Everything you need to know about marriage in Malaysia

13 Mar 2023·19 min to read
Everything you need to know about marriage in Malaysia 01

About 200,000 marriages are held every year in Malaysia. The southeast Asian country has interesting marriage traditions and laws guiding its practices for both nationals and foreigners. In Malaysia, there are two major forms of marriage that are legally binding. These are civil marriages as well as traditional or religious marriages. Both arranged marriages and love marriages are common among the Malays. According to tradition, when a man is mature and has found a person he loves and wants to settle down with, he shows the person to his family in the hopes of getting their blessing and approval to proceed with the marriage.

The families that follow ancient traditions or are in rural communities are usually in charge of both the proposal and acceptance of marriage requests. These family representatives are called "Syarak." Once both families have agreed on the marriage, the engagement is announced, and preparations immediately begin. During the ceremony, the groom and his family present various gift items to the bride's family. The groom also takes an engagement ring along to be presented to the bride. Depending on the bride's family’s preference, a bride price may have been presented during the engagement ceremony or at a later time. According to the traditions of a Malay marriage ceremony, there is both a dowry and a bride price.

The legal age to get married in Malaysia is 18 years; however, there are certain conditions and circumstances under which an underage woman may be allowed to marry. The Syariah court can give permission for the marriage of a 16- or 17-year-old as well as state chief ministers. Polygamy and polygyny are legal in Malaysia and are protected by the law. A man is allowed to take up to four wives or more. However, this law only applies to Muslims in the country. Christians and other religions are not allowed to get married to more than one person at a time. Let’s go straight to the rest of the article, where other important things to know about marriages in Singapore are discussed.

Civil Marriage 

Couples who want to perform a civil marriage must be registered and recognized under Malaysian law. A civil marriage is performed at the National Registration Department (NRD), and it is conducted by a registrar of marriages that has been appointed by the state. The partners intending to get married must have been residing in the local district of the NRD where they intend to get married for a minimum of 7 days.
After a notice of marriage is made and the application is duly completed, it is required for the registration of marriage to take place after 22 days, or at most a 6-month period from the application approval. There are certain documents and conditions that are required from the couple before they are permitted to get married in the country. These conditions are stated below.

Conditions for Marriage for Nationals

  • Both partners must freely consent to the marriage. Either party or both parties must not be forced into a marriage through threats or coercion.
  • The spouses must not be in a current relationship or marriage with any other person other than their partner.
  • The spouses must have the legal capacity to get married in Malaysia. This implies that there must not be a legal obstacle to getting married in the country.
  • Spouses below the age of 21 but above the age of 18 must get parental or guardian consent before they are permitted to get married. For spouses over 21 years old, parental or guardian consent is not required.
  • A female partner below the age of 18 but above the age of 16 may be permitted to get married under special circumstances by obtaining a special marriage license that has been granted by the Chief Minister. Any marriage that is held without the special license is void, according to the law.

Conditions for Marriage for Foreigners

  • Both partners must have been living in the district they intend to marry for a minimum of 7 days before submitting a marriage application to the National Registration Department (NRD).
  • An in-person presence of both partners getting married is required during the registration of such a marriage.
  • The registration of the marriage must take place after 21 days and no more than 60 days from the application. Couples have the option of paying an additional fee for an express license to speed up the whole process.
  • Both partners must obtain a stamp from the commissioner of oaths after the application form is received.

Required Documents 

The documents that both spouses planning to get married must submit during the registration process are stated below:

  • A government-issued valid means of identification (the Malaysian ID card)
  • An application form obtained from the registration department
  • Certificate of no impediment to marriage and single status. This paperwork is to show that there is no legal obstruction to getting married for both spouses and that neither partner is still in a previous marriage with someone else.
  • Colored passport photographs of both partners
  • Copies of birth certificates from both partners
  • Divorce or death certificate, as applicable. This document must show that a previous marriage was lawfully terminated in the case of separation or the death of a previous spouse.
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Religious marriages in Malaysia

These types of marriages are also recognized according to Malaysian law. However, Islamic marriage is the most popular type of marriage in Malaysia, and it is the only religious marriage that is legally binding. This is conducted in the mosque by an authorized imam. Not all religious bodies are authorized to perform marriage ceremonies. Couples must ensure the mosque where they are getting married is fully authorized and registered to perform marriages that are recognized and protected by Malaysian law.

Polygamous marriage in Malaysia

Polygamy is legal in Malaysia, and a man is allowed to marry up to four wives or more. In this type of marriage, a special permission must be granted by the Syariah court after all requirements under the Syariah laws for marriage have been fulfilled. Polygamy is only open to Muslims in Malaysia. It is prohibited for a person who is a non-Muslim to have more than one partner at a time. To enter into a marriage with another person, their previous marriage must have been terminated lawfully.

Marriage traditions in Malaysia


This is the first step in the traditions and rituals of marriage, and it is held in high regard. Here, the groom’s family meets the bride’s family in her house to properly exchange pleasantries and get to know each other better. This is also a time for the groom’s family to assess both the bride and her family to determine if they are fit for marriage.

Tepung Tamar

This is a unique Malaysian ceremonial rite where white rice, rice flour, yellow rice, and rose water are sprinkled on the hands of the couples. It is believed that this ritual blesses the couples and helps to keep them secure and have a long-lasting marriage.

Memimang Dan Bertunang

This is a pre-wedding ritual, which is referred to as the proposal and engagement part. Here, a representative from the groom’s family goes to ask for the bride's hand in marriage from her family. This representative is often an elder male member of the groom’s family. If both families are satisfied with each other, accept the proposal. The engagement has been announced. Following that, the groom's family presents various gifts to the bride and her family, as well as a suitable bride price.

