Article written by: Mr. Ahmad Nasikun
ASEAN-Korea Blog Correspondent, Indonesia
Javanese Traditional Wedding
Wedding ceremony in modern world only lasts few hours or in South Korea wedding party even occurs as short as 30 minutes. Bride and Groom stand up as center of attention in the front of wedding all, and then every guest comes one after another to congratulate the happy couple. Delicious food and beverages are also provided to welcome close friends, acquaintances, and relatives; thanking them for sparing their time to the wedding ceremony. Chit-chat among guests takes place as they enjoy the meal.
However, the very similar ceremony, the wedding ceremony, can last as long as 10 days in Javanese wedding system, particularly that of Central Java. By the end of March 2012, one of closest relatives held wedding ceremony in which the time span between beginning of the event and its end was 10 days. It started 7 days before the wedding ceremony and the last event was 3 days after it.
The Importance of Community Bonding
Marriage in Javanese culture is not only about a particular family has a new member, but it is also important that the new member will get along well with the community she/he will reside and spend her/his life thereafter. Moreover, the family that holds the wedding also wants to share their happiness with relatives, neighbors, and friends, so there must be quite long enough time to spend with them during one of the most important event in their life time. Therefore, the wedding ceremony takes significantly long period of time.
Seven days before the wedding, the event starts, in which both families of bride and groom will invite their neighbors and relatives to come to their house to announce the wedding, separately. Around 7.00 pm people will crowd the house and the local community leader will open the ceremony by congratulating them, wishing them good fortune, and hoping that the newly-married couple will get along well with the community. To symbolize the start of their very important event, “tumpeng” (a cone-shape yellow rice and a whole-body steamed chicken) is served for the guests. As that ends, some might go back home but many will stay in the groom/bride house until as late as 01.00 in the morning, while enjoying hot coffee, various traditional Javanese snacks, and engaging in conversations.
Sequence of Cultural Events
Then from D-5 until D-2 the host still opening their house door to welcome any neighbor who want to stop by. Normally starting from 7.00 pm until late 01.00 am neighbors come to visit, in which they are engaged in very warm conversations, while enjoying the snacks and traditionally-made tea. Some neighbor children meet their friends and play some card games, sharing the joy of the married couple; middle-aged relatives also come quite often during those 5 days periods to spend time and get closer with their families; and young friends of soon-to-be-married bride/groom also stop by after works, to motivate their friends before entering a brand new episode of their life.
As expected, D-1 and D-Day are the peak of the event, the climax of happiness for the family. If in the D-6 until D-2 relatives and friends come for engaging in conversation and enjoying snacks, during these two days they come with their best gifts. An important note on this issue is that the gift is not only for the wedding bride/groom but also for the family. Women normally daily goods such as rice, sugars, snacks, clothes, or gold accessories, and those gifts are given to the mother of the bride/groom. For the father of the bride/groom, the men normally bring a big pack of cigarettes. The gifts for the bride and groom normally are from their friends and relatives, given separately from the ones for the family, which can be either some amount of money, clothes, cigarettes, or daily needs.
Starting from D-1 the family will provide special meal for the visiting guests, most often consist of either chicken, sheep, or beef and various kinds of beverages and snacks. For as long as two days the family will continuously provide delicious meal for anybody that comes. On D-1, more people that come are neighbors and close relatives, while the friends and relatives that do not quite get along well or live in different cities will come on D-Day.
D-Day is the busiest for the bride and groom, a very tiring day. In the morning they still stay in their own house, then on the afternoon a group of only-women-guests, normally groom’s relatives, will march together with several decorated cars to go to bride’s house, bringing various gifts for the bride’s family. As ‘thank you’ expression, then the bride side will provide them with delicious meals and give the ones who bring those gifts some certain amount of cash. After a few hours of engaging in conversation, the group will depart back to the groom’s house.
Figure 1: The Groom conducted the “Ijab Qobul” lead by local community leader.
Quite early on the evening, the group of mostly-men and few girls from groom’s family will be heading to beautifully dressed bride, who is waiting for her destined man. Coming with specially decorated cars and gifts, the groom is ready to meet and declare his love. In most cases the groom side will bring a very nicely made wardrobe and a healthy cow for the bride’s family. Wardrobe is a symbol of the unification of two souls into one, where they will put clothes together on the wardrobe; and cow is the symbol of prosperity and welfare that the groom will try to bring to the bride’s family. As they arrive, the bride’s family will gladly welcome their arrival, then providing delicious meal for dinner.
Figure 2: Bride and Groom during photo session
After a while, the “ijab-qobul” [ee-jub qo-bool] (declaration of marriage between the groom and bride) is lead by local marriage institution, approved by the government, stating that both are now couple legally acknowledged by formal law and religious norms. The local leader then guide all the guests to pray together for the happiness of the couple thereafter. To celebrate happiness, those beautifully dressed bride and handsome groom will go to wedding stage to take their wedding pictures with relatives, families, and friends. The new couple will kneel down to their parents, kissing their hands, while at the same time the parents will deliver important words of advices. This process is called “sungkem” [soong-kem].
Figure 3: Bride and Groom performed “sungkem” to their parents.
On the night there is a quite funny celebration called “numplak ponjen” [noom-pluck pon-jaen] in which the local community leader will throw coins to the guests who stands in big circle shape around the community leader. The amount of money is insignificant, but it is believed that who get the money will receive good fortune in the future. Then the groom will take his new wife to his house to spend their first night.
The other two days after the wedding ceremony are normally cleaning day, not only cleaning the house after 7 days of celebration but also dividing the gifts and foods to relatives and close family. This is another fact of importance of community and family bonding in Javanese culture, the received gifts are not only to be kept by the newlyweds and their parents but they also share them with others. During the clean up, neighbors will help without any requirement to pay them, all are done voluntarily.
The last significant moment happens 3 days after the marriage. Family of groom will come to visit their new family, the family of their daughter’s husband. Since during the wedding celebration they are busy welcoming the guests, they do not have sufficient time to engage in personal communication with the other side family, which is called “besan” (bae-sun). They will spend around 3 hours talking more privately about their family in very colloquial way, in order to strengthen the relations between the two parties.
Varies of Javanese Culture
Such wedding might not happen in every part of Java, particularly in big cities like Semarang and Yogyakarta. However, if you go to place like Jepara, Demak, Kudus, and Pati, such celebration of wedding is very common. As culture in Indonesia is largely varied, few differences might be expected in different cities.