Awas! Pengantin (buat) perangai!

Note: I began typing this post on 6 December last year and it’s been sitting in my drafts and I’m digging it up now to be published because there’s a new post related to it that I’d like to write so enjoy the looooooong read! (It’s quite amusing for me to read it now for some reason, because after having given in on a thing or two that I felt strongly about, I’m in a ‘apa nak jadi, jadilah, asalkan aku kahwin‘ – whatever happens, happens, as long as I get married – state so it’s amusing how emotional I was at that time, close to 6 months ago)

Haha ok that title up there, is like my pandai-pandai translation of ‘bridezilla alert’!

So let’s just say I am already displaying such tendencies, as my mister can attest to, looking at the nature of the Whatsapp messages I have been sending him. I think for the past two or three days, he has used the word ‘relax’ like over a hundred times. Ok, that’s an exaggeration, maybe close to 10 times? And that’s partially because I was releasing previously pent-up frustration over Incident No. 1, as I could not release it right when it happened, since the mister was in the midst of studying for his examination and of course I didn’t want to take his time and attention away because of some silly thing somebody said.

And then, Incident No. 2 happened yesterday (Edit: 5 December 2012) involving that same somebody, so I was frustrated all over again, and since his examination was over by then, I unleashed a 45-minute tirade over Whatsapp, explaining to him all that had happened. (Ok, he claims it was 45 minutes; I didn’t keep track.)

So, disclaimer! This is going to be an angsty and possibly nasty and filled-to-the-brim-with-negativity type of post, so all you positive freaks out there (I honestly don’t know how people can remain positive, especially living in this country), if you are the sort who’s always grateful and goes ‘Alhamdulillah’ 24/7, it’s best you stop reading this post right now. I’m not about to be diplomatic; it’s tiring to do that when all you want is for YOUR preferences for YOUR OWN wedding to be heard and respected and taken into account by those close to you WITHOUT ANY SNIDE REMARKS.

When I say I am, or rather will turn out to be, a pelik pengantin (odd bride), I really meant it. This is especially when it comes to my opinions, principles, preferences – whatever you want to call it – about the ‘showy’ nature of weddings. I absolutely hate doing something JUST for the sake of letting others see it.

So far I have already gone against convention by engaging just a mak andam (bridal make-up artist cum lady who accompanies you to fiddle around with the materials of your outfit when they go astray throughout the event) to do just that, and NOT renting any outfits at all. For my own reception, my outfits would be totally wearable again for when I am attending other people’s weddings in the future, or for Eid. (Ditto about that white wedding gown I bought for the husband-to-be’s reception; I swear I’ll try my damned hardest to sell it off or put it up for rent post-wedding. As for the ethnic costume the FMIL would be making for me, it might just go through the same fate if she approves; if she doesn’t, it’s not my loss as not a single cent would have come out of my pocket for it.) So yes, technically this customise-all-my-wedding-outfits business is a way of NOT doing things for the sake of others to see; it is doing things to my own liking and serving my own pragmatic nature, principles, preferences, what have yous. (Edit: And we all know by now that I won’t be using that white wedding gown I painstakingly sourced because I gave in to the FMIL’s wish to be dolled up by a proper bridal for the reception on my mister’s side)

Now, my mother could not have much say over the above, as this is ultimately a very personal decision for any bride; I am the one who would be made up like a living doll or mannequin, so nobody else has got any right to interfere with how I choose to be made up. In fact, I consider it good enough, like a favour or extension of goodwill, that I involved her in the decision-making (asking her to join me for that appointment with Peti Solek – though it didn’t work out in the end between me and them – and getting her approval for the materials I chose for my customised outfits.)

The funny thing was, when I went with her to Arab Street to choose the materials, she was under the impression that aside from the materials for my solemnisation outfit and for the gift tray respectively, the last remaining material I bought was for wearing post-wedding, and not for the wedding itself!

