One of my English department colleagues here at UNNES graciously invited me to attend the wedding reception for his niece a couple of weeks ago. What an amazing opportunity for another cultural experience here in Indonesia!
On a hot Sunday afternoon, hundreds of us gathered under tents in the family’s neighborhood to celebrate the marriage of this young couple. The family is Catholic Javanese, so earlier in the day, the actual wedding ceremony was held in a nearby church. Our role in the celebration was to come to the stage where the bride and groom, and their parents, were receiving guests’ congratulations and posing for pictures.
Then we shared in a bountiful spread of food that the caterers had displayed across numerous food stations, and found a shady spot to eat and listen to the music from the band/singers, as Puji and Teguh reminisced about their own wedding receptions (they had two!).
I love that my experiences here in Indonesia not only give me windows into this new (to me) and different culture, but also provide rich opportunities for me see connections between our two cultures. In many ways, this reception had all of the familiar elements of most American weddings I’ve attended:
- The newly married couple dressed in extravagant, beautiful clothing chosen specifically for this occasion,
- Extended family posing for a group photo,
- Music, food, and lots of people gathering to wish the couple well,
- A decorative box to collect monetary gifts/cards,
- A guest list that included friends, family, neighbors, and strangers to the couple who were somehow connected to people in their families and thus invited out of respect (that’s how I got an invitation!),
- Wedding favors and a guest book.
But, this reception was also very uniquely Javanese, in a variety of ways including these that stood out to me in particular:
We were in and out of there in less than an hour, which was a surprise to me.
The food offered tastes of typical Javanese cuisine, so no massive wedding cake or “cutting of the cake” ritual.
No one was doing the dreaded chicken dance, and there was juice and water, not an open bar!
The couple never left the stage, only rising from their ornate seats to pose for pictures.
Take a look at this close-up of the bride and groom – what beautiful wedding costumes! And, all of that black decoration you see around the bride’s hairline, forming a sort of crown – that’s all makeup! This woman stood (or sat) in the midday 90+ degree heat, on stage, in heavy clothing and makeup, smiling and maintaining total composure. She must have felt like she was melting, but never once let it show!