We got the lucky chance to attend a traditional wedding in Yogyakarta. Indonesia, and specifically the island of Java has many long standing traditions. One of them is a festive two day wedding celebration. Attending was a once in a lifetime experience for us. In our opinion anyone who ever gets the chance to participate can consider themselves lucky and everyone who is part of this tradition is so even more.
There are many different customs and not every wedding and every part of Java is doing things the same way. This article „only“ covers what we got to experience. And when I say “Only” I also mean awesome. Here we go.
Day 1: Wedding preparation
At the house
The first day is the preparation for the coming wedding day and the marriage itself. In the afternoon, the Siraman, the holy bathing or the bridal shower, takes place. The house is already nicely decorated and especially the entry gate gets decorated with a lot of symbols. There is the Bekletepe (an ornament made from coconut leaves) to drive out evil spirits. Two banana trees on the side symbolize a good hearted, leading husband and growth for the family, a pair of sugar canes shall help to build a wholehearted family and young coconuts stand for a caring and loving couple.
The rest of the location was decorated rather modern, in a vintage hipster style, with pictures of the couple, a photo booth and the likes.
The festivities started with a prayer. We didn’t understand much of what was going on, as the ceremony was held in Javanese language. But being part of it and feeling the atmosphere already delivered. We felt like we were part of a movie.
The ceremony itself started with the bride asking her parents for permission to marry and for forgiveness for all the troubles she caused. This was followed by the mom giving her the parents blessing. Then we finally got to see my friend Dora, as her parents accompanied her to a chair at the pre-set “shower”. They mixed water with different flowers and started to ritually wash their daughter. This proceeding is meant to cleanse the couple and their souls. The father commences, followed by the mother and other esteemed elderly guest, who serve as moral role model. After the water bowl has been emptied, the parents smash it on the floor and say „Wis Pecah Pamore“ – The bride is now grown-up and ready to get married.
The parents then accompanied her back to the house and Evan, the groom, got the same proceeding. Afterwards, finally, the couple was allowed to see each other.
Just before we left, we saw the bride getting ready for the evening. There would be a long prayer for the marriage and she would have to stay up until midnight to be visited by an ancient goddess granting her even more beauties as she already possesses.
As were watching for a bit, Dora offered us to be dressed in traditional Javanese clothes the next day and to take part in the ceremony. We immediately agreed and drove home full of happy expectations for the coming day.
Day 2: The Javanese wedding
Preparing for the reception
The most impressive part took place at night on the wedding day, after Dora and Evan were married in a church in the morning. When we arrived, it took about an hour to get ready. Mostly for women this means makeup, traditional hair and clothing. For men, it’s much faster, as there is only a set of traditional garments to put on. Dora being the bride, sat there for at least three hours to get all her makeup and hair done. Everybody around us was busy getting ready and preparing each other. There was already some tension in the air, mixed with giddy anticipation.
When the sun set (around 6pm), a grand procession started. It was led by a ceremoniously dressed solider, followed by female candle bearers that wore floral leaves as decoration. Behind them 50 traditional soldiers, bearing instruments and drums, some wielding spears. All playing a slow, ceremonial tune as we passed through them to join the procession. In the center of it a horse carriage for the married couple awaited. All other selected villagers, dressed traditionally and so celebratory, lined up with us as we got behind the carriage to start the walk. It’s usually only the parents, siblings and other relatives that get selected for the ceremony. Did I mention we felt like in a movie the day before? At this very moment we were living in one. The drums and melody of the soldiers picked up again and off we went.
We ended at Dora’s parents house. Carried by the soldiers music we passed many of the villagers and guests who were watching from the side of the street. It was incredible. Like being the entourage of a king and queen in the midst of a royal wedding. It felt magical, yet also holy, while we slowly walked up to the house.
There, the couple got out of their carriage to walk the last part of their way. The soldiers took their positions, guarding their way as the dancers showered them with flower petals. In front of the entrance, the procession finally halted. On the ground lay a small birds nest with a raw egg inside it. The groom treaded on the egg and the bride washed his foot afterwards. This symbolizes, that the groom is ready to become a responsible father and a faithful husband.
Next we all entered the festivity grounds. The married couple and the parents were seated on a stage, while the rest gathered around and got to their assigned places. The couple would then first feed each other in front of everybody, showing that they now belong together, and afterwards kneel in front of each parent asking for their blessing. Every step was announced by a speaker and carried out with the help of two procession leaders. Again, there was the feeling of watching a royal wedding held publicly for the people.
Ensuing this two traditional dancers performed a love dance and subsequently started the congratulation ceremony. Every guest of the house came on stage to congratulate the parents and the happy couple.
The live band started to play and we continued on to the grand buffet. It was huge and there were many different small delicious things to choose from. Luckily my Indonesian friends offered us some guidance as to eat what. We could have easily gotten lost as there were around 1000 guests around us.
About two hours later everybody had given their wishes, enough photos had been taken, and people started to leave. By and by the support team took down the decoration. Tradition turned to technology as the groom got out his DJ set and started to spin up dance tunes for his remaining close friends and family.
We returned our traditional garment and joined the dance floor until we were got too tired to move. It was such an extraordinary day and all the impressions were still racing through our minds as we drove home through the night. Thank you Dora & Evan!