t was not uncommon for early Chinese traders to take Malay women from Peninsular Malaya or Sumatra as wives or concubines13
Consequently, the Baba Nyonya possessed a synergistic mix of Sino-Malay cultural traits.13
Written records from the 19th and early 20th centuries show that Peranakan men usually took brides from within the local Peranakan community. Peranakan families occasionally imported brides from China and sent their daughters to China to find husbands.
Marriages within the community and of similar stature were the norm during that time. Wealthy men prefigured to marry a chin choay: or matrilocal marriage where husband moved in with wife’s family.13
Proposals of marriage were made by a gift of a pinangan, in a 2-tiered lacquered basket known as Bakul Siah in Malaysia or Tenong Keranjang in Indonesia, to the intended bride’s parents brought by a go-between who speaks on behalf of the suitor. There are rare cases where wealthy Peranakans in the past used highly decorative glided pagoda trays (Botekan Candi in Indonesian) instead of the Bakul Siah or Tenong Keranjang. Most Peranakans are not Muslim, and have retained the traditions of ancestor worship of the Chinese, though some converted to Christianity.
The wedding ceremony of the Peranakan is largely based on Chinese tradition, and is one of the most colourful wedding ceremonies in Malaysia . At Malacca weddings, the Dondang Sayang, a form of extempore rhyming song in Malay sung and danced by guests at the wedding party, was a highlight. Someone would begin a romantic theme which was carried on by others, each taking the floor in turn, dancing in slow gyrations as they sang. It required quick wit and repartee and often gave rise to laughter and applause when a particularly clever phrase was sung. The melodic accents of the Baba-Nonya and their particular turns of phrase lead to the charm of this performance.
The important wedding rites had to be commenced on auspicious days at specific times, according to the pek ji, the eight Chinese characters annotating one’s birth date and time. At these rites, pantangs (taboos) were carefully observed – the wedding rituals had to be legitimised and witnessed by elders, deities and ancestors. Marriages were typically match-made. Parents and elders made the final decision, but the potential bride and bridegroom were also consulted in the process. Wedding items commonly utilised the prosperous colours of red, pink, orange,yellow and gold and were embellished with special motifs to ensure a good marriage. Similar to the Chinese, Peranakans believed that good things always come in pairs, therefore many wedding items came in pairs.