…was for my official engagement.
It is not that uncommon for engagement ceremonies to be small, quiet family affairs as a formal/informal meeting of the two families. Traditionally, the girl and her family would be there, as would the guy’s family, but the guy need not necessarily be included in the ceremony at all. In certain cases he would wait outside, or even just at home. Nowadays though, a lot of engagement ceremonies look more like weddings, with the couple not only there at the same time and place, but dressed up in matching outfits and having photographers, videographers, rows of decorated gifts…
I stayed in the UK for my summer holidays. I tend to do that a lot, and last summer I had the typical summer housekeeping job at the university. (Read about the first time I had this job here.) I had everything planned out — we had our Croatia–Malta trip early summer, before work started, then Ramadan and Eid would be celebrated here, and I’d join my other friends on the Morocco leg of their summer trip later in September.
So when it was decided that Zakwan’s family would “come by” to my family home in June, it would mean that … I won’t be able to physically be present at my own engagement ceremony. (Zakwan was already on his break in Malaysia since April.)
Which is a little bit funny. And unusual. But totally cool with me.
This so-called ceremony was very informal, and last-minute, and certain things changed a little bit. Some days before the date, I remember receiving a phone call from Zakwan (which, in the context of about … the past two years, is very rare) saying I will need to have my ring size measured. Believe it or not, this small request freaked me out to no end.
I do not wear jewellery. I do not want jewellery. I have never worn a ring in my entire life!
“But I don’t want a ring! ” was probably what I said at some point.
Engagement rings are not at all necessary, but apparently it was something important to Zakwan and so I obliged, and also left all the decisions to him. He was the one in Malaysia, after all.
I think I begrudgingly went out that afternoon, accompanied by my housemate Nad, to one of the jewellery shops in town to get my finger measured. It was a very awkward and surreal experience that I cannot say I enjoyed very much. (In real life though, it went simply enough — the salesgirl was super nice and we didn’t have to explain anything other than asking for the Asian unit of measurement as opposed to the European units, and the whole thing took less than 10 minutes. -_- )
Oh, also — literally nobody on my side (other than my immediate family) knew that the engagement was happening. 10 June was a Monday. On Saturday the 8th, like after midnight, I uh… wrote on my house’s Facebook group to officially announce to my girls that it was happening. The post started like this:
Byyyyy the way guys, I might be getting engaged on Monday ni. Bahahaha. Sorry I tak reti langsung break these kinda news…..
Seriously, the whole sudden proposal and behind-the-scenes stuff did not at all break my composure or make me nervous. It was telling people about it that literally made me shake with apprehension. I have no idea why.
The time was to be Monday afternoon in Malaysia, ie. morning my time. I had a work induction at the university at 9:30am. My housemates were asking stuff like:
“Can we join the Skype session?”
“Do we have to dress up? Like wear baju kurung?”
I was like… “Guys. I’ll be in my t-shirt on the way to work. No dresses.”
The morning came rather uneventfully. Malaysia’s internet connection was being a snail as usual. Just look at the amazing quality of the Skype video at first attempt:
I heard nothing, needless to say.
We then tried Facetime using Zakwan’s mum’s iPhone and my iPad, and that produced slightly better results:
I remember my dad formally asking me whether it’s OK for him to discuss and accept the proposal on my behalf, etc. etc. and before I knew it, I had to leave to catch the bus to campus and said bye-bye to everyone. Talk about an anti-climax!
I saw photos afterwards, and my family told me how it went. Zakwan’s parents and sister (Kak Lang) came with him. My parents and one of my brothers were there. My elder brother took photos of the gifts (officially called hantaran in Malay) when he came back from work in the evening:
Zakwan had to shop for the gifts according to what he knew of my tastes, ie. super simple, no bling, as-plain-as-you-can-get-away-with kind of taste. The nikah material was a pre-beaded off-white chiffon and a matching lining fabric.
Traditional engagement rings, in our culture, are bands, or belah rotan, as they say it. Meaning no “centerpiece” or stone/gem. At first impression, I thought the band looked rather thick/big for me, but after the ring arrived in my hands (via Syaza who came back to Malaysia for a short while later that summer), it is actually perfect. It’s very thin in terms of the amount of material (white gold ), but the band thickness helps it stay on my finger since it is actually a few units bigger than my actual measurement. The gold has a “diamond-cut” pattern, giving it a fake-but-nice kind of sparkle.
The last basket from his family was fruit that I — of course — did not at all get to eat. Oh, his Kak Ngah was the one who decorated the gifts with fresh roses. They look super pretty in pictures.
My family gifted them one basket in return (uh, traditionally the girl’s side tends to give more number of gifts than the guy, but in our case nobody minded or agreed on anything beforehand so it wasn’t a problem alhamdulillah), which contained books and chocolates and food.
All in all, it was a cool little meet-up, and although I was never one to think engagements are entirely needed (especially seeing how lavish some members of the community make them to be in this day and age), it is worth noting how bringing the parents together and having things laid out on the table clearly and respectfully, shows a certain level of seriousness and commitment especially on the guy’s behalf. I do retain the opinion that engagements need not be announced to everyone though, especially if/when the wedding is far off. I do not think relationship statuses (other than announcing one’s marriage) are something to be flaunted. We only changed our Facebook relationship status about two weeks before the wedding, at which point people who were meant to know about the wedding already knew anyway (via invitations).
Alhamdulillah ala kulli hal.