Malay Weddings Don’t Cost $50 and Other Facts about Malay Culture

was launched on 18 October 2014 (Saturday) at The Salon, National Museum of Singapore

A collection of 42 articles about Malay culture and heritage, lifestyle and personas, customs and practices, including controversial issues such as circumcision, supernatural beings, determining of virginity, and the infamous ‘$50-Malay-wedding’ remark that triggered a heated debate on racism in Singapore in October 2012.

ISBN 978-981-09-1051-8

The book is published by Helang Books. The publication is supported under the National Heritage Board’s Heritage Participation Grant (HPG).

The book is available at all major bookstores in Singapore and Malaysia and online.

The book is available in major bookstores in Singapore & Malaysia. You may also order online with

What Readers Say?

Nik Jassmin Hew, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I’ve finished your book. Good read. Enjoyed it. I like how you’ve listed most of everything that is Malay and how the religion is an important part of it. At first I looked at it as an academic book because of the lay out in front (I think). Subconsciously it felt a little awkward to read, because of how personal it is… and then I got used to the concept and enjoyed the personal stories… in fact found myself wanting to know more about your experiences… I like that you brought up abt Haj and abt Mandi Safar. They are 2 things I have stories for…. I like all the little anecdotes abt your experiences.. that Kuda Kepang one with your grandmother… even though like so short but I can imagine it.

Nik Jassmin Hew, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Dr Ang Swee Chai, London, England
It is a most beautiful book, lovingly written about a wonderful people. It brought back all the lovely memories I have growing up in Singapore. We lived next to a mosque and as kids my brother and I used to go to the mosque as it was so serene and clean. The smooth stone floors so soothing to walk on. I am not sure if the mosque is still there, and if not I hope wherever it is, it will still be as kind and restful for kids… We lived opposite Potong Pasir and had many Malay friends. We were invited to a Malay wedding even though we did not know the bride and the groom nor their family.
You have brought forth so much beauty from adversity. I am thinking of your Mango Tree, and now the caustic remarks of Amy Cheong. While they killed the Tree, her soul emerges to be with us forever in your book, and from the ignorance of Amy Cheong came this lovely book on the Malay people.
Dr Ang Swee Chai, London, England
KG Tan, Singapore

I’m reading halfway your latest book “Malay Weddings Don’t cost $50” and I enjoyed reading it as it’s very interesting just like ur previous book the “Yellow House”. Look forward to your next book.

KG Tan, Singapore
Noris Ismail, New York

It can be a national book icon. You managed to research it well and the story telling is not boring. You successfully ran away from being too academic/research-based. Your stories are based on reality, observations and experience. I enjoyed reading it. Being Malay, Malaysian, I am proud of you. Love the pictures, look and feel. The subject is not heavy – it’s music to the ears and feast to the eyes.

Noris Ismail, New York
Jenny & Richard Barry, Stamford, England

… am greatly interested to read about the many Hantu Hantu – 75 of them! Richard and I know how skilful they can be at stealing things away – such as spectacles and gloves – and hiding them in obscure places! We imagine them having a laugh when eventually we do find the purloined items. Your book is a splendid record of many aspects of Malay culture and no doubt Singapore and the world are grateful for your revealing it to a wider audience. 

Jenny & Richard Barry, Stamford, England

Other Comment

Book Reviews

Book Review

Buku Ringkas Lengkap perihal resam Melayu, Berita Harian, 22 December 2014

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Book of the Week

Areca Books, Penang, Malaysia,  November 2014

There is arguably no transgression more embarrassing than cultural ignorance, and none more clichéd than stereotyping. Years of co-existing as a harmonious unit is no guarantee that one will not commit the mother of all social blunders. One surefire way of avoiding such gaffes is through education, which brings us to our book-of-the-week – Hidayah Amin’s accomplished and soundly researched Malay Weddings Don’t Cost $50.

First off, don’t be misled by the main title of the book, which came about as a tongue-in-cheek response to a ‘racist remark’ made on Facebook. You may also have missed the smaller-print subtitle of the book – And other facts about Malay Culture. So yes, although there are several chapters on the Malay wedding and its rituals, the book covers a broader spectrum of contemporary and traditional subjects relevant and dear to Malays on both sides of the causeway, and perhaps even beyond. Culture runs deeper than politics, and so it must follow that wherever Malays find themselves, certain things will remain indelibly ingrained – culture being definitely one of them. For many people, Malays included, this book is a superb guide to all things Malay.

The book kicks off with the most essential yet overlooked topic – the Malay psyche (Malays Who?). It then progresses on to other equally significant issues like Malay names, homes, customs, rituals of birth and death, royalty, dietary taboos, melatah, the hijab, religious festivals and rituals, music, poetry, weaponry, superstitions and spooks. There is also a chapter dedicated to the most notable figure in Malay entertainment, P. Ramlee. Although the subjects Hidayah addresses are matter-of-fact and workaday, her writing style, thankfully, avoids the pitfall inevitably faced by lesser writers of similar topics – impersonal sterility. She introduces each subject with an amusing anecdote and her succinct essays strike a fine balance between seriousness and a distinctive d’un air décontracté. Her proficiency is unmistakable and you can tell that her heart and soul are invested in her stories.

READ column

Singapore Shelf, The Sunday Times, 26 October 2014ST_Read_26_Oct_2014

ASEAN Breakfast Call: Malay Weddings Don’t Cost $50

Radio Interview with Durian Asean (Kuala Lumpur-based online radio), 20 October 2014