When it is time for a young man to get married, his family will look around to identify a number of potential candidates. Having decided upon one particular young lady, then, the merisik of investigation process takes place. For this ceremony one or more representatives (wakil) of the young man’s family will pay a friendly visit to the family of the young woman whom they have in mind as his potential bride. The visit is purely for the purpose of further investigation. Its allows the visitors to see the young lady. A hint will be given to her parents regarding the purpose of the visit, and their reaction will be assessed. The girl’s parents may also give the visitors some idea as to whether or not their daughter will be interested in the match. The merisik does not constitute a formal proposal. Following the visit both sides can begin to think more seriously about the possibility or otherwise of the union. It is possible that no progress may take place, and the young man’s parents or representatives will then look for another possible candidate.
Being diligent adherents to their customs, traditions and religion, adat merisik in a Malay marriage ritual serves the Islamic injunction that a man must never ask for the hand of a maiden who is already engaged to another.
As is typical of the Malay culture, the art of subtlety in communication is rather obvious during the verbal exchanges here. An exchange of pantuns (rhymes) is a regular feature especially among the elites. My explanation for the subtlety would perhaps be the avoidance of embarrasment in the event the visitors intention is not accepted.
Thus, once the groom's entourage are seated, the host representative may commence the proceedings with an opening pantun:
Sungai Buluh panjang berbatu
Ada Patin, kelisa dan haruan,
Ramai sungguh datang bertamu,
Apa niat, apakah tujuan?
Kembang di taman berbau harum,
Bau semerbak seluruh desa,
Di taman tuan bunga sekuntum,
Kami bertanya sudahkah berpunya?
And the conversation continues, interjected with a couple more or so of the pantuns.
Merisik usually ends pleasantly since even before the prospective groom's arrival, the groom's side would have made discreet inquiries to avoid unpleasantness of being rejected.
So the merisik usually ends in Adat Bertunang Meminang (Engagement Ceremony). in order to save time and cost for another delegation to be sent for the Adat Bertunang (engagement).
So the negotiations proceed with discussions centered on the Mas Kahwin, Hantaran (dowry), the number of accompanying gift trays (Dulang), date of the Akad Nikah (Solemnization of the Marriage according to Islamic tenets), and the number of guests the groom's entourage will contain, during the majlis akad nikah.
The Islamic requirement of the Mas Kahwin is very minimal, however, since the groom is also expected to bear the cost of the wedding reception, these two items are mentioned as two separate amounts and are commonly referred to as (1)Mas Kahwin and (2)Belanja, also referred to as Belanja Hangus.
From the Islamic viewpoint though, the Mas Kahwin is the only compulsory requirement, but the issue of bearing the cost of the wedding reception is left to the families involved to agree. Having completed the merisik and the bertunang, the next important even in a Malay Wedding is the Majlis Akad Nikah.