Baba Nyonya Wedding


Baba Nyonya Wedding Introduction

The Baba Nyonya community; also known as Cina Peranakan is one of the unique community found in Melaka. This community has existed before the 15th century due to intermarriages between the Chinese traders and local Malays. Their existence and social standing have greatly increased with the marriage of Sultan Mansur Syah with Princess Hang Li Poh from China.

The Cina Peranakan mainly resides along Heeren Street (Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock) & Jonker Street in the heart of Melaka city. Their existence could be seen clearly based on their unique house architecture, attire (Kebaya Nyonya & Kasut manek-manek), cooking and language (Bahasa Peranakan).

A traditional Baba Nyonya Wedding or Peranakan Wedding is loaded with complex rites preparations and numerous ceremonies which lasts up to 12 days! It’s a very tedious process (both in preparations, time and money) that most of the younger generation prefers to skip some of the ceremonies.

Similar like their Chinese counterpart, the baba nyonya put a great emphasis on choosing auspicious dates and times. However, their taboos are much more and strictly observed than the Chinese.


As you have probably guessed, all the Baba Nyonya Wedding or marriages were arranged marriages. Normally, the elderly will seek the service of a match maker when they feel that their child has come of age to be married.

The match-maker can be a professional match maker (normally has a large network of friends) or he/she might be one of the close relative or friends. As a return for the successful match making service, the match maker will receive a red-packet (with monies) and roasted pig trotter.


A group of elderly people (from the bridegroom family) will pay the short listed future-daughter-in law’s family a visit. This visit is known as“merisek“ , a custom that you could find both in Malay and Chinese community.

The “merisek“ group is normally headed by the match-maker and a few elderly relatives from the bridegroom (The bridegroom parents will not participate in this “merisek“ visit). The “merisek“ group will inform the girls’family of their intention and to seek approval.

They will not talk formally (in normal daily conversations) but talk in a mixture of quatrain or pantun. (Malay influence).

To ensure that the couple has a happy wedlock, they will ask for the intended girls’ date of birth or “Pek Zhi“. Later they will consult a Feng Shui Master to check the boy and girl compatibility with each other. After everyone has come to an agreement, a ceremony of exchanging gifts between the two families known as Lapchai (engagement day) will be held.

Cheo-thau Ceremony

Nowadays, the “merisek“ ritual has long been abandoned. The Baba Nyonya wedding ceremony starts with the performance of purification-and-initiation-into-adulthood rites. This ceremony or ritual is known as Cheo-thau. It is done by both parties (bride & groom) at their respective homes during auspicious hours agreed upon earlier.

Chim-pong Ceremony

Next is the Chim-pong or the coming-together-of-the-bride and bridegroom ritual. This is when the couple pays homage to heaven; earth and man before a special three-tiered alter called sam-kai. Elaborated preparations can be seen at the alter table. This ritual is very important as the marriage is dully solemnized during this stage.

The whole practice is guided by an elder known as Sang Kheh Umm or Mak Andam (Chief Mistress) to ensure the smooth flow of the marriageceremonies and rituals. The Sang Kheh Umm is experienced in the obligatory rites & rituals of Baba Nyonya Wedding. Interested to know about Sang Kheh Umm? Click here.

Every gesture and movement of the couple has been carefully rehearsed to synchronise with music supplied by a Chinese clarinet. This music is known as “Seronee“. The trademark of Baba Nyonya wedding is when the couple will have to walk sideway.

The First Look

The bridegroom will only get his first look at his wife when they meet in the bridal chamber. This is the time when the husband is allowed to lift the veil over his wife’s face with guidance from the Sang Kheh Umm again! (The veil needs to be lifted smoothly without dropping it on the floor). I could have imagined how nervous the bridegroom during the unveiling process and I dare to bet that some of them might have fainted after getting his first look at his wife! (Either too beautiful or the other way round.)

However, the wife is even then forbidden by tradition to steal a glance at her husband. It would be deem as immodest to do so as relatives and friends milling in and around the chamber. Her chance comes not long after both of them sit down for their first meal together.


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