It was only after going home and looking at the materials again, that she went: Oh! You mean you’re reallly not renting any outfit at all from the mak andam? (Although I swear, throughout the time we were at the shop I kept asking her, would this material be suitable for a BRIDE? NOT for a newly-wed! And I swear, too, that when I told her I had already booked a mak andam, I mentioned that it was only for her makeup, hijab styling and protection from wardrobe malfunction event-day accompaniment service.)

And the above realisation-statement was accompanied by a subtle tone of resignation, which escaped my observation then, but in retrospect I realise it was there, almost like she was saying she knew I had such ideas but she never expected me to carry them out; she really wished she could have control over my decision, and had been hoping I would change my mind, but now what I’ve done is like the equivalent of having pulled out the rug from under her feet and she’s just helplessly looking on. Well I’m glad THAT escaped my observation the moment it happened, because I would have been TRIPLE (instead of double) frustrated that I could not bask in the excitement of having chosen gorgeous materials without a tinge of guilt.

(The above is such a good illustration of how ignorance is bliss. And if by this time you sense that the relationship I have with my mother is complicated – well, it is! While I may sound like the merciless, bratty, everything-must-go-my-way youngest child, as a child I still would like my mother on my side and not have her put me on a guilt trip because I did not fulfil her expectations. It has always been like this since young between my mother and I; I always felt like I was never living up to her expectations no matter what I did, and I could never make my own decisions and be totally happy and at peace with it, because at the back of my mind there was always that constant reminder that my mother did not approve, so correspondingly my heart would always have that tinge of guilt. Oh mother! Why can’t you for once, totally let go of the reins and let me have full control? Control freaks we BOTH are, that’s why. I inherited it from you.)

Ok, so if all that long story about my choosing to go the non-conventional route when it came to wedding outfits is not Incident No. 1 that made me frustrated, what did? Well, again, it involves the ‘showy’ nature of weddings. It involves the bridal room. Specifically, the room that the mister and I would be moving into and living in on an alternate-week basis, until our own place is ready.

(He insists that it’s much more practical for me to move out totally from my family’s place and move into his as it’s nearer to BOTH his workplace and mine, but I’m not about to agree to totally sacrifice MY privacy and comfort zone for the sake of HIS. Since it’s an EQUAL PARTNERSHIP, he has to listen to me too; so to be fair, both of us will have to TAKE TURNS to sacrifice – although him being his usual self-assured self, confidently said that it would take just a week of having delicious meals cooked by his mom at his place to convince me to stay on without shuttling between homes. I beg to differ. No one can cook a mean fish curry or rawan like MY mom!)

So what of this bridal room? Well, in the first place, I detest this whole bridal room concept! In the past, Malay brides had to STAY HIDDEN in their bridal rooms while they were married off! In other words, brides are passive pawns agents in their own marriage ceremonies! They were dolled up, then made to wait in the bridal room and presented to the groom like a prize or trophy! It’s like she became part of the package, dolled up to match the well-decorated room, like thing, a commodity, a life-sized treat wrapped up in a dazzling hamper, handed over by her parents to the groom! (Oh-kay, 5 exclamation marks in succession should well indicate just HOW MUCH I DETEST this concept.)

Well to be honest, it’s not that much better now, but at least now instead of being totally cut off from the action and not having any idea what was going on, brides are seated somewhat closer to their grooms and they get to witness first-hand the undertaking of the marriage oath. (Edit: That marriage oath is yet another thing I have unconventional views on but let’s just leave that for later. LATER.)

Actually, the above is not the original reason I detest the whole concept of bridal rooms. I have no idea how this correlation of bridal room to objectification of women came about… how on earth? Has this been in my subconscious all along? Or is this triggered by something I read about how in Muslim weddings in Capetown, the bride’s participation in her own marriage ceremony is trivialised? Well, howsoever this idea came about, it’s scary isn’t it when you realise the deeper meanings behind tradition that you take for granted? How ideas of patriarchy seep into the basic family unit (getting married IS essentially setting up a new family unit), right at the moment it is being formed?

Anyway, so what was the original reason for my detesting the idea of a typically decorated bridal room? To me, this really smacks of ‘showy’; of doing something just for the sake of others to see. Why else would one need a room decorated to the nines if it isn’t to have photographs taken of it (to show others, obviously), or to have others who are there look at and admire it?

