A Chinese wedding in Malaysia
Mr. Ong Kok Lam weds Miss Goh Huey Ching
Some time ago I wrote about David's son Suresh his wedding. They are Indian so it was a typical Indian wedding. And recently I visited two days of a Malay wedding, day one in Kedah a nd day two in Pangkor. Once you see the other two wedding pages, you will see how different the cultures are.
David introduced me to Mr. Ong Ah Hee, a citizin of Kuala Kurau. As the name suggest, Mr. Ong Ah Hee is Chinese. He invited me to attend wedding of his second son, Mr. Ong Kok Lam, with Miss Goh Huey Ching, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Goh Eng Hock.
The day I met Mr. Ong Ah Hee, he invited David and me for a small party to meet his son and coming daughter in law. At this party, Mr. Ong Ah Hee told me I could make as many pictures as I wanted. David would do some filming for the the family.
While we spoke, Mr. Ong Kok Lam told me they would have a small party on Friday to celebrate his last day as a bachelor. And Miss Goh Huey Ching invited David and me to witness the whole wedding ceremony and rituals plus the bride's dinner the Saturday.
David and I arrived at Mr. and Mrs. Ong Ah Hee's house in Kuala Kurau at Friday evening the 25th. A big tent was already set up outside the house in the garden. It was indeed a small informal party with snacks and beer.
The Saturday activities started around 6pm. This was the day of the bride's wedding dinner. The Saturday dinner was for the bride's site only. From the groom's site only he and some friends but no blood relatives were invited. According to customs, not even Mr. and Mrs. Ong Ah Hee, the grooms parents, were allowed to join.
The dinner took place in a restaurant in Bukit Mertajam. Interestingly, this wedding dinner was not the only one in this restaurant. Upstairs another Chinese wedding dinner was held.
We arrived in Bukit Mertajam around 7.30pm. The dinner was supposed to start around 8pm. The dinner would consist 9 different dishes according to Chinese customs for traditional Chinese weddings. The whole dinner would take about 2 to 3 hours but the groom would not be around the whole dinner. Again, Chinese customs didn't allow him to stay the full dinner. In general after about 5 dishes, he should go back to his own house.
During the dinner, a karaoke was available. If nobody of the guests would like to sing, the singing would be performed by a man or a woman special hired for this job.
After 5 dishes we left the restaurant and drove back to Kuala Kurau. Here a specific ceremony had to be performed. The groom, Mr. Ong Kok Lam, had to be dressed in pajamas for the ceremony.
It is important to mention people in Kuala Kurau are mostly Taoist, so parts of the ceremony probably will not be performed in other Chinese weddings in either Malaysia or other areas in the world where Chinese live.
The parents of Mr. Ong Kok Lam brought the groom in the living room. He was dressed in pajamas. In front of the house altar a small ceremony took place. Mr. Ong Kok Lam offered tea to his parents and prayed to the gods and ancestors for good luck and prosperity. The ceremony also has to confirm the ties with the family. Although the new couple would live in the house of the grooms parents, it was important to confirm the family ties.
After the ceremony David and I were asked to drive to the brides house. In fact, it was the grandmothers house. Miss Goh Huey Ching's parents had dressed dressed her in pajamas as if she was dressed for bed. The same ceremony would take place as in the grooms house.
Sunday was the most important day. It started in the morning with collecting the bride at her grandmothers house. It was a long procession of cars coming from Kuala Kurau. Mr. Ong Kok Lam was understandably very anxious to see his bride.
We arrived at grandmothers house with horns honking. The brides family was already busy with setting up tables outside for the guests. David and I expected to pick up the bride easily but that was not the case.
It was part of the tradition that the friends and sisters would not easily give up the bride. It was an old game that had to be played otherwise the marriage would not be blessed. So the girls had barricade the door to the room where the bride was waiting. The groom had to perform quite a few tasks before the girls were convinced he was worth to wed his bride.
This part of the tradition is quite hilarious. Mr. Ong Kok Lam, supported by his friends tried to convince the girls that he was the best choice for the bride. The girls however were not convinced and wanted to him to prove that. They gave him some plastic underwear. He had to find some people to wear that. ( How that looked like, you can see here)
Then he had to find some people to lick some lollypops. Finally the girls asked for some money, RM 10.000! When the groom gave them a note of 5000 Indonesian roepias (about 10 cents) the girls send him away. Their friend who not go so cheap! Mr. Ong Kok Lam's friends even tried to get in the room with the bride by force but the girls were stronger.
And so the groom left, part of the game, but soon to return. Apparently the girls had changed their mind and now the bride could come out under loud cheerings of all people available. Together they had to perform some ceremonies. This ceremony was to confirm the ties with family and pay respect to the gods and ancestors.
Tea was served to the parents and the oldest living closest relative and after that, many other relatives followed the same procedure.
Finally we left the grandmothers house and drove back to Kuala Kurau. On arrival, the couple first visited the local Taoist temple for more prayers for good luck and prosperity.
Inside the grooms parents house the exact same procedure as in the brides' house took place. First the parents were served tea in front of the home altar, then in following the oldest closest living relative and others.
Since Mr. Ong Kok Lam is the 4th generation in his family, there were quite some relatives around and it took some time before everybody had his or her turn.
