Simple Brunei Malay Wedding: Myth or Reality?

I begin this blog post with a glow of excitement for a recent comment on my first post. The words “adat vs islamic/simple weddings” really snagged at my heart and it is lovely to know that I have the opportunity to start putting words to some thoughts of my own on this topic. And just a gentle disclaimer, I am neither for or against one or the other. (i.e. so no hate messages! Spread the love!).

Instead, I’ll write about the contrast between what the ideal wedding would have been between me and le hubs (or rather, my family and le hub’s family! Lol), in the context of “adat vs simple” – with the general assumption that adat weddings are not simple.

Traditional/adat vs. Modern Weddings

Bride wanted a simple modern wedding, while le groom wanted a traditional malay wedding. In fact, I’ll probably change it to “adat vs modern”. I’ll cover simple/islamic weddings in a bit.

So can you imagine two stark contrasts between two people about to get married and wondered what the end product is?

Final product: A wedding.

Solution: Compromises. Alot of it. From both sides.

Conclusion: Everyone is happy – nearly as happy as we can achieve. I wanted my simple nikah wedding at the Masjid, and I got it. Le hubs’ side wanted the traditional big Bersanding event – the type where invitations go up to 1,000 – and we also compromised and gave in to that. Le hubs had his jagajaga nights full of lucky draws, karaoke and the usual pengangun-dictated lulur sessions and the dictated house arrest. He also observed the traditional adats too, a mandi event and Berbedak. I also had my way and observed no adats and had no jagajaga nights, had two henna sessions with the cousins and bridesmaids (for nikah and for sanding), no pengangun, a night-time house arrest (my compromise between me and le grandmama who happens to be a pengangun lol) and a wonderful spa session with le bridesmaids.

The key takeaway: Each side observed the weddings to the extent of their ideals, but made many compromises for the shared events. And the most important thing was, despite our goal in wanting it to be as simple as we possibly could, it didn’t end up being a simple wedding.

Simple Brunei Malay Weddings

If weddings are always going to be this long list of things to do and different things to book, how can a wedding be simple? And if we follow the general assumption that malay weddings are traditionally never simple – what with the multitudes of adats to observe, dictations by penganguns, and the many voices of the moms, aunts and grandmothers shaping your wedding – how can we achieve this “Simple Brunei Malay Wedding“? And why is having a simple malay wedding recently an increasingly popular goal or side thought in most couples mind (nowadays)?

As to the why, I personally feel that religion is the key factor. Now, I’m no scholar or even call myself a religious person, but I think most of us have come across this:

  • Prophet (saw) said:

    “The most blessed marriage (nikah) is the one with the least expenses.”

    (al-Bayhaqi in his Shu’ab al-Iman & Mishkat al-Masabih)

    “The worst food is that of a wedding banquet (walima) to which only the rich are invited whilst the poor are not invited. And he who refuses an invitation (to a banquet) disobeys Allah and His Messenger (Allah bless him & give him peace).”

    (Sahih al-Bukhari, no. 4882)

Just to emphasize again, I’m no scholar. And the guidelines to a Muslim wedding covers many things, from reducing extravagance, dowries, no entertainment during the wedding etc – which goes beyond the discussion of this post. Personally, the part on having “the most blessed marriage is the one with least expenses” rings strongly in my head and heart at the time of the wedding preparation. And I failed horribly at that.

While I blame myself for needlessly spending (and worrying) about pelamin, wedding cards, make up, etc., I’d like to point out that peer pressure and social acceptance (Brunei is small, everyone somehow knows everyone) really does play a shockingly big role in those heavy spendings. Its almost as if, when you do something outside of the ordinary, people remember and do not stop reminding you of it. And its worse because, everybody knows everybody in this country! For example, growing up I remember my grand-aunties rebuking my parents for having a simple nikah only (they were married in the 1980s) because it encouraged my aunties/uncles to also have a simple nikah and not observe those adats. Baik mati anak, jangan mati adat“, anyone? A more recent example is le grandmama the pengangun retelling a sad story of how I deprived myself of my Malam Berbedak to her fellow penganguns at every other wedding she goes to. And I don’t think she was boasting, lol!

The traditions of a Brunei Malay Wedding are strongly and if not jealously preserved. And while my discussion above seems to convince one that traditions will never die, I do believe that its evolution does take place slowly. For example, at one point, holding weddings in halls were unheard of to the point of blasphemy. But with halls comes the benefit and comfort of air-conditioning and protection against the weather. And surprise surprise, it is now an even more common practice than holding a wedding in tents around the house compound, as it was traditionally done. Perhaps, when the benefits outweigh observing tradition, that is when change happen. And along the same trail of thought, when wedding planning and spending gets seriously expensive, complicated and overwhelming, I do believe people will start opening up to simplifying weddings.

And yes, I have heard of friends, or friends of friends having a simple nikah wedding only. In my social circle, I have three of them so far. While uncommon, it is still possible and achievable, and therefore not a myth. But I will admit that it takes the right formula to achieve that: 1) willing families of the brides and grooms 2) a common understanding to keep costs down and 3) the sincerity (keikhlasan) to marry and not to conform to social pressure and acceptance.


So if you’re a bride or groom-to-be and you’re facing this very dilemma, I’m afraid that this will be one of those dugaans before you tie the knot. How both of you approach your wedding ideals vs reality, hand in hand, will be a great testament to how strongly forged your relationship is. Remember, the beginning of your halal relationship starts right after the wedding – what happens during the marriage matters more than what happens during the wedding. My sincerest duas go to all of you!


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