You might shoot back at me by saying, well, why bother decorating your wedding venue then? Isn’t it ‘showy’ too? I say: Well, that’s different. At your wedding venue, guests whom you invite take the effort and time to attend, to celebrate the occasion of your wedding. You decorate your wedding venue because you are holding a celebration there; you decorate your wedding venue in order to honour the guests who have taken the time and effort to join you in your celebration. As a host, you decorate your wedding venue in order to bring about a festive wedding atmosphere for yourselves and your guests. It is a special day, a special occasion, so of course it requires a special setting.

Even so, I can hear the retorts coming: Well, it’s the same for the bridal room! You have guests over at your place so you decorate the room to honour them, or to mark the special occasion!

To the first purpose, I say: NO! The bridal room, to me, is a highly personal and private space. On other special occasions, say a rather formal dinner you host at your place, it is not a given that any bedroom becomes public access cum photography backdrops for your guests! The living room is where you conduct your public life; the bedrooms are where you retire to rest and conduct your private life. (This is of course with the exception of letting close friends or close family members in to chill out with you, but as far as I know, people do that as singles.) Why does that change on your wedding day?

In the olden days, since the bride was HIDDEN AWAY, the kadi (marriage solemniser) had to come into the room to get the bride to give her official consent to be married. So, perhaps, then, decorating the room had some sort of purpose (although I still see it as packaging the bride in a dazzling hamper; why would it be of any concern to the marriage solemniser how the room looked like? He’s there just to get a signature, not to judge an interior designing contest.) If you’re talking about taking photographs with new family members from both sides after the marriage solemnisation, well it’s not unheard of for the host family to set up a small decorated dais or area within the home for photography purposes. Heck! Even standing against a window with nice curtains would do! The point is having the guests’ faces captured in images for memory’s sake, isn’t it? The backdrop is secondary.

In my case, the necessity of having a decorated area in my home for post-solemnisation photo taking is non-existent, because I’m NOT getting solemnised at home! I don’t even see the need for any of my aunts and cousins (the ones who are most likely all-excited to take photographs with me as a bride) to come to my place first; if I had my way everyone would just gather and wait for my arrival at the wedding venue itself!

As for the second purpose, that is of decorating the room to mark the special occasion, I agree that a bridal room has to generally look nice on the wedding day. This is where I differ in opinion, or rather, taste, with my mother. To me, already having a bigger bed rather than a single bed in the room already signifies a huge change in my personal space.

Obviously, on my wedding day, I can’t have my one thousand and one things in the bridal room like the open rack where I hang some clothes, my shoe organizer and belts; my desk with my books and work-related papers; my shawl hangers acting like curtains in my room, etc. Obviously, those would be packed away and stored at the spare study cum guest room, or, at a rented storage space, if my mother insists that for some reason I can’t fill up what is now her territory (I bunked in there when my current room was used as the oldest sisters’ bridal room, and now that she’s moved out to her own place, I’ve moved back to the room and my mother revamped the study to become a guest room.)

Once that is done, the room would be pretty much neat and spacious. I like the spacious feel; space is a luxury in space-constrained Singapore, which is why I prefer not decorating it like a typical bridal room.

What’s a typical bridal room? It consists of cloth; lots and lots of cloth covering the walls. Well, honestly I don’t know what a typical bridal room looks like, because of my lack of interest in it, but if I go by how my oldest sister had hers decorated, and how my mom described she wanted it decorated, that’s basically it. Cover the side of the room with the windows, from ceiling to floor! Cover the built-in wardrobe, from ceiling to floor! Cover the side with the enclave, from ceiling to floor! (And then use the covered space as a hidden storage area.) Have cloth hanging from a ring around the round ceiling light down to the corners of the marital bed (like mosquito nets of yore)! All that was done DIY by my sister-in-law, who happens to know how to sew curtains. It did turn out looking like a studio rather than a regular bedroom.

