Malay weddings are rich in cultural traditions and customs, making them a truly special and significant celebration. As a guest, it is essential to navigate the wedding etiquette with respect and understanding. By adhering to the dos and avoiding the don’ts, you can ensure a memorable and enjoyable experience for both yourself and the couple.

This article serves as an educational guide to help you navigate the intricacies of Malay wedding etiquette, providing insights and inspiration to embrace the cultural traditions. By embracing these customs, you not only honor the couple and their families but also have the opportunity to learn and appreciate the beauty of Malay wedding traditions.

Dressing Appropriately

When attending a Malay wedding, it is crucial to dress modestly and respectfully. The attire should align with the cultural and religious values of the event.

Understanding the traditional attire for Malay weddings

Malay weddings are known for their vibrant and elegant traditional attire. Men typically wear the Baju Melayu, a loose-fitting shirt paired with trousers, while women wear the Baju Kurung or Baju Kebaya, which are modest and beautifully embroidered dresses. Understanding these traditional attires is essential in respecting and embracing the cultural significance of the wedding.

Choosing modest and culturally appropriate outfits

When attending a Malay wedding, it is crucial to choose outfits that are modest and culturally appropriate. For women, opt for dresses or outfits that cover the shoulders, arms, and knees. Avoid plunging necklines or revealing clothing. Men should wear long-sleeved shirts or Baju Melayu with trousers. Selecting colours that complement the theme of the wedding is also a thoughtful choice.

Avoiding clothing that may be considered disrespectful or inappropriate

It is important to avoid clothing that may be considered disrespectful or inappropriate in Malay wedding customs. This includes outfits that are too revealing, excessively tight, or overly casual. Avoid wearing black or white as these colors are traditionally associated with mourning. Additionally, refrain from wearing clothing with offensive graphics or slogans.

RSVP and Punctuality

When invited to a Malay wedding, it is essential to RSVP promptly and accurately. This helps the couple and their families in finalizing the guest list and making necessary arrangements. Responding in a timely manner shows your respect and consideration for their preparations.

Additionally, punctuality is highly valued in Malay culture. Arriving on time or slightly earlier is a sign of respect and demonstrates your eagerness to celebrate with the couple. Malay weddings often follow a structured schedule, so it is crucial to be punctual to avoid disruption and ensure that you can fully participate in all the planned activities and ceremonies.

By promptly RSVPing and being punctual, you contribute to the smooth running of the wedding and show your appreciation for the couple’s efforts in organizing the event. It reflects your understanding of Malay wedding etiquette and your commitment to being a thoughtful and considerate guest.

Following Customs and Traditions

Attending a Malay wedding involves respecting and following the customs and traditions that are integral to the celebration. It is essential to familiarise yourself with these practices to ensure you participate in a manner that honours the couple and their cultural heritage.

One key custom is the exchange of gifts or “hantaran.” The bride and groom’s families present each other with beautifully wrapped gifts, symbolizing the merging of two families. As a guest, it is not expected to bring hantaran, but it is customary to offer a monetary gift or “duit hantaran” to the couple as a token of blessings and well-wishes.

Another important tradition is the “berinai” ceremony, where the bride’s hands and feet are adorned with intricate henna designs. Guests should refrain from touching or smudging the henna as it is considered disrespectful. Instead, admire the artwork from a respectful distance and congratulate the bride on this special adornment.

Furthermore, it is customary for guests to dress modestly and conservatively. Women should opt for modest attire, such as baju kurung or kebaya, while men typically wear baju Melayu or formal attire. It is important to respect the religious and cultural sensitivities by covering shoulders, knees, and cleavage.

Gift Giving

Gift giving is an integral part of Malay wedding etiquette and is a way to convey your well-wishes and blessings to the newlywed couple. When selecting a gift, it is important to consider their preferences, cultural significance, and practicality. Here are some guidelines to follow when giving gifts at a Malay wedding:

Monetary Gifts

Giving a monetary gift is a common practice in Malay weddings. It is customary to place the gift in a decorated envelope called “angpow” and present it to the couple during the reception. The amount given is a personal choice, and it is recommended to give an amount that reflects your relationship with the couple and your financial capacity.

Traditional Gifts

Traditional gifts are also appreciated and can be a thoughtful way to honor the couple’s cultural heritage. Consider gifting items such as traditional Malay attire, batik fabrics, decorative items, or religious artifacts. These gifts not only showcase your respect for their customs but also provide a lasting memento of their special day.

