It was not uncommon for early Chinese traders to take Malay women of Peninsular Malay or Sumatera as wives or concubines. Consequently the Baba Nyonya possessed a synergistic mix of Sino-Malay cultural traits.
Written records from the 19th and early 20th centuries show that Peranakan men usually took brides from within the local Peranakan community. Peranakan families occasionally imported brides from China and sent their daughters to China to find husbands.
Marriages within the community and of similar stature were the norm. Wealthy men prefigured to marry a chin choay: or matrilocal marriage where husband moved in with wife's family.
Proposals of marriage were made by a gift of a pinangan, a 2-tiered lacquered basket, to the intended bride's parents brought by a go-between who speaks on behalf of the suitor. Most Peranakans are not Muslim, and have retained the traditions of ancestor worship of the Chinese, though some converted to Christianity.
The wedding ceremony of the Peranakan is largely based on Chinese tradition, and is one of the most colorful wedding ceremonies in Malaysia and Singapore. At weddings, the Dondang Sayang, a form of extempore rhyming song in Malay sung and danced by guests at the wedding party, was a highlight. Someone would begin a romantic theme which was carried on by others, each taking the floor in turn, dancing in slow gyrations as they sang. It required quick wit and repartee and often gave rise to laughter and applause when a particularly clever phrase was sung. The melodic accents of the Baba-Nonya and their particular turns of phrase lend to the charm of this performance.