Today Nathan and I went to our first wedding here in Brunei!
Instead of trying to figure out what in my wardrobe would suit the Bruneian dress code, I decided to go all out "local" and had a baju kurung made last week. I must say it turned out rather nice!
(I will take it back to make it a bit more fitted though, but it was still ok for today.)
I was happy I wore this baju, because there weren't many other orang-putihs (=white people) there, so at least I fitted in a little bit more with the traditional clothing on.
I had heard before that weddings here are very different to weddings we are used to in our part of the world, so I was very excited to take part in one. They are very traditional, and follow conventions and traditions that have been the same since many, many generations back.
We were invited to this wedding by the groom, who is one of Nathan's cycling buddies. So we went to his family's place this morning. The bride and her family celebrated elsewhere.
A wedding here can go on for a month - but most do the "short version" and celebrate during a week.
JJ & Liyana's wedding week started last Monday, with a ceremony called the "Hantaran", best described as the exchange of gifts. The groom party (minus the groom) come over with gifts for the bride (usually jewellery, clothing, fabrics, toiletries etc). The bride's family then return the favour with gifts, though never more than what the groom party has brought.
The wedding ceremony itself took place this Friday at the bride and groom's local mosque. Unlike the conventional exchange of vows, only the man does the "I accept...."-bit here, but it is not as easy as is sounds. He has to say it without pausing and he cannot make a single mistake in the order of words, the amount of dowry or her name. If he makes a mistake he will have to start over from the beginning again, and maybe again until the wedding kadi or the appointed witnesses think it is ok. It is not unusual for some grooms to repeat the lines more than ten times before it is accepted!
Today was then time for the "Bersanding" ceremony, where the bride and groom gets presented as man and wife for the first time. We were invited to see the groom off from his home, before this happened.
It's quite a short event, in the invitation it said "Arrival of guests 11-12. Ziarah 12.00. Departure of groom 12.45".
We didn't know what to expect much, although we had tried to get some info from different Malay friends - this was a very big wedding with lots of VIP guests. When we arrived, we just followed the flow!
There was special parkings created outside the spectacular house, and about 20 big tents set up where people would sit. We were lucky though and for some strange reason got directed inside, to the AC and into the VIP ball room where we were seated with a big part of the family and other nice people.
Then we waited. And waited. And waited some more. Finally the groom arrived together with his close male family members, he made his way round the male side of the seating (yes, we sat on different sides of the room) to say thank you and to get wished 'congratulations'.
I had my camera with me, but I felt a little bit out of place taking photos, so I only have a few I can show you. I took this photo from my table, across another table of women - and then you can see Nathan at the left, at one of the table of men across the room:
The groom then had a few photos taken, and so he went off to the bridal party for the bersanding ceremony (=it's really the bride and groom just sitting on the dais together). That's all we saw of him.
Most of the other traditions had been done behind closed doors and in other ceremonies earlier this week.
Once he had left, all us guests ate. Good food, and lots of it, is one of the most important ingredients to every Malay celebration!
There was no kidding around though, you ate - you left! The "lunch" didn't last more than 10-15 minutes, tops, and after the most VIP people in the room had finished, we all left.
I got complimented on my baju by some of the ladies at my table, and it was rather interesting to talk to them about all these traditions. They were astonished that in our over 2 1/2 years, this was our first wedding! Many people have to go to up to 3-4 each Sunday here in Brunei!
It's a shame I didn't get any photo of the groom. He was stunning in two different outfits for this occasion. First in a traditional outfit, and for his departure he changed into military dress.
It sure was an experience, and I hope we will get invited to many more weddings, it was exciting!