Practical Gifts

Practical gifts that can be useful in the couple’s new life together are always appreciated. Consider household items, kitchen appliances, or personalized gifts that align with their interests and needs. It is advisable to check if the couple has a wedding registry or seek guidance from close family members if you are unsure about their preferences.

Wrapping and Presentation

Take the time to present your gift in an aesthetically pleasing and respectful manner. Use decorative gift wrap, ribbons, or special packaging that reflects the joyous occasion. Including a heartfelt note or card expressing your well-wishes adds a personal touch to the gift.

Remember, the gesture of giving is more important than the value of the gift itself. It is the thought and sincerity behind the gift that truly matters. Regardless of the type or size of the gift, the most important thing is to convey your blessings and celebrate the couple’s happiness on their special day.

Dining Etiquette

During a Malay wedding, dining etiquette is an important aspect to consider. Here are some tips to help you navigate the dining experience with grace and respect:

Seating Arrangements

Follow the seating arrangement assigned by the hosts. If there is no assigned seating, wait for the host’s guidance or follow the lead of other guests. It is common for guests to sit on the floor or at low tables during traditional Malay wedding meals.


Before entering the dining area, look for handwashing facilities or ask the hosts for directions. It is customary to wash your hands before and after the meal to maintain cleanliness.

Use Utensils or Hands

Malay cuisine is often enjoyed using hands, especially for dishes like rice and curries. If you feel comfortable, you can use your right hand to scoop food with a small portion of rice or tear a piece of bread to use as a utensil. However, utensils such as spoons and forks are usually provided for those who prefer them.

Respect the Food

Show appreciation for the food by eating with enthusiasm and savoring the flavors. Avoid wasting food and take only what you can finish. If there are communal dishes, serve yourself modestly and leave enough for others to enjoy.

Refusing Food

If there is a dish you cannot or prefer not to eat, politely decline with a simple “no, thank you.” It is not necessary to provide an elaborate explanation. Respect the host’s offerings and do not criticize or make negative comments about the food.

Dietary Restrictions

If you have specific dietary restrictions or allergies, it is considerate to inform the hosts in advance. They will appreciate your communication and may make accommodations for your needs.

Follow Cultural Norms

Malay culture places emphasis on communal dining and sharing food. Be mindful of cultural norms, such as not using your left hand for eating or passing food with your left hand. Avoid pointing your utensils at others or placing them directly on the table, as it may be considered impolite.

Expressing Gratitude

After the meal, express your appreciation for the delicious food and the efforts of the hosts. A simple “terima kasih” (thank you) will suffice. Compliment the flavours, presentation, and variety of dishes to show your gratitude.

Thanking the Hosts

Expressing gratitude to the hosts of a Malay wedding is an essential part of the etiquette. Here are some tips to help you properly convey your appreciation:

Verbally Thank the Hosts

Take a moment to personally thank the hosts for inviting you to their wedding. Approach them directly, express your gratitude, and use polite phrases such as “terima kasih banyak” (thank you very much) or “terima kasih atas jemputan” (thank you for the invitation).

Give a Thoughtful Gift

Consider presenting a small gift as a token of appreciation to the hosts. It can be something meaningful or symbolic that reflects your relationship or their interests. Popular gift choices include traditional sweets, flowers, or a small decorative item. Avoid giving money as it may be perceived as inappropriate in this context.

Send a Thank-You Note

If you are unable to thank the hosts in person, sending a handwritten thank-you note is a thoughtful gesture. Express your gratitude for their hospitality, describe your enjoyment of the wedding, and mention specific aspects that you appreciated, such as the delicious food, beautiful decorations, or warm atmosphere.

Offer Assistance

If you have a close relationship with the hosts or are part of the wedding party, offer your assistance in any way you can. This could include helping with the cleanup, offering to return rented items, or assisting with any remaining tasks. Your willingness to lend a hand will be greatly appreciated.

Share Your Experience

After the wedding, consider sharing your positive experience on social media or through a personal message. Tag the hosts or use the wedding hashtag to show your appreciation publicly and contribute to the celebration’s positive energy.

Remember, showing genuine gratitude and appreciation is key. Take the time to express your thanks and acknowledge the efforts of the hosts in creating a memorable wedding experience. By doing so, you contribute to the joyous atmosphere and strengthen your relationship with the newlyweds and their families.