NikahLegally MarriedCincin Nikah or
wedding band
1. Mas Kahwin
2. Wang Hantaran
3. Dulang Hantaran Nikah
Stage 5BersandingWedding CeremonyCost for the ceremony
Malay Wedding Process Simplified

Now that you have the bird’s eye-view of the process flow, let’s move on to the details in each stage:

1st Stage: Merisik (Survey) – Customs & Cost

Western society typically does not practice this step.

The groom’s immediate family comes over to visit the bride’s family. The whole point is for the two families to get to know each other and a formality to signal that the guy is interested in marrying the girl.

Back in the days when arranged marriage was a norm, Merisik was necessary to make sure that the girl was not already taken.

That being said, modern Malay families today still do this as part of the wedding culture.

This is the summary of what happens during the ‘Merisik’ stage:

  1. The two families get to know each other (over at the bride’s house).
  2. The bride’s family confirms that their daughter is available.
  3. The groom gives the Cincin Merisik (cincin belah rotan) to the bride as a form of interest to pursue her further.

2nd Stage: Meminang (Engagement) – Customs & Cost

In Western societies, this stage is equivalent to being Engaged.

At the Meminang (Tunang) stage, the groom’s family will come to the bride’s home to do the following:

  1. Exchange of Dulang Hantaran Tunang. It is custom for the number of dulangs to be in odd numbers. The girl typically sends 2 dulangs more than what the guy gives (i.e: if the groom gives 5 dulangs, the bride will exchange 7 dulangs to the groom).
  2. The Cincin Tunang (Engagement ring) will be given to the bride.
  3. The two families will agree with the Wang Hantaran cash amount.
  4. In some cases, there would be a discussion of what would happen to the hantaran gifts if the engagement were to broke off.

Wang Hantaran is for the girl. It is up to her what to do for the money. Often, this money will be used to offset her side of the wedding ceremony costs.

Families that live far away from each other (i.e, if the groom’s family is from Selangor, but the bride is from Kelantan) sometimes, the ‘Merisik’ & ‘Meminang’ procedures are done together in one shot to save the hassle of doing multiple long-distance trips.

3rd Stage: Getting Paperwork in Order

Now that we have both families aligned, it is time to get the paperwork out of the way to legalize this union:

  1. Both need to attend the Kursus Kahwin (available online).
  2. Mandatory HIV blood test at a gov clinic (free).
  3. Bring all these forms to the penolong pendaftar nikah at the bride’s nearest mosque to get them endorsed.
  4. The bride will then use the groom’s documents to get hers signed off on her side. 
  5. An appointment date is made between the couple and the Kadi for him and his two witness’s availability to perform the Akad Nikah.
  6. Submit marriage form (borang kawin) to the pejabat agama (local Islamic office). The nikah card will be issued within two weeks.

Phew! That’s a lot of paperwork. Now we got that out of the way and a date set for the Akad Nikah, let’s move on to the next stage:

4th Stage: Akad Nikah – Customs & Cost

The Kadi (Marriage Officiant) will be the one to officiate the union between the bride and groom.

Attire: The bride and groom would have a particular set of clothes for the Akad Nikah ceremony, typically plain white baju melayu for the groom, and plain white baju kurung for the bride.

Akad Nikah is typically held at the bride’s family’s house. Both families will gather in the living room. The spotlight will be the interaction between 5 people to officiate the Akad Nikah ceremony:

  • The groom.
  • The Kadi (Marriage Officiant).
  • The Bride’s Wali (closest male family member, typically her dad).
  • 2 of the Kadi’s witness.

The Bride will typically not have an active role in the Akad Nikah ceremony and will observe everything on the side.

The Kadi will ask the Groom several questions and be witnessed by the Wali to officiate the wedding. 

The couple is officially married by Islamic law after the symbolic shaking of the hands between the Groom and the Wali.

There will be some final paperwork signage prepared by the Kadi.

After the formality is done, this is what will happen next:

  • Solat sunat nikah (optional prayers).
  • The Mas kahwin is delivered to the Bride (RM 300 for Selangor).
  • The wang hantaran is given to the Bride.
  • The engagement ring is given to the Bride.
  • The dulang hantaran tunang is exchanged between the Bride and Groom.
  • Photography sessions.
  • Feast (optional).

Happy days! According to Islamic law, this couple is officially husband and wife.

5th & Final Stage: Bersanding (Wedding Ceremony) – Customs & Cost

The actual wedding ceremony is optional and only acts as an announcement to both family’s network that their son and daughter are officially married, which unfortunately ends up being the most significant expenditure at a wedding.

Usually, Nikah and Sanding are one day apart to avoid being too tired. Some people do the Nikah in the morning and the Wedding ceremony in the afternoon on the same day. This will be entirely up to the couple’s planning with their families.

Sanding is where the family’s network is invited, and the guests treated with door gifts and typically a buffet-style meal.


There you have it. This is the typical Malay Wedding process that I have researched and validated.

Now that you know the step by step Malay Wedding process, in my next article, I interviewed 5 of my married friends and compiled their total marriage costs along with a detailed breakdown for each process.

Helmi Hasan

Hi, I'm Helmi Hasan, the founder, and writer for the personal finance blog, Balkoni Hijau. Read more in the 'About Me' page or follow me on Twitter.

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