The Beauty of a Baba Nyonya Wedding in Photos

While the Tik-Tok generation is clamouring for instant likes, funny memes, and what the Kardashians are up to this morning, some of our older cultural customs and traditions are slowly declining into obscurity.

Thankfully there is the George Town Heritage Celebrations, an annual festival to commemorate the inscription of George Town as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. The weekend extravaganza, which took place from 6 to 8 July 2019, presented various rituals and festivities that are unique to Malaysia such as birth celebrations, funeral rites, as well as the colourful wedding ceremonies of minor ethnic groups including the Eurasian, Gujaratti and Peranakan Chinese.

Peranakan is a term used in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia which refers to a native-born person of mixed local and foreign ancestry. Also known as Baba (male) and Nyonya (female), the Peranakan Chinese in pre-independence Malaya lived in Straits Settlements like Penang and Melaka, and adapted some aspects of the local Malay food, clothing and language into their everyday life.

The team had the pleasure of visiting a re-enactment of a traditional Peranakan Chinese wedding during the festival, and it was beautiful. Staying true to their ancestral heritage whilst also incorporating some local elements into the affair, Peranakan weddings are a grandiose affair which typically goes on for 12 days.

Here are some highlights from the event:

A Peranakan wedding features a host of rituals, customs and events that usually lasts for 12 days, though sometimes it can even go on for a month. (Image: Chew Win Win)
It is common for the Baba groom to designate a kid relative as his pengapit (best man). (Image: Chew Win Win)
One of the Peranakan wedding traditions include sending over a bamboo lacquered basket with nasi lemak to confirm the marriage. (Image: Chew Win Win)
During the ‘conjugal tea’ ceremony, the bride and groom bow and kneel in front of each set of parents three times before serving them with sweet tea made from Chinese red dates. (Image: Chew Win Win)
A Peranakan wedding feast is usually held the night before the big event, where meals are served on long table – a tradition known as Tok Panjang. (Image: Chew Win Win)
There’s no shortage of mouth-watering dishes served at Peranakan Weddings, such as jiu hu car (stir-fried jicama with shredded cuttlefish), lor bak (pork roll), too thor th’ng (pig ball soup) and acar (vegetable pickle).
The Baba Nyonya ‘newlyweds’ smiling resplendently after the wedding ceremony. (Image: Chew Win Win)
The style of dancing featured during the Peranakan wedding is joget, a traditional Malay dance that originated in Melaka. (Image: Chew Win Win)
It is customary for the ladies to wear their best and most colourful Nyonya kebayas when attending a Peranakan wedding. (Image: Chew Win Win)
The best accessory for the Nyonya kebaya is the kasut manik (beaded shoes). The handmade shoes feature colourful beads sewn into various intricate flower patterns. (Image: Chew Win Win)

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Written by Irvin Hanni

Irvin enjoys conversations with the trees and the stars. Sometimes they share recipes, sometimes they share jokes.

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