The Marriage Ceremony

Understand the different types of wedding ceremony and celebrations in Indonesia...

An Indonesian marriage has three components: civil, religious, and a celebration which follows regional customs and traditions (adat).

The festive celebration is often separate, and may occur days or even weeks after the legal and religious ceremonies. Each region and ethnic group practises its own marriage customs. Sometimes the decision of how to celebrate is made by the family, but usually community traditions prevail.

Indonesian weddings are all at once colourful, joyous, and solemn. The married couple and guests are often dressed in traditional costume. Both local dignitaries and religious authorities speak; there is lots of food as well as music, and sometimes dancing.

At the end of the ceremony, wedding gifts of money which help towards the cost of the wedding are put into a wooden box. Money should be given in a sealed envelope.

The religious ceremony can be combined with a festive wedding party. When wedding vows have already taken place, though, there are no religious formalities.

Christian weddings are sometimes more westernised. Weddings take place in a church and the bride and groom wear western marriage clothes. A reception follows, where guests sometimes do not wear traditional dress and food is served.

Traditional Balinese weddings are complex, long, and rich in symbolism. They can take eight hours or more, involve walking from one part of town to another, and have ceremonial stages with many Hindu priests and prayers in different Hindu temples. Up to fifty officials can be present. Traditional orchestras and singers (Gamelan) are often part of the festivities.

A festive, communal wedding ceremony is usually the rule. Wedding invitations are sometimes sent out, but that is more of a formality. The entire neighbourhood where the married couple lives is welcome and expected to attend. Many friends and family donate time, money, and their help in preparing costumes, food, and everything else a marriage ceremony involves.