Embracing cultural diversity in matrimony

Timothy and Sonia (in green outfits) dancing on stage to Indian music

It was only earlier this year when the media reported how a “unique wedding” was held where the bride and groom had their wedding in a church with all Muslim bridesmaids.

Yes, such scenes are not uncommon in the ‘Land of the Hornbills’.

As a Sarawakian, I pride myself with how ‘rojak’ we can be. We may be Dayak, Muslim, Chinese or Indian but we are Sarawakian first and we do not judge each other. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to have halal and non-halal stalls in the same shop.

In Borneo, there really isn’t a big issue of racism or clashes in cultural beliefs. And a wedding I attended last month reinforced this. I would hail it as one of the most diverse wedding ceremonies I have attended.

While there are so many weddings which focus on two cultures, for example Chinese tea ceremony or jip san leong, and an akad nikah, or an Indian wedding ritual for example, I was honoured to attend my niece’s wedding on April 13 which emphasised the different cultures and backgrounds they have.

The groom, Timothy Marimuthu, is a Chindian, while his bride, Sonia Soen Nahar, is mixed Bidayuh-Chinese-Kadazan.

Sonia Soen and Timothy Marimuthu
Sonia and Timothy in contemporary Bidayuh outfits. Images by Rita Jong

The couple tied the knot in a church wedding (and of course, their Muslim friends in hijab also attended with no fuss), followed by Chinese tea ceremony. They were dressed in a contemporary Bidayuh-designed outfit, while serving tea to the elders addressing them in Hakka, Hokkien and even Bidayuh and a little bit of Iban dialects and languages.

Sonia and Timothy
Timothy and Sonia performing the traditional Chinese tea ceremony.

Timothy’s mother and sisters wore sarees, while Sonia’s parents and siblings were in contemporary Bidayuh traditional outfits. Sonia’s mother wore a Kadazan (from Penampang, Sabah) attire.

Sonia made her first entrance in her contemporary Bidayuh outfit led by the traditional music and dancers as she walked into the banquet hall.

In her second entrance, the bride and groom were in Indian traditional costumes, with the bride in a green saree, as they danced to Indian music. The groom also sang a classic Chinese oldie by Teresa Teng ‘Moon represents my heart’ for his mother.

With all the different cultural performances, there were moments where it felt like a rainforest festival.

Yes, this ‘rojak’ couple are truly representative of how Sarawak and Sabah has been the epitome of the term ‘melting pot’.

To top it off, guests were served tuak (Sarawak’s rice wine), muruku and even kuih cincin (Sabah’s baked ring biscuit) – all homemade – to represent the background of the bride and groom.

Even the yam seng which echoed the room was in various languages, including Bidayuh and Chinese. And how could anyone not end the night bogeying to the different songs, from local Sarawak and Sabah pop tunes, to Indian and even English disco songs.

Indeed, Timothy and Sonia’s wedding was a classic case of differences in culture at play. But at the end of the day, it was a ceremony which brought these two beautiful people together.

I was honoured to be part of the wedding of Timothy and Sonia because that night, it was a real showmanship of how Sarawak truly is. I am truly grateful to see the richness in diversity we have here.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.

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