The pre-wedding meeting between the bride’s and the groom’s parents will determine the dowry that is to be given to the bride as well as the date of the solemnization. This may be as early as a year before the wedding itself so that arrangements could be made in advance. Often the wedding is held on one convenient weekend so as to accommodate relatives who live far away and to reduce costs.
The berinai (henna application) ceremony is held prior to the wedding. The bride’s palms and feet are ‘decorated’ with the dye from the henna leaves. Sometimes this is followed by the tukar pakaian (costume changes) and the bride and, less often, the groom will don different clothes for photography. The pelamin (raised dais) will be beautifully decorated for the purpose.
Wedding is a contract, and the akad nikah effectively forges the union. The solmnization is normally presided by a kadhi, a religious official of the Syariat Court. In olden days, it was customary for the bride’s biological father to perform this function.
The akad nikah ceremony is in effect a verbal contract between the bride’s father or his representative (in this case the kadhi) and the groom. A small sum of money called the mas kahwin (in Singapore, it is S$22.50) seals the contract. The dialogue is as follows, and must be articulated clearly as to be ehard by three witnesses:
Kadhi: I marry thee to (so-and-so) with the mas kahwin of S$22.50
Groom: I accept this wedding with (so-and-so) with the mas kahwin of S$22.50
The simplicity of this ritual belies the tremendous responsibilities of the groom to care for his bride, and this is reinforced in a brief lecture on wedding and its responsibilities delivered later by the kadhi. The groom is also reminded that, should he fail to provide both spiritual and physical sustenance for his wife, the wedding may be dissolved if a complaint is made to the Syariat Court.
One needs to distinguish the mas kahwin and the hantaran (dowry). The small sum of the mas kahwin is to ensure that even poor people could marry, for wedding is encouraged for all healthy Muslims. The mas kahwin, on the other hand, is more customary and may go into thousands of dollars. Often, the mas kahwin takes the form of both cash and jewelry or clothing.
The istiadat hantar belanja (sending of dowry and gifts) and upacara akad nikah (solemnization) often take place at the bride’s place. The recent trend, though, is to hold the solemnization in the mosque as was performed during the Prophet Muhammad’s time. The solemnization is usually conducted by the kadhi (wedding official) in front of witnesses after both partners are asked separately if they consent to the wedding. Gifts are then exchanged and there may be a recitation of the Quran.