I guess the colour combination and the hanging fresh flowers, beads and name-personalised ribbons gave an overall ‘polished’ bridal room look that must have appealed to my sister and the usual makcik crowd, but personally, I wasn’t very impressed with the way the room turned out; what I saw was how the room became smaller with all that material. As I said, I like the spacious feel. I really don’t see the need for everything to be covered up; the walls of the room were painted apple white and til today the paintwork still looks good and the colour makes the room look a whole lot brighter, and again, more spacious. Airy, in fact.

Granted, the doors of the built-in wardrobe IS a not-so-appealing patchy grey (Errrmm who made that decision about the colour of the built-in wardrobe when we moved into this place close to 20 years ago, and now finds it ugly and thinks it should be covered up? Who? Who? Certainly not me, I was just a kid then.) However, I still didn’t like the idea of covering it up JUST for the sake of hiding it from view. Why not work with what is already there and make the best out of it?

(Note: So that’s how I shall end off this post. I have actually forgotten what Incident No. 1 really is. Perhaps it has got to do with finding out that my mom talked to my sister-in-law about my idea not to have MY room decorated in the conventional sense and then she (my SIL) approached me during the family BBQ saying, in a really nice and gentle way, that I can’t not have it decorated, and that there must be some way we can decorate it, and it annoyed me that I had been sneakily made to give in to my mom’s wish as I felt obligated to, in order to jaga hati – preserve my good relations with my SIL? Or did that happen much later? I really can’t remember. As for Incident No. 2, well that’s another story for another post for another day.)

8 thoughts on “Awas! Pengantin (buat) perangai!

  1. Hey dear, I made it to the end of the post while reading this at work.. And I can feel the heat! Totally understand why you’re infuriated.. Personally, because my nikah will not be held at home too, I honestly do not feel the need to do up my room. Buang duit. And thank goodness, takda org yg kpo2 cakap nak kena decorate. Sigh.. Agree with your point about the spaciousness too. Hope everything works out!

    • Haha I think a congratulations is in order for making it through the whole post! ;p

      Well actually I’m not really sure what would be the outcome of this conflict. There’s been a sort of ceasefire on it since there were bigger things that needed settling. I’ll still decorate the room, albeit minimally. Regular curtains, some nice bedlinen, fresh / DIY flowers.. we’ll see!😀

  2. Hello! I almost had the same argument with my mum on ‘bridal room decorations’ but I told her curtains all over the room will never happen. She was upset & worried that i wont be decorating at all:/ but we talked it out and showed her some ideas on what my plan’s going to be & finally she was ok. Personally I don’t see the point decorating all over the top other than wasting some bucks (and its temporary!!)

    • For me it’s a little hard to convince my mom because when my SIL sewed the floor-to-ceiling curtains, my sister the bride eventually used them for her living room windows when she got her own place. So technically they didn’t go to waste. So I can’t really use the ‘it’s just a waste’ argument…

      I actually didn’t want to trouble my bro and SIL too, because back then she only had one kid but now she’s got two and the older one’s in school already (and she herself works full time) so I can imagine she won’t have much leisurely time for herself, much less sew curtains from scratch!

      It’s really the concept that bothers me (which I’m not going to bother explaining to my mom), as well as my taste in room decor being different…

  3. I am actually pretty grossed out at the idea of decorating the bridal room. And taking wedding photos on the decorated bed. Because hello, no one needs to start imagining what fun I’ll be having on it with my husband soon right? HAHAHA.

    As I grew up I noticed the bridal room was usually the place to display all the hantaran as well (so definitely all about showing other people how big and fancy and unique your hantaran is). The most bizarre thing was that for my walimah in 2012, even though there was no aqad nikah to be done (already done in 2011), no hantaran to be given (takde duit), and certainly no ‘first night’ either (HAHA!), I still had an actual bridal room!

    I just gave in and let my mum decorate the room with curtains, bedspread and fresh flowers just because she thought you couldn’t NOT do it. But in my case it served no practical purpose (beyond making my mum happy lah). We don’t share the same logic.

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