Peranakans [Straits-born Chinese] claim with pride that they have adopted the
best of Malay and Chinese customs. These were reflected most distinctly in their
weddings of old. Customarily the wedding ceremony would stretch over a
twelve-day period, and it was not uncommon for the bridal parents to borrow
whole rows of houses to hold the nuptial dinner. The blend of customs was most
outstanding when the groom arrived at the bride's house: he was greeted with an
outburst of 'seruni', 'boria' and the firing of crackers as soon as he stepped
into the house.
Prior to the marriage proper, the groom's family would have
already sent the dowry to the mother of the bride. During the wedding ceremony
the couple paid their obeisance at the ancestral altar and to the bride's
parents and elders. Then in Chinese style, they adjourned to the bedroom to
share their first breakfast together. It was believed that at no time during the
ceremony must the bride allow the groom to step on her, for to have him do so
would make her his doormat for life. After breakfast the couple left for the
groom's house where a similar ceremony was held.
It was quite normal then to go on a show-off walk from the bride's home to
the groom's. Those who accompanied the couple, shading them and keeping them
cool, were fancifully and flashily dressed in their best sarongs, kebayas,
kerongsang and jewelry. It was all important to impress `the other side'.
Like all weddings past and present, the focus of attention was the bride. Her
long hair was stylishly set in a 'sanggul', a large knot right on top her head.
Into it were stuck hairpins of silver and gold, with multi-shaped pinheads
encrusted with diamonds and colorful gems. They were so closely positioned that
the whole 'sanggul' resembled a single head-dress. This was the opportune moment
to display the family's wealth and, to lend greater prestige, a lot more jewelry
was borrowed from grandmothers and aunts.
The bridal gown consisted of a satin skirt, heavily trimmed and embroidered,
a Chinese style satin jacket with side-fastenings, a cape consisting of layers
of petal-shaped embroidered satin and four heavy necklaces of gold and silver.
Shoes were hand-stitched, beaded, velvet pumps. Precautions were taken to
prevent sweat stains on the bridal costume, so the bride, as if she was not
bedecked uncomfortably enough, had to wear a woven bamboo camisole over another
Peranakan weddings were very symbolic in nature. Besides all the
beautification accessories, the bride wore a head band of velvet, sewn with gold
motifs to depict the Eight Saints. These symbolized love, longevity, endurance
and all the good things in life. During the twelve-day celebrations, there were
much praying, chanting and feasting.