In an Islamic marriage, one of the requirement is the dower, groom giving to the bride. In the Malay culture, we have the mas kahwin and the belanja angus or belanja dapur as the dower, the mas kahwin goes straight to the bride herself where as belanja angus is to help pay for the wedding expenses on the bride side. There is no fixed amount, but there is a minimum, it's negotiable and depending on current market situation. This sum is normally asked during the engagement proceedings.
This was the dower I received, my mum-in-law and her sister decorated it. The mas kahwin is the brown notes rolled up on the lower right of the arrangement and the belanja dapur is the greenish notes cradling the crystal flowers MIL made. The red box tucked around back is the jewellery, necklace with pendant and bracelet.
The dower is part of the hantar berian or hantaran, loosely translated as gifts given. Traditionally these gifts consists of items that are to help the bride prepare for her wedding and new life as a wife. In the olden days one of the items were material to make her wedding outfit as well as a complete sewing basket set. This wasn't that far back, maybe about two generations ago.
Nowadays, the hantaran can consists from anything from the latest Ipod to a brand new car, depending on the wants of the family. Usually the bride and groom prior to the wedding would get their own stuff for the hantaran, and families can contribute to add on.
The hantaran is normally arranged and decorated on an elaborate tray which has a stand (click here for picture) or baskets. Depending on the number of items will depend on the number of trays required. The fun part, or headache, is decorating.
Normal practice is the family members will do the decorating, it is a time for family bonding. For his hantaran to me, it was my mother-in-law, the sister, and several female cousins who did the decorating. I wasn't allowed to enter the room where they did it.
People can get real creative with decorating the hantaran, some of the length of cloth given to me got turned into flowers using paper and wires as backbones. Others can be a disaster, like my aunt's white goldfish when her son got married (it looked like a white ghost to us cousins) Then there are those who use hantaran decorating and the hantaran themselves to really show off, sort of like keeping up with the Joneses.
Some soon-to-be-married-couples would send their stuff for the hantaran to the shops to have them 'professionally' decorated, you get charged an arm and a leg per tray or basket!
Traditional practice was receiving the hantaran from the groom, nowadays the bride would give which is known as balasan hantaran, exchange of gifts. The amount can be the same or less as the hantaran from the groom side and most of the items would consists of food. I'm speculating on various reasons why this practice is becoming more common, maybe because the guys didn't want to be left out, or the girls just like to get stuff for the guys, or the girls just want to have fun decorating the gifts too. So it's a dowry, only it's optional *hehehe*
I remembered helping my cousins who got married with their hantaran and it was always a family affair, each person would decorate at least one item and I have done quite a few.
When it was my turn, I was quite surprised that nobody helped me with arranging and decorating my trays. Turned out all my aunts and cousins figured I could handle it while they were busy decorating the rest of the house.
I spent a week doing the balasan hantaran, one or two tray per night with very minimal tools and items. The trays and tray covers were rented, and I was determind to spend as little as possible on the decoration yet pretty happy with the outcome. I realised several lessons about decorating and arranging hantaran, cellotape, double sided tape and pins are your best friends because I don't believe in using a glue gun and I wanted for the ribbons and roses to be reused again without damaging them when they get taken apart.
I stuck with the wedding colour theme of red, black and white. Since the tray covers were already white all I used were red, black and silver ribbons in various sizes (which I already have), styrofoam circles (which I had to get, they're costly! about $20 in total), and four bunches of fake red roses (less than $10). Other tools I needed were scissors and wire cutter, double sided tape, cellotape (which I already own) and two containers of darning pins (which were only 20 cents per container). I like clean lines and non fussy, simple and elegant.
I 'm proud of the dastar I made (on tray behind shoes), I learnt it during the adat istiadat, royal protocol, workshop I attended. My DH was well impressed, he didn't want to take it apart *big grin*
By the end of it, I quite enjoyed decorating my balasan hantaran. But I'm not sure if it's something I want to do again. It's a lot of pressure especially when people know you're capable of such things, it has to come out looking really good.
All the decoration pieces I used, his aunt from out of state took them all! The ones they used for mine, my MIL loves her glue gun, I salvaged what I could :-p