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Traditional Iban Wedding

The higher the status of the bride and her family, the more were the heads of enemies required as dowry.

− Lars Kutak : The Trail of the Ibans

Wedding 3

Getting Married Iban-Style in Sarawak

If you simply want a bridal photo shoot with the locals, look elsewhere. This is truly one of the most exotic and authentic ways of tying the knot.

We can prepare your event of a lifetime in the authentic traditional style  of the Iban headhunters of Borneo. Be mesmerized by the ritual and complexity of Iban marriage; their rules and regulations, sacrifices and gong salutes to the spirits. Allow yourselves to be adopted by your foster families and participate in their daily lives – until they “give you away” during the nuptial ceremony in the time-honoured Iban way.

As you tie the knot, the whole community will ask the spirits for good fortune and health in your future life together. Once married according to Iban adat (customary law), you have the whole of Sarawak to choose from for a blissful honeymoon. If you can bear to leave the longhouse, that is.

Suggested Itinerary

Day 1 – Arrive Kuching (D): Meet and greet on arrival at Kuching International Airport and transfer  to Hotel in Kuching City Centre. Evening dinner will be served in the hotel. Overnight

Day 2 – Kuching – Lemanak (B L D): After breakfast, depart Kuching by air-conditioned van for the Lemanak River. First stop is the colourful farmers’ market in Serian town, with time for shopping or a coffee break in one of the many cafés. Continue through rural Sarawak, enjoying the distant mountain scenery while passing paddy fields, rubber plantations and the occasional longhouse. Visit a pepper garden to learn how this valuable spice is grown.  Lunch is at Lachau Bazaar, where local Iban farmers come to sell their produce and handicrafts.  After lunch, we enter the Iban Heartland, with longhouses every kilometre or so along the road. After about 90 minutes you will arrive at the Lemanak River jetty and board a native longboat.

After a 40-60 minute river journey in the shade of overhanging ensurai trees, you will arrive at the longhouse jetty to be met with a rousing welcome from the chief and longhouse residents. A special miring or welcoming ceremony will be performed involving the ritual sacrifice of a pig, before each of you is led to your respective foster family’s longhouse. As you sit and sip the traditional rice wine at the common verandah, learn more from your guide about the rituals and ceremonies you will take part in to earn your spouse’s hand in marriage. Dinner will be served with your respective foster families. Overnight in the longhouse.

Day 3 – Lemanak – Wedding Ceremony (B L D): After breakfast, meet up with your guide to observe the cockfighting which is still part of important ceremonies until today, then try your skills on the blowpipe. Proceed for a cruise up the Lemanak River and take your picnic lunch at the riverbank – cooked in bamboo the traditional way. Enjoy a swim in the jungle river before returning to the Longhouse, where you can take a well-needed rest before the wedding rites commence in the evening. The nuptial ceremony is conducted the traditional way, with authentic costumes and full regalia, by the entire Iban community. Blessing rituals such as Ngambi Indu and Melah Pinang will take place, followed by a night of merry making and fun and games until early morning. Overnight in the longhouse.

Day 4 – Lemanak Kuching (B L): After a late and leisurely breakfast at the Lodge, you can say your fond farewells and depart downriver by longboat, than overland to Kuching with lunch en route. Proceed to your City Hotel for check-in. Evening free at leisure, for a romantic stroll or boat ride along the Kuching Waterfront, perhaps.

Day 5 – Kuching – End: After breakfast you are free at leisure. Later, transfer out  for departure flight or extension of stay.

Note 1: This is a suggested itinerary only. You want your tribal wedding to be unique and we can customise the programme to suit your exact wishes, including a host of honeymoon possibilities in both Sarawak and Sabah.

Note 2: Whilst your marriage is recognised under Iban customary law, it is not recognised under Malaysian law. If you wish to be legally married in Malaysia the procedure is somewhat more complicated, as shown here. We can assist should you require.

Hints & Tips

  • There is no hot water in the longhouse. Be prepared for cold showers, or bathe in the river like the Iban do.
  • The cockerels usually crow all night. If you are a light sleeper, bring some earplugs. We recommend the soft foam type, available from most pharmacies.
  • Mosquito nets are supplied. However, you should cover up or apply mosquito repellent to prevent getting bitten in and around the longhouse.
  • Don’t wear your best shoes. If the water is low, you may have to get out of the boat and help to push.
  • It is extremely impolite to refuse any food or drink by waving it away. If you are full or don’t like the look of something, just touch the offered plate or glass with your fingers.
  • The rice wine (tuak) is usually stronger than it appears.
  • Please don’t give any money, sweets or gifts to children. Anything you may wish to donate should be passed to the longhouse chief for equal distribution amongst all families. Your guide will advise.
  • Please carry small change and low value notes to buy drinks and souvenirs.
  • If you are vegetarian/vegan or have any food allergies, please let us know when you book so we can make the necessary arrangements.

What's Included in the Price?

This is entirely up to you. We will design a wedding package according to your specific requirements and full details will be included in our quotation.

Let us arrange the exotic tribal wedding of your dreams

Contact us now with your ideas or requirements and we will do our best to create that special day.

Photo Credits

All photos on this page were taken on the Lemanak River and neighbouring rivers, and are a fair representation of what you may expect to see. All images © Sarawak Tourism Board.

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