In the Minangkabau matrilineage, the mother is the head of the family. The children receive their clan name and inheritance from their mother’s family. Usually, the mother’s brother called mamak, is responsible for his sister’s well-being. He is supposed to give guidance and advice to his sister(s), nieces and nephews. If the mamak can afford it, he is expected to support them financially as well. When he passes away, his mother’s ancestral inheritance will go to the family of his sister(s), too. However, they will not inherit the wealth that he himself acquired on his own.
The father, of course is a respected member of the family. His opinion and suggestions are taken into consideration, although they are not decisive. For instance, he does not have a say in his children’s marriage. On the other hand, he does not need to worry about the expenses of the wedding ceremony because his children will be taken care of by his wife’s brothers and sisters.
In a certain area, part of the wedding ceremony is fetching the room from his house by the bride’s aunts and uncles. In this area, the delegation of elders presents a dowry to the groom and performs a recital of poems and proverbs. This is the way to persuade the groom’s family to release him. If all goes well, the delegation then escorts the groom to the bride’s house. On some occasions, the bride’s family have to negotiate a hard bargain, particularly if the groom is rich, well educated, and handsome. They have to be able to recite catchy, witty poems and proverbs in addition to presenting expensive gifts to the groom.
A Minangkabau household consists of one big extended family who lives in a family house called Rumah Gadang. A married man is not expected to take charge of this group of people into which he is married. He is not supposed to stay at his wife’s house during the day. He may spend his time at his mother’s household, at the mosque or at his place of business and he is not expected to be back home before the sun sets.However, this tradition is gradually gaining less importance, particularly among the educated living in big cities. A married couple may decide to move to another city, far away from the couple’s parents. When separation from the elder females occurs, the main breadwinner of the household, usually the husband, will assume a more decisive say in family matters.