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Helping a groom look like a king for a day is certainly an art form Photo: Farhan Shafie

My First Time… Dressing A Groom In Traditional Wedding Garb

We're well aware of how beautiful brides look on their wedding day. But have you ever wondered what it takes to dress up a groom?

I've always been curious about the work that goes on behind-the-scenes at a traditional Malay wedding to help the men of the hour look the part, be it fitting them out in a Western-style suit or donning them in traditional baju songket.

While there is usually a bridal make-up artist or Mak Andam who follows the bride, who actually settle's the groom's sartorial needs?

Learning a new skill during the pandemic

When the pandemic hit and WFH became a norm, I wanted to learn a new skill to fill up my time and have a reason to get out of the house once in a while. That's when I reached out to Shukor Zahari, the founder of BESTMAN: The Groom Stylist.

For a long time, I've known about his work as a Pak Andam (groom stylist) and leading practioner in the Malay wedding industry. He's been in this line of work for over a decade, and has vast experience and knowledge of the customs and rituals that are required and need to be observed in a traditional Malay wedding. I'm definitely thankful for his guidance and wisdom.

Different types of groom outfits

Usually, Malay weddings consist of three outfits:

  1. baju nikah (above right, for the solemnisation)
  2. baju songket (above centre, for the wedding reception)
  3. Western outfit (for the final couple walk-in/outdoor photoshoot)

The Western outfits are often the most straightforward as you're mostly helping the groom fix their tie or bowtie and helping them ease into their vest and jacket.

The baju nikah is a simple traditional Malay costume or Baju Melayu accompanied by a songkok (Malay headgear) and samping (sarong cloth). The tying of the samping is where the Pak Andam is needed most as it is a delicate process and requires technique borne out of practice and repetition. I definitely struggled with this as it is unexpectedly tricky, and you have to tailor it to the body shape of the groom.

The traditional baju songket outfit for Malay weddings has some tricky and elaborate processes to make it look this snatched.Photo: Farhan Shafie

Most challenging outfit

The most difficult outfit to navigate is, without a doubt, the baju songket. This is the outfit that makes a groom look like royalty, and therefore, consists of a lot of intricate and elaborate components.

There is the songket outfit which uses a distinct textile. This is held up by the samping which is to be tied in such a way that it twists into a visually-pleasing fabric floral display at the front of the groom's waist.

The look is then completed by a tanjak (royal headgear) and keris (a traditional dagger that is a symbol of manhood and protection). It's pretty complex and it's up to the Pak Andam to ensure everything looks good throughout the day.

Helping grooms to manage their nerves

I think the most understated yet rewarding aspect of being a Pak Andam is that you'll be The Guy who is there with the groom throughout his big day. It's normal for the grooms' nerves to get the better of them, so talking to them helps to keep them calm - to a degree!

I think it helps that most of the grooms are around my age (late 20s), so it immediately puts them at ease when a peer is able to guide them through the proceedings.

All in all, I've really enjoyed the human interaction that comes with playing the role of a Pak Andam, on top of learning (more) about my culture. And if I ever decide to settle down, knowing how to achieve a fabulous fabric floral waist knot will be the least of my worries!

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