We had the opportunity to go to a Muslim wedding reception this past Saturday. It was for one of Troy’s coworkers, Adilah, and her new husband. From what we observed, it is very much like wedding receptions in the United States. There was a place set aside for the bride and groom (a bridal couch called a pelamin) where people could greet and congratulate them, tables set up for people to eat and talk, a buffet table, music playing and some people dancing.
The only major differences I noticed were the clothes. At all the wedding receptions I’ve gone to in the US, people dress up. Here, the only people dressed up were the bride and groom. Most of the other attendees were wearing jeans with some women were wearing their usual clothing, the baju kurongs, in styles ranging from casual to elegant. The baju kurong is the traditional Malay dress worn by Muslim women. They are made up of a long skirt with a long tunic worn over the skirt and generally look like this:
So, it was a mix of traditional dresses on the older women, jeans on the younger women and jeans on all the men. All the women I saw were wearing headscarves, so I was the only one with my hair showing. They didn’t say anything about me not wearing one, so I think it was okay. I wore a long dress out of respect for their culture and I wanted to wear a shawl to cover my arms, but Troy said it would be fine if I didn’t wear one.
Adilah wore a very beautiful white dress adorned with red beads and jewels. She had a beautiful sheer veil lined with red lace and held on her head with a very pretty silver crown. She carried a lovely bouquet of red and white roses and looked stunning. Her radiant smile and her obvious joy added to her already beautiful face.
While at the reception, one of the things I noticed was how attentive everyone was. We parked a little ways down the street from the reception and as we walked up, people waved and openly welcomed us. They were all very friendly and very inviting. As soon as the bride and groom saw us, they walked over and greeted us. They talked to us for a few minutes, introduced us to some of the other people there, walked us to the buffet table, explained what each dish was, walked us to a table and made sure we had everything we needed to enjoy our meal. Then the bride, Adilah, sat and talked with us for a while as we ate.
While we ate and talked, several people kept putting dishes in front of us. A popular custom here is family dining and there were a few large dishes of food on the table as well as smaller bowls with toppings. Some women would put those all in front of us and other ladies would wave their hands and take the dishes away. It happened a few times and was pretty funny. One lady said some of the dishes would be too spicy for us and that we should avoid them. So what did Troy do? He said he wanted to try one. lol. After eating a bite he said it was really spicy, but apparently not too spicy because he ate more of it. He didn’t do what he did in Thailand.
When we were in Phuket, Thailand, we bought some food at their Chinese New Year celebration. There were long lines of food booths all over this field where a stage and chairs were set up. We got some food and went to sit down so we could have good seats during the show. Troy ate one bite of some of his food and started yelling for water. It was HILARIOUS!!!! People all around were turning to look at him. He jumped out of his chair and just guzzled the water bottle I gave him. It was awesome.
Another time, we ordered claypot biryani chicken, which is a Middle Eastern spicy chicken and rice dish cooked in a clay pot. Troy didn’t yell like he did in Thailand, but he quickly set down (dropped) his fork and grabbed the nearest water bottle. I think he drank just about every water bottle in the house that night. lol
So, since he didn’t do that at Adilah’s reception, I don’t think the food was too terrible spicy. He didn’t drink any water until a few bites later, either. Not sure if he was manning it up so the Malaysians wouldn’t laugh at him or if it really wasn’t that spicy. I didn’t try it.
While we ate, people congregated around a little bit and talked to us. Some of them joked with us and others just watched us. Everyone was very polite.
After we ate, we were going to leave because the reception was pretty much over and they were cleaning up, but I asked Adilah if I could take a picture of Troy with her and her new husband. That turned into having one of the other attendees taking my camera and taking pictures of all of us. It was fun. At first, I couldn’t stand next to Troy in the picture because of the Muslim rule against men and women touching people of the opposite sex that aren’t family members, but then Adilah said she wanted us to sit on the pelamin.
The pelamin is the bridal couch, where the bride and groom sit during their reception. It is symbolic of a royal bier since the newlywed couple is considered the royals of the day. At the beginning of the reception, there are several rituals that take place after the bride and groom first sit on the couch for the first time as husband and wife. I wish we’d known about those rituals beforehand because we would have shown up much earlier to see them. Oh well. I’m sure we’ll be invited to another Muslim reception while we are here.
Anyways, we took a bunch of pictures on and by the pelamin and had a good time laughing and joking around. We took some formal pictures with everyone smiling and then the last one we did was a sort of goofy one. It wasn’t goofy in the sense that Westerners do goofy pictures, but it was goofy in the sense that Muslims do mixed-company goofy pictures: subdued and light-hearted.
Over all, it was nice to be there and I’m glad we went. Most of the Muslims and Malaysians we’ve interacted with have been friendly and nice. Adilah’s reception was no different. It was a lovely event with very kind people and a very beautiful bride.
Congratulations and good fortune to Adilah and her new husband. May they have a happy and prosperous union.