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Nyonya Wedding



Straits Chinese Traditional Wedding



The Nyonya wedding, in particular, is an event worth witnessing. Both the bride and groom are dressed to kill in their fashionable and colorful attires.


Though there are many differences between a Nyonya and a Western wedding, one difference worth noting is the Nyonya bride head gear with tassels hanging over her face.


Nyonya and Baba Traditional Head Gear with tassle

Uvaraani and Jivan's Nyonya Wedding turn out to be a fun day for the crowd of relatives in Sungai Petani not far from Penang Island.


Nyonya, being a dying breed and unknown to many, had their unique traditional sets of marital rites and rituals. One such is the unveiling of the bride. Both had to rehearsed this act to ensure it was well done.


The rehearsal was preformed as if it is the meeting for the bride and groom first time. The bride has to be fully dressed with head gear and veil.


In turn, Jivan has to learn to unveil the bride. For this rites, we had to hire Michael, a Penang Nyonya wedding planner to help this young couple preformed these rites correctly.


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Proper Nyonya Wedding

A proper Nyonya wedding would have been challenging to do during present times. 6 months preparation affair during the Straits Settlement period is no joke.


Highly elaborated with rituals and ceremonies like face threading, hair combing, making of beaded shoes and sewing sequins on the heavy embroidery wedding gown.


In the early 20th century, Nyonya wedding and marriages are match made. Daughters from rich family are married off as young as 12 or 13 years of age.


So this 13 year old bride being match made to a rich family must be fully prepared with traditional bridal suit, crown with tassel laid head gear and jewelry.


And Chneoh Tau (a rite of purification and initiation into adulthood) was the main focus for the young bride. Being an Indian, she has hers done the Hindu way.


With Michael's help, we rented a traditional bridal red gown, head gear and accessories to performed the wedding rites. More symbolic is the face threading ceremony. It has to be performed 3 or 7 days before the wedding. After that it is quarantine till the wedding day.


For the bride, she has to be in ceremonial RED from head to toe. For the groom, his task is a little heavy as he has to learn how to clasp his hand together and greet the bride before unveiling her.


Practising the ceremonial bows in Baba and Nyonya Wedding

The bride too has to bow lightly to ease the groom from standing on tip top if the bride is tall. Same time, the bride learns to walk slowly so as not to step on the traditional Nyonya gown handed down from their forefathers.


It was hard work seeing both of them, but I guess they took it in good strides, giggling through as certain Nyonya rites was advised. Jivan was very sporting and followed advises by Michael.


Michael in turn guides Jivan how to unveil the bride by flicking with his fan. He has to make sure when he unveils the bride, the veil must not fall off. So the trick was taught how to hold on to the veil after flicking it over.


Micheal guiding Jivan in Unveiling the bride

Jivan tries the ceremonial unveiling of the bride

The Nyonya Wedding Day

Jivan walked in with a fan in his hand and fanning himself like a big Lord to the amusement of the crowd. My son Thinakaran, chided him to walk like Wong Fei Hong (Kung Fu fighter in "Once a upon a time in China").


As he arrived at the reception hall, upon his assistant's command, he flick open his fan with such a loud sound. It was truly an unforgettable moment which had us laughing until today.


Here comes the Lords of the Nyonya Rings

But the laughter was drown as the bride walked in, assisted not by a Nyonya bridesmaid but her cousin Yuvanes in sari. Truly everyone was like seeing the multi cultural society at its best.


A fusion of Nyonya and Baba sarong kebaya and saris fits the theme for the mixed cultural Nyonya Indian Wedding.


Here comes the Nyonya Bride, Uvaraani

Through screams and laughter, the bride and groom stands before each other. Jivan did the unveiling the bride carefully, almost flawless.


For me seeing them from a distance, it was their wedding day but it was for me a show of elegance and beauty. The beauty of an age old tradition coming alive.


Baba and Nyonya Ceremonial bows

Jivan unveil his bride

Once the unveiling was done, they in turn bow to each other, kind of like saying "it is nice to know you " as it is their first day of traditional match made marriage. Then they turn to the crowd and performed their ceremonial bow 3 times.


Thank you Bow to the guests in Nyonya Wedding

A Nyonya Tea Ceremony with Sia Khek Mg (match maker) calls out the elders to come forward to partake the "Ang Cho Geng Geng Tea" (Tea with lotus seeds).


Beside having a mixed wedding of two cultures, the Indians and the Chinese, it was truly a day of cultural fusion, almost a Muhibbah wedding.


Modern Cake Cutting in Nyonya Weddin

Jivan is an Indian but a practicing Buddhist. Uvaraani, a Chindian (Indian with Chinese mother). So, can you imagine the surprise for the Indian relatives?


Instead of seeing the traditional drums and blowing of trumpets of the Nadaswaram, they have to march up to the Buddhist Dojo or hall for witnessing Buddhist wedding rites on their wedding day.


But if you want a traditional Nyonya in full splendor with a whole set of families dressed for the occasion, with an Indian mandor carrying an umbrella following the long forgotten tradition, it can be arranged.


Just look at the mock wedding video early this year in Cheah Kongsi.



Watch the Indian wedding rites here.


Later both bride and groom enjoyed a bullock ride to town. Uvaraani felt like an Indian princess as the bulls trots over the roads. Cars and motorcycle horns to see a bullock bride and groom. It seems so long ago that our forefathers actually rode bullock to their wedding.


And after that, they had a few events to mark their wedding day. Interested to have a Nyonya wedding wearing traditional head gear and gowns?


All this would not be possible without Michael guidance. Talk to Michael about you Nyonya Wedding here.


Go to the top of Nyonya Wedding Page

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Back to Indian Wedding Rituals Page

Back to Indian Wedding Decorators Page

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Back to photos of Indian Engagement Page

Back to Malaysian Indian Engagement Page

Back to Malaysian Puberty Ceremony Page

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