Brunei royal wedding: What is a powdering ceremony?

The 10-day celebration of Prince Mateena and Anisha Rosnah's nuptials includes religious and traditional rituals, as well as a glitzy wedding reception

Prince Abdul Mateen of Brunei looks resplendent at his Istiadat Berbedak or powdering ceremony. @faiqairudin / Instagram
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Centuries-old customs and traditions are being showcased in Brunei as the tiny nation state celebrates the wedding of Prince Abdul Mateen and Anisha Rosnah.

Prince Mateen, 32, is the son of the Sultan of Brunei, while his longtime girlfriend Rosnah is the granddaughter of one of the sultan's special advisers, Pehin Dato Isa.

On Wednesday, the fourth of the 10-day celebration, a powdering ceremony or Istiadat Berbedak was held.

During the Malay and Bruneian ceremony, practised now for hundreds of years, the groom and bride-to-be are blessed by their close family members who apply a powder paste to their hands. In some versions, it is applied to a couple's whole body by their respective family members. The ritual is meant to symbolise fertility and wealth.

Images of the powdering ceremony, held separately for the bride and groom, showed the couple in co-ordinated red.

Prince Mateen was the first to arrive, wearing a sepangadak merah or a traditional wedding attire as well as his royal regalia. The rituals began with a parade of 40 spear-carriers followed by the firing of 17 cannon. The sultan and his wife, Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha, started proceedings and applied the powder paste on Prince Mateen's palm, followed by the rest of his family members.

Once completed, Prince Mateen left the venue before Rosnah arrived with her entourage. Again, once the bride-to-be was seated with her palms open, the sultan and his wife began proceedings with their blessings, followed by the rest of the attendees.

January is a special month for the Brunei royals. Prince Mateen's sister, Princess Azemah, married their first cousin, Prince Bahar ibni Jefri Bolkiah, in January last year. Prince Mateen's older sister, Princess Fadzilah, also married her Iraqi partner, Abdullah Nabil Mahmoud Al-Hashimi, in January 2022.

Prince Mateen and Rosnah will officially exchange vows at a religious ceremony on Thursday, the fifth day of the celebration. A number of other ceremonies will then take place, culminating in a royal wedding reception on Sunday. On this day, bride and groom will take to the stage as husband and wife at a glitzy function. This will be followed by a parade through Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital of Brunei.

A glittering royal banquet will be held the next day, with guests from all around the world expected to attend. The list is rumoured to include Britain's Prince and Princess of Wales as well as Jordan's Crown Prince Hussein and Princess Rajwa, whose weddings Prince Mateen attended.

Updated: January 11, 2024, 2:19 PM