Meanwhile, outside in the tent, some food was served. While some of the family members performed the necessarry rituals, others had their lunch.
It took some time but finally around 3 pm, it was time to get some rest and I went in the kitchen (in the tent there was nothing left) to eat something. Then the groom's sister came out. She told me there was upstairs another ceremony going on.
David and I went upstairs to the bedroom. the new wed couple sat on the bed with in front of them a pot closed of with red paper. Written on the paper was the Chinese double luck character written. A little child now had to break into the pot to find some money. This too had to do with luck and prosperity.
But then it would be time to rest. We all left the bedroom to eat something. A few minutes later, the bride came in the kitchen in a simple dress. She too was hungry. A minute later the groom joined.
David and I left the house and went back to his house only to come back at around 7.30 pm.
The Wedding Dinner
Mr. Ong Ah Hee, the grooms father, is the third generation living in Kuala Kurau. His grandfather build up a small emporium in the area. The grandfather came in the 1950's to Kuala Kurau from mainland China with literally no more then the clothes he was wearing. From scratch he build a family, houses and property, lend people money and became wealthy.
Although Mr. Ong Ah Hee has it's own business, he and his family (the grandfather died years ago), own a substantial part of Kuala Kurau. Therefore Mr. KOng Ah Hee knows many people.
When a Chinese marries, it's not only the grooms friends and family who will attend. Most of the guest therefore will be the parents friends. And as explained, Mr. Ong Ah Hee has many friends.
A Chinese wedding is usually calculated in tables. Mr. Ong Ah Hee expected to fill 160 tables. The Chinese always eat on round tables, sharing the food served. A table at a wedding dinner is usually shared by 8-10 people. So, by having 160 tables available, more then 1000 people were expected. Later we found out, 160 tables were not enough. There were another 16 tables added so there were probably around 1300-1400 guests.
The wedding dinner of this Chinese wedding therefore had to be held in a sports hall. David, his wife and a few of his children and me arrived around 7.30pm. Mr. Ong Ah Hee and his wife, the new wed couple and Mr. Ong Ah Hee's younger daughter were welcoming guests. All of the guests brought a wedding present. According to Chinese customs it has to be a small red envelop containing some money. How much money depend on the position of the person who gives. Close relatives and close friends give more then those who are at more distance.
David started filming and I started to do more photographing. I entered the hall. It was completely filled with tables and many were already occupied. Beer and soft drinks were served. In front of me there was a huge stage with a big sound system that would suite any rock and roll band. This was for the karaoke.
In front of the stage was the table for the new couple and the parents of both sides. Indeed, now both families were allowed to join the dinner, contrary to a day earlier when the grooms family had to stay home when the bride gave the dinner party.
Around 8pm the couple entered the hall under loud cheering of the people. When the couple and both parents sat down, the dinner started. The dinner, like the one a day earlier, consisted of 9 different and excellent dishes containing stingray, chicken, soup, vegetables etc. In fact it would take a full additional page to tell something about wedding dinner dishes since this too is full tradition too.
During the dinner, some more ceremonies had to take place. It was an extension of the ceremony that had taken place earlier the day for some relatives who had not been in the house. Tea was offered to tie the family relations.
The massive sound system was immediately occupied by guests who took the opportunity to sing some songs for the new couple. By now some Malay guest had entered. The main guest was the major of the district of Kuala Kurau: YB Mohd Salleh Bin Mat Desa PPT. He gave the new wed couple at this Chinese wedding the pleasure of singing a few Chinese songs. This is quite extraordinary.
But these high guests were not the only Malays. Some more had attended. For them special halal food was prepared. Although most guests were Chinese, there were quite some Indians too.
After some dishes it was time to bring a toast. The couple plus both parents went on stage to bring a toast. The toast, in Chinese called Yam Sing, had to be done a few times. Then the couple and Mr. Ong Ah Hee went along some tables to toast with the people at that table. Obviously there were far too many tables so the couple and the father divided the tables as much as possible.
Yam sing is quite a dangerous thing for groom, bride and father since many people at the tables try to force them to finish their beer completely before going to the next table. One can imagine how drunk groom, bride and father could have been if there had been less tables. Now the guests understood they couldn't force them to finish since there were too many people to toast with.
Around 10.30 pm it was all over. The last 9th dish was a warm bowl of sweet juice with sweets in. Then the quests started to leave. The couple plus parents were at the exit, greeting them. This Chinese wedding now was over. It took awhile before everybody had left.
Mr. Ong Ah Hee thanked David and me for our little work with filming and photographing by giving us a small but very nice present. We went with the family to the house, which was just a short walk away. A small after party took place here but soon people left, too full and satisfied with the excellent dinner. It was time for David, his family and me to bid a goodbye to the bride, groom (both already changed in more comfortable clothes now) and the parents. It was a great few days.
This Chinese wedding gave me more pictures then I could put on this page. Therefore I have set up a special photo page. Beware, it can take a bit of time before all the pictures are loaded. Click here for more Chinese wedding pictures
Some months ago I have attended an Indian wedding, very different in culture. You may want to have a look how different an Indian wedding is from a Chinese wedding.