To the uninitiated, Malay weddings appear as lavish celebrations comprising multiple events that seem to go on forever, rooted in customs derived from a range of rich cultural sources and with a confusing set of rules and regulations – in short, a complete cultural enigma. Well, enigma-no-more; we're here to give you a little step-by-step insight into what goes on in a Malay wedding. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Malay Wedding Dress (@malayweddingdress) on Mar 7, 2019 at 2:55am PST Pre-wedding customs Merisik Although the direct translation from Malay to English is “spying”, this stage is better known as the “viewing” of the woman by the man, typically carried out by the young man's parents or relatives to explore her background, interact with her family and gauge the availability of the woman. In Islam, it is forbidden for a man to make a proposal to a woman who is already prevailed upon to be married, so this stage allows him to avoid this little blunder. This stage is increasingly becoming something of the past as in our modern society, women and men are ordinarily acquainted with each other beforehand. Meminang This is the proposal; once parties are committed to one another, a date and time for the engagement is set and the exact amount for the duit hantaran , or dowry tray-gifts, is agreed upon. Adat bertunang This is the engagement ceremony. Typically in the setting of a big feast, the aim of this event is to put a ring on the bride-to-be's finger – usually done by female representatives of the groom (either the mother or a sister) – and the tray-gifts are exchanged, which makes the engagement official. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Malay Wedding Photographer (@fkzpictures) on Dec 9, 2019 at 7:20pm PST Customs of the engagement The duration of the engagement is set during this event Gifts are given in odd numbers as even numbers are considered unlucky. If the elder sister of the bride-to-be is still unmarried, then she is also given gifts (nice!). The exact number of gifts depends on the generosity of the giver. A guide to Chinese weddings in Hong Kong for the clueless guest Adat berinai This stage usually occurs three days or so before the wedding proper; the hands and feet of the bride and her bridal party are decorated with henna. The roots of this practice are in Hinduism and Buddhism, and is meant to ward off bad luck and malicious spirits, as well as show that the couple is betrothed. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Malay Wedding Photographers (@photobyarif) on Jan 1, 2020 at 10:14pm PST A lot of people opt to skip this step, but others follow through as it serves as an extra merriment for the bridal party; something of a hen night! The wedding customs The wedding is divided into two segments; the akad nikah and the majlis bersanding. Akad nikah This is the wedding proper – the official wedding ceremony and the solemnisation of the oaths. More modern couples may opt to skip out on the rest of the stages and just do the akad nikah as it is the only truly necessary step to be married. The ceremony is held either at the bride's parent's home or a local mosque and is only witnessed in front of family and close friends View this post on Instagram A post shared by Malay Wedding Photographer (@fkzpictures) on Nov 3, 2019 at 5:10am PST As part of tradition, the groom is required to present the bride with gifts to enter her family home – the tradition varies from state to state but essentially the groom must pass a few obstacles to reach his bride. In the actual ceremony, which is officiated by a mosque leader, or imam, or a kadi (Islamic official), religious oaths are recited and the groom is informed of his duties as a husband. The groom is then required to repeat the oath after the imam or kadi in one breath. Following that, the marriage is declared solemn and the bride and groom sign the marriage contract. Other events of the big day include hantaran , which is the tradition of gift giving from the bride to the groom and vice versa. This includes the amount of duit hantaran previously agreed upon during the adat bertunang and other gifts which can be anything from food to laptops and other luxuries. This practice is supposed to symbolise the beginning of the groom's responsibility to provide and fulfil the needs of his bride. However, the gifts are not compulsory if either party is unable to afford it (this is always discussed before the wedding). China’s Gen Z says ‘I do’ to Instagram and WeChat weddings Majlis bersanding Better known as the wedding reception, this is a much larger party held for extended family, friends and acquaintances. It can be held in the afternoon – which is a more informal event with no fixed itinerary – or the evening, which is more formal and may involve a multiple course dinner and fewer guests. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Adam Sinclair (@adamyousofunny) on Jan 27, 2018 at 6:38pm PST Regardless, the events that do occur during the wedding reception usually include the couple sitting side by side ( bersanding ) on the wedding dais, merinjis (“VIP” guests blessing the couple as well in a traditional ritual) as well as a few cultural performances. It is typically a celebration with an endless buffet. Customs at the reception During the bersanding ceremony, the newlyweds are treated as king and queen for their big day. Yet guests are not expected to be there on time, nor are they expected to stay for the whole duration – just check when the key events are happening such as the wedding dais or the sit-down meals. In a tradition derived from Hindu culture, the guests offer their blessings by throwing a combination of bunga rampai (finely cut aromatic Pandan leaf, sprayed with perfume) liquid rice flour and rose water over the couple – these are laid out on a tray. The guests who bless the couple are offered bunga telur , the symbol of fertility (at modern weddings these are usually scented soaps, sweets or chocolates). Receptions can be held almost anywhere, but typically the locations of choice are hotel ballrooms or restaurants. Some may choose to host multiple bersanding events at the bride's house and then the groom's house for each side of the family, as well as bigger receptions in hotels, restaurants or community centres for extended family and friends. Did prawn crackers originate from Malaysia or Indonesia? General social etiquette Greet the hosts and other guests with a handshake or a salam (kissing the hand). But do note that if they are religious members of the opposite sex they may not be comfortable with this. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Malay Wedding Photographers (@photobyarif) on Dec 16, 2018 at 11:35pm PST The dress code for the wedding proper is conservative – modest clothing that isn't revealing and headscarves for women. The easiest option is traditional Malay clothes ( baju kurung / kebaya for women; baju melayu for men). In the case of the reception, maintain the modest dress code but note that you do not have to be in traditional dress – wear whatever you please (within reason!). Money is the typical gift of choice at a Malay wedding, and should be passed to the parents of the bride or groom at the end of the ceremony in an enclosed packet. Want more stories like this? Sign up here . Follow STYLE on Facebook , Instagram , YouTube and Twitter . This article originally appeared on Buro.