Akad Nikah 

This is the solemnization in which the bride is given away to the groom. Here, an Islamic official, the Kadi, calls upon the bride to make sure she is comfortable with all the terms of the marriage. Once she accepts, the groom gives his wife a dowry. The Kadi then united them as husband and wife with the traditional handshake.

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Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties

Laws and Rights

Malaysia is one of the countries in the world that practices Sharia law. Since both foreigners and nationals are governed by its practices, the customs and traditions of most marriages follow Sharia law principles. According to Sharia law, the legal age to marry in Malaysia is 16 years for the woman and 18 years for the man. Marriage for minors is allowed, provided there is parental consent. However, there are many scenarios of child marriages in Malaysia that the authorities do not prohibit. However, activists and organizations across the world are working towards the abolishment of this practice. Intending couples, the woman's guardian (wali), and the presiding judge are expected to give their full consent to the marriage, and the formalization of the marriage has to be done by the woman's guardian (wali) or a representative before the registrar to make the marriage recognized by law.

The spouses will not be allowed to marry until the registrar confirms that the marriage intent is legal. Marriages under false claims are punishable under the law. Whoever wishes to practice polygamy must be given authorization by the court. Before registering their intent to marry at the national registration department, intending couples must have been in the district where they intend to marry at least 7 days before. You have up to 21 days to 6 months after submitting your marriage registration application to officially register your marriage. All documents provided for the application and registration of marriage must be up-to-date and valid, and both parties must be present. You would need to receive a stamp from the commissioner of oaths with a small fee upon receiving your application form. After receiving the stamp, you can then go ahead and pick the time and date for the wedding.

Intending Couples are expected to submit an application form, an original copy and a photocopy of MyKAD, the birth certificates of both parties, passport photographs, a certificate of singlehood, or a certificate of non-impediment to verify their marital status. In the event that one of the spouses was previously married, he or she is expected to provide a divorce or death certificate showing the annulment of the previous engagement.

Foreigners are also expected to submit these documents as well as their respective passports and a copy of the page that has all personal details and an arrival date, except for the MyKAD document, which is strictly for Malaysian nationals. On the wedding day, both parties and their chosen witnesses are expected to come with their valid identity documents. All parties must be properly dressed; shorts, slippers, t-shirts, and jeans are not allowed. Finally, the chosen witnesses must be at least 21 years old.

Due to the nature of the laws guiding marriage in Malaysia, the rights available to both parties in marriage are not totally equal, despite the efforts of organizations across the world. The law has not provided enough protection for the rights of women in marriage in Malaysia. Both parties have the right to live in their marital home and any property acquired during the marriage.The wife had the right to demand maintenance from her husband during their marriage. They both have the right to love, protect, and support each other, and the man has the right to marry more than one wife, while the wife has the right to know when the man intends to marry another wife.

The husband has the right to demand obedience from his wife or wives in exchange for providing for the financial well-being of the family. Both parties have the right to request a divorce on grounds of adultery, which must be proven beyond every reasonable doubt before the dissolution of the marriage can be granted, and upon annulment, the woman has the right to be financially settled. However, this right can be forfeited if she intends to keep custody of the children. The place of the woman is seen only in the home; however, she is allowed to pursue her dreams and work, but if she works without her husband's permission, she doesn't have a right to receive maintenance from her husband, and vice versa.


Weddings in Malaysia have become an extravagant affair as it shows the status of the families coming together as one. Families go to great lengths to have a lavish wedding; some begin saving even before the child is born, while others go into serious debt.

According to recent research, the average Malaysian wedding is estimated to cost around RM 50,000 to RM 200,000, and this package includes everything from the paperwork needed to the reception but excludes the honeymoon experience. Many couples in Malaysia have had to save a lot towards having the wedding of their dreams, and some have had to start a family with debt. 

According to Malaysian tradition, the two families would discuss and come to an agreement on how much the husband's family has to contribute to the ceremony and give a portion of that amount to the bride's family before the actual event. The 5 major things that make a wedding expensive are the reception, the attire of the couples, entertainment at the reception, decoration, photography, and/or videography. The amount of money spent on a Malaysian wedding still largely depends on how financially capable both parties are, and it is very advisable to just have a reception for immediate family so as to cut back on the cost of hosting a wedding.


Couples owe each other obligations and responsibilities. Couples in Malaysia are expected to fulfill these duties, and refusal to do so could lead to punishment under the law. Both parties have a duty to respect and be faithful to each other as long as they're bound by marriage. They are also obligated to provide for and maintain the household and the children by providing quality education and a conducive environment for them to grow. Both parties are expected to provide for the wellbeing of their children until they turn 18 years old. The man has a duty to be financially capable and treat his wife or wives equally with respect. The wife is tasked with the responsibility of motherhood in marriage and is expected to be subservient to her husband. The man is obligated by law to provide maintenance for his wife, and in return, she has to make herself available to him on all levels, and refusal to do so could lead to her forfeiting her right to maintenance.


Marriages are one of the most anticipated events in the lives of Malaysians, and there are various beautiful traditions and rituals that are used to celebrate marriage ceremonies. Couples may either get married in the National Registration Department or in their place of worship, such as a temple or church. Both marriages are legally binding as long as they have been duly registered under the law.
The couples are required to submit all necessary documents during the marriage registration, and the minimum legal age to get married in the country is 18 years. However, female spouses aged 16 and 17 may be permitted to get married if a special license has been granted to them by appropriate authorities.