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Gifts of love

WHILE searching for suitable hantaran (Malay dowry or bridal gifts) for a friend’s engagement party in 2010, engineer Nordiana Ghafar soon realised that the decorations came at a high cost.

Nordiana, better known as Diana, then had a bright idea: “Why don’t we do it ourselves?”

She decided to make the bridal gift boxes and the decorations.

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“It turned out well and everyone loved it!” the 33-year-old said.

“After the event, my friend returned the props to me, but I thought of renting them out to enable everyone to have bridal gifts at a reasonable price.”

This led to her running a wedding hantaran props rental service, and the orders started pouring in, especially for fresh flower decorations for the dulang hantaran (gift trays).

“I have always loved to do anything that involves crafting or creating, so it felt like it was a calling for me.

“There was much trial and error, for sure, but I found my signature way of doing it the way I like it. I think it’s important for you to like your craft, first.”

According to Diana, hantaran are special gifts exchanged by both the bride’s and groom’s families, as they embark on their new journey through life together.

“Part of the hantaran includes food and sweets, to signify mutual unification between the two families. This unification is presented in a beautiful way through the hantaran. A lot of thought and effort goes into each tray.

“A pretty tray with flower decorations adds beauty to the hantaran. It’s like the cherry on top of the cake.

“It’s a part of the Malay custom to give odd numbers of dulang hantaran (the bride’s family sends two extra trays compared to the groom’s). However, these days couples often exchange the same number of trays.”

Diana, whose mother is a wedding planner, now creates custom-made hantaran at an affordable price.

“We do a lot of custom-made decorations based on the client’s preferences. Most of my clients ask us to suggest ideas.

“Normally, I would ask for their favourite colours and favourite themes. Through our discussions, the hantaran will usually turn out prettier than we imagined. It is a team effort from both sides.”

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Surprisingly, the simplest hantaran often proves to be the most challenging. “[Decorations that are] minimalist but pretty are the hardest to do,” said Diana.

She said ‘fairytale’ and ‘rustic’ concepts (with leaves as part of the decorations) are the latest trends.

“I started my entrepreneurial journey with hantaran, and it has worked out well for me so far. There is a demand for the service throughout Malaysia.

“I learned a lot in the process. So, I figured why don’t I share my experiences, especially with other women who wish to run their own business. From my own experience, hantaran is a good place to start.”

Diana, who shares her work on Instagram (@deannacreations) conducts workshops for hantaran, floral and bridal bouquets, and also has an Instagram marketing coaching programme to help new entrepreneurs.

When Diana herself got married in 2013, she designed her own hantaran and pelamin (stage for wedding ceremony).

“I did my hantaran and pelamin with the help of all my best friends. My in-laws were really happy to get fresh flower hantaran from us. They really appreciated the decorations,” she added.

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