Someone asked what is the origin of the bunga telur - the token gift that is given to guests who come to wedding ceremonies. The giving of bunga telur was actually originally a throwback to the Hindu culture which influenced the cultures in Southeast Asia. The egg represent or symbolise a fertile union between the couple as the egg is the symbol of fertility. In some sense, by giving away eggs, it was hoped that the newly wed couple will also be blessed with fertility and thus have their own children in the future.
In the beginning, the boiled eggs would be given out as gifts without any other gifts. Slowly it evolved for the practise of giving the eggs wrapped in paper and then that evolved to placing the eggs in small egg baskets or holders - and hence became known as bunga telur. The eggs were even given wrapped in handkerchiefs and the handkerchiefs became the bunga telur. Over time, the baskets or the holders for the eggs became more elaborate. I remembered in the late 1970s and early 1980s receiving the eggs in tiny porcelain swans, glasses and even in crystal holders.
As time passes, the gifts got more elaborate still. At the same time people over time do not give out the eggs anymore. This is probably due to a number of factors. I can only speculate that one of them could be that the guest numbers for Brunei weddings had increased. It was quite cumbersome boiling some 1,000+ eggs for wedding ceremonies. I remembered because we did it for my brother's wedding - a number of eggs got broken and we had to boil more to compensate for the broken ones.
However, nowadays even though eggs are no longer given out but the practise of giving bunga telur remained but there is no egg or eggholder anymore just the gifts. Today's bunga telur has moved away from anything that resemble holders for eggs - they can be anything from prayer mats to yassins and from luxury soaps to expensive biscuits to silver trays. The more common ones are mugs, cups, glass or plastic bowls and candle holders. Some unusual ones I have come across are wall clocks and ringkat (the tiffin carrier). The costs of these varies from a dollar each to lots of dollars each depending on the financial capability of the hosts. But even a dollar each bunga telur with 500 guests mean that it still cost $500.
Surprisingly at Indian weddings, it is not eggs that are given out but those guests at an Indian wedding will receive sweets reflecting and reaffirming the sweetness of the occasion. However there are many similarities that still remained between the Malay and Indian ceremonies. Among these included mandi lulur or mandi belulut as Bruneians call it - where a special bath scrub was applied to the bodies of the brides and grooms.
Majlis berinai or berpacar is another similarity which is called the Mehndi Ceremony in an Indian wedding. Originally the application of the colourful henna or pachar as we Bruneians called them was supposed to ward off evil spirits as the colours are supposed to scare off those spirits. But in Brunei Malay weddings, it is just a tradition to be followed suit as all wedding couples have pachars to indicate that they have undergone a wedding ceremony. In fact the pachar design can be more elaborate nowadays than the traditional moon crescent, star shaped of the old days.
Another similarity is the Majlis Berbedak where guests and family members blessed the couple by mencalit or putting coloured and scented powder and sprinkling pandan potpurri on the bride and groom's hands. This is also reminiscent of the Mandapa at Indian weddings.
However Brunei Malay weddings now have other additional ceremonies which include cake cutting, sarung cincin (giving jewelleries) etc are also adopted from other cultures. Some wedding custom adoptions depend on the districts and the origin of the couples such as the basuh kaki ceremony or the makan tamuan. Most of us do not realise the origins of some of these traditions which we followed from time immemorial.