Wedding Bells Jakarta-Style

I’ve shared so much of our Jakarta life: woes about my pond; frustration over the traffic and miscommunication; sorrows, as with Suharti’s death last month. It’s fitting and especially joyful to share glad tidings: This weekend Linda Hermawati, Rusnati and Rohemon’s oldest daughter, married Agung Iskander. As is the custom, the wedding was a three-day affair, beginning with a Muslim ceremony on Friday and culminating in a Javanese-style reception on Sunday to which Curtis and I were invited. Rusnati's mother and father came from Cirebon for the wedding. Rohemon, an only child, has his cousins there. (Agung's family was there as well, I just didn't get a photo of them)

Unlike Western weddings, which are more about getting things ready for the big event, Indonesian weddings are about readying the bride and groom for this life changing event.  For 5 nights before the wedding, the bride was prepared for the ceremony. Linda prayed and fasted during the day. She could not eat certain food including chicken or eggs. Each evening her mother (and other women in the family) washed Linda with an herbal scrub to make her skin soft and sweet-smelling.

Sunday’s reception was held at Rusnati and Rohemon’s home. The driveway beside the house was completely tented and festooned with flowers and decorations.

A dais with chairs for the bridal party, the parents of the bride, bride and groom, and parents of the groom stood in that order to greet each guest. It is customary to hold each person’s hands between yours during the greeting. Guests bless the couple by saying “selamat berbahagia” welcome/best wishes for your wedding. The first wedding we attended, our Driver, Aan and social guru, coached Curtis and I on the proper pronunciation of that phrase. We said it to everyone we met that day, not realizing we were wishing each of them happiness at upon their wedding.

The wedding party spends the entire reception on the raised dais, at the ready for photographs and to greet the next guests, and the next, and the next. Some receptions last 2 hours, some all evening. It is no wonder that Javanese wedding parties don’t smile. (Actually, smiling for photos is a relatively new practice in Indonesian, popularized by youngsters snapping and swapping pics via Handphone.) Not only do older Indonesians not smile for photos, many will not look at the camera and some refuse to have their pictures taken. Perhaps in the style of Native Americans, they believe the process of taking a photo takes part of their spirit?

Unlike Western weddings, there’s no dancing, no toasting, no speeches by the family—at least not at the reception. (I don’t know what happens at the other wedding events as I’ve never been.)  At large, hotel receptions there are constant announcements over a microphone. Guests are announced as they approach the wedding party; family members are announced as they enter the room, co-workers, friends and family members are called up to take photos with the wedding party as per a pre-set list. All this announcing mixed with twangy-clangy gamelan music and caterwauling by traditional singers is so loud it makes polite conversation impossible, so everyone has to yell…and the decibel level rises.

Mercifully, Linda and Agung spared us from that. The tone of their wedding was friendly, a pleasant blend of eating, drinking, chattering, children playing.

It was an honor for Curtis and me to share this joyous occasion with Rusnati, Rohemon and their families and friends.

Selamat Berbahagia, Linda and Agung!