I remember when I was making my bucket list for Southeast Asia and my exchange, attending a wedding was one of the top things I wanted to do. (In all honesty, I actually wrote down that I wanted to crash a wedding…). The first week of meeting my roommate, Aliah, we instantly clicked. She said to me “You should come to my cousin’s wedding in April!”
UM, SCORE! It was serendipity at its finest, and I couldn’t wait for the day to come. Not only was it a Singaporean wedding, but culturally Aliah’s family is Malay, so it would be a Malay-Singaporean wedding (plus a hint of Indonesian because the bride loves Indonesian culture). My abroad wedding experience dream would soon be fulfilled!
The weekend of the wedding, I was able to stay over at Aliah’s house. It was really nice being with a family again because it reminded me so much of being home. Plus, her family are the sweetest, most caring people I’ve ever met. I truly felt like a member of the family that weekend.
What was even more exciting was that I got to witness all the wedding prep! The bride, Suriah, was one of the most down-to-earth, cool people I’ve ever met. When people use the term “Bride-zilla,” think of the complete opposite. She was so relaxed, simple and you could definitely tell the wedding was more about the family and being in good company rather than a flashy, look-at-me type of party.
I was over at Suriah’s house watching the wedding decorations be put up by her family when she strolled in with jeans and a t-shirt, sat beside Katie and I and chatted with us for a good half-an hour. Funny thing is that she doesn’t even live in Singapore anymore, neither does her husband, Dzulkhairil. They both work in separate countries abroad (Quatar and Australia respectively) but have still managed to be together for 11 years. Now if that’s not commitment I don’t know what is!
The wedding would be in two parts. The first, a malay-islamic ceremony, also called the “solemnization.” This was at Suriah’s parents house, where I had spent the whole day at anyhow. It was short, sweet, and truly beautiful to watch. The process involves the bride’s father “giving away” his daughter into the care of the groom. The bride and groom actually sit on opposite sides of the room until the marriage is “official”, the papers are signed and the bride’s father has accepted. When that moment happened, I remember seeing Suriah tear up and it was a really touching moment. Post-ceremony meant one of the most important parts of a wedding… FOOD!! It was a simple buffet of Indonesian cuisine, including gado-gado (vegetables in a peanut sauce), various curries, and other spicy dishes. My tongue was burning but my tummy was oh so happy!
Day two things were stepped up a notch! This was the reception day, but instead of a dinner it would take place at lunch at a restaurant. At first, I didn’t really know what to expect, but when we arrived, I saw a stunning water front view, an outdoor pavilion and luscious grass area with tables.
BUT the best part of it all was our wedding outfits!! So with a Malay reception, the classic wear is known as a “Baju-Kurong.” Essentially, it’s a very long piece of fabric that is wrapped as a skirt, and then a long shirt is worn with it. Aliah went out of her way to ask one of her friends to lend Katie and I each one of these outfits to wear. It was definitely a change from what I’m used to wearing to a reception but SO EXCITING!! The outfits were simplistic and beautiful and I felt so much more a part of the festivities while wearing it. It was a small touch that had a huge impact on the overall wedding vibes!
The reception took place outdoor and began with all the bride’s family arriving first as a tradition, along with the bride. Later on, came the groom and all his side of family. But this wasn’t a simple runway style walk-in. Nope! It was an immensely fun and cultural, traditional entrance with drums, colourful costumes, feathers and more. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before
After the entrance came part 2.0 of wedding food. Again it was an Indonesian feast, but this time, there was probably double the amount of food from the day before, and let me tell you, my stomach was having a party. Sizzling satay skewers, gado-gado, coconut curries, beef randung, vegetable stir-fry, soups, special desserts and so much more lined the tables with unlimited replenishment. I will honestly admit that I ate at least 5 plates of food. No shame though. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about attending a wedding as a foreigner, it’s that all the family wants is to welcome you with open arms and continually make sure you are eating. Am I okay with that? 100 percent!
What’s even better is that Katie and I got to be the guestbook girls! Which mean we sat at the entrance at a table with the guestbook encouraging people to write a message for the couple. Somehow, it felt like we were a part of this wedding planning the entire time! And of course, in between all that, we snuck in multiple photo shoot sessions in at the wedding photobooth 🙂
The wedding ended around 6 p.m. and then Aliah’s family drove Katie and I back to her house to sleep for the night. I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. The wedding festivities had been more exhausting that I imagined. Through it all, I must say that it was hands-down one of the most memorable weddings I’ve been to in my life. The culture, the people, the kindness and open-arms (and of course, the food!) were all things I will never forget! Here’s to a checkmark on that bucket list item, but more than that, here’s to more cultural experiences!