Erica and Matt Chua: A Wedding to Remember

I love weddings, so when we got the invitation to attend our friend’s Indonesian wedding we couldn’t pass up the opportunity, considering we would be in Asia anyway.  We arrived in Jakarta happy to see the familiar faces of friends Adrianne and Tom.  However, with all the details of an Indonesian wedding, they were busy much of the time with rehearsals and last minute preparation.  Lucky for us we were welcome to tag along for a first-hand cultural experience, one I couldn’t resist.

All the planning paid off, as the three-day event was beautiful, steeped in tradition and symbolism; providing a crash course in all things Javanese.  The bride and groom and the groom’s family, whom live in Jakarta were incredible hosts.  The extravaganza started with a welcome dinner where the guests were given gifts, swords for the men and jewelry for the women.  The flavorful food, amicable guests and delicious food set the tone for the next two days.

Siraman: Bathing Ceremony

Tom and Adrianne anxiously awaiting the bathing ceremony to begin, cleansing them in preparation for marriage

The festivities got under way on day two with a traditional bathing ceremony known as Siraman.  This ceremony is meant to cleanse the bride and groom both physically and spiritually to prepare them for the bond of marriage.  With Adrianne and Tom dressed in traditional Javanese batik and draped in jasmine flowers, which smelled lovely. Nine family members are chosen to pour ladles of water over their heads.  The water used in the ceremony is collected from different sites of familial importance making the ceremony very specific to the bride and groom.  I couldn’t resist snapping pictures of the surprised expressions resulting from cold water being poured over their heads.

Tom and Adrianne being cleansed during the bathing ceremony

Ijab: Signing of Wedding Documents

The wedding day itself consisted of two consecutive ceremonies, the first of which is the Ijab, the official signing of documents.  The bride and groom, father-of-the-bride, witnesses and the Imam (religious officiate) are all seated at a table for the transaction between the bride’s father and her future husband.  Much of this ceremony was just between the families as dowry was discussed and everyone exchanged handshakes.  Lucky for Tom, Adrianne excepted his dowry and did not ask for more even when prodded jokingly by the Imam.  It was fascinating to watch and culminated with the signing of the marriage documents and exchange of rings, similar to a ceremony in the U.S. without any official declaration or kiss.

The signing of the official wedding documents known as Ijab takes place at a table with the family, imam and witnesses

Traditional Javanese Wedding Ceremony

The arrival of the bride accompanied by her sister in law, Brooke on her right and made of honor, Sara on her left

The arrival of the groom and his entourage of family and friends

With the formalities taken care of, the table was removed and the fun began.  First the bride and groom threw betel leaves at each other, referred to as Balangan Suruh.  After this smile inducing exchange the groom stepped on an egg and the bride cleaned his foot as a symbol that she will faithfully take care of him, which is called Wiji Dadi.  Next Adrianne and Tom sat down to feed each other sticky rice as a part of Dahar, which symbolizes the couple enjoying their life together.  They were clearly enjoying themselves as they giggled between feedings.  Finally, the bride and groom respectfully bow to their parents and ask for their blessings making the ceremony complete.

Tom and Adrianne throwing betel leaves at each other as part of “Balangan Suruh”

Following the ceremony food was served and the reception began, which meant a flurry of activity and a tea service with a huge spread.  I could have filled up just on the small Indonesian snacks supplied with the tea.  All of the guests encouraged me to try each item as it was made available, woman in head scarves would nod at me insisting that I have another treat.  Not wanting to be rude I had seconds of everything from the buffet and indulged in spicy lamb, succulent roast beef, flavorful duck soup a bright wonton soup and numerous other dishes not to mention the delectable desserts.

Cutting of the wedding cake, just like the American tradition except there was no feeding each other cake, probably for the best.

The gorgeous setting and the live band were just icing on the cake as I mingled, ate, drank and admired the gorgeous bride and groom late into the night.  The revolving group of guests made for excellent people watching with vibrant batiks, intricately tied sarongs and bejeweled head scarves.  Part of me wanted to reinstate my vows right then and there- Indonesian style.  A night to remember and one I won’t soon forget.  Congratulations to Adrianne and Tom and a huge thanks to them and their families for an incredible experience that I couldn’t have wished to share with anyone else.  Here’s to many years of happy marriage!


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