With over 17,000 islands, Indonesia is home to a vast array of cultures, languages, and traditions.
However, more and more of the younger generations are moving to the cities to pursue higher educations and better employment opportunities. Though changes like this are happening globally, in Indonesia it’s eroding many of the old traditions.
This photo essay not only tells the story of a traditional Javanese wedding, but is a portrait of the celebration of a milestone within the rapidly evolving culture of a small, remote village near Mt. Ijen in eastern Java.
Preparation for the Wedding
Weddings are important events for these villages. In this particular village, almost every one of the 300 residents participated in the preparation of the ceremony—and this is only the bride’s side of the family. These ceremonies are not only a bond between husband and wife, but also between the villages. Usually, this arrangement is formed very early in their lives, although the wedding does not take place until adulthood.
INSIDER TIPYou can book a home-stay to stay with the family and experience these customs first hand.
Although Indonesian cuisine is mostly known for Nasi Goreng, a fried rice dish, the food can be diverse, incorporating a lot of sweets, like fried bananas, muffins, and pastries. Here, women are cooking traditional Indonesian dishes for the wedding ceremony. During the ceremony, men and women are seated separately. While the men smoke and drink coffee, the women keep an eye on the children.
The Drums Are Arriving
Long before the wedding party can be seen, the music from two drum bands can be heard. They start far away from the wedding, and with each step they grow increasingly loud. The noise is ecstatic, reminiscent of the exuberance of Carnival in Rio.
Once the band arrives, everyone leaves their seats, anxiously awaiting the wedding party.
Leading the Party
The drum bands lead the party to a throne where the bride and groom will be seated. They then participate in an epic drum-off that casts away all the bad spirits who would seek to harm this marriage.
Before the bride and groom arrive, children appear in typical Javanese dress. Every ethnic group has its own wedding dresses, with the Javanese donning some of the more elaborate threads. The dress resembles those of the former kingdom and the most impressive of these frocks are reserved for the bride and groom themselves.
The Bride and Groom Arrive
Following the children, the bride and groom arrive in their beautifully decorated coach. They seem very stressed—which is pretty natural for any wedding.
To emphasize their status, their traditional ornament is made to be the most excessive of all the wedding party. Standing next to the bride is her mother, who lends support as they make their way to the thrones in the center of the stage.
After the drums stop, the guests calm down and return to their seats, while the bride and groom take their places on the stage. They‘re accompanied by children of their close relatives, symbolizing a fertile wedding.
The ceremony isn’t really led by a single pastor, rather the tradition and process unfolds among them all as though it’s been choreographed. There‘s a protocol in place, which is followed by all, which almost makes the ceremony appear to be a chore, rather than a romantic life event.
Receiving the Blessings
In a traditional Javanese wedding, the receiving of the parent’s blessing is probably the most important part of the whole ceremony. They couple kneel down shaking hands, while the parents lay their hands on their shoulders.
Now married, it‘s time for a few snapshots with the parents to preserve the memories. Its tradition to display these photos very prominently in the entrance of your home. The bride is also now allowed to move into the house of the groom–before the wedding, it‘s strictly forbidden that they live together.