On a dusty day, a union formed…

We were out of place right from the beginning. It was clearly us and them. We are different, there is no doubt about that, from what is the norm in this small dusty beachside town. A white girl marrying a local boy… is more than enough to encourage a few raised eyebrows and a lot of interest.

We drove from our beach in an awkward procession of distracted drivers and stuffy cars. The bride and groom travelled in a shiny new soccer-mom car but they weren’t alone, no one is ever alone in this country. Crammed into the backseat were friends and family and on the window were two small stalks of red and pink flowers.

Behind the bride and groom came an old van, silver, rusted and worn by sand and salt and time. Crammed into this jolty old vehicle were the brides European family who must have been mystified if not completely in shock about the whole event… it couldn’t be more different to a western wedding. And to top it off, the entire service, ceremony and after party is conducted in a language that they don’t understand.

When we arrived at the little ramshackle marriage office there would have been at least 40 people in their best and finest. Best and finest here is not suits and gowns and diamonds there are no fancy hats or high heeled shoes. Wedding best here is jeans, collared shirts, batik sarongs or t-shirts and thongs. Some of the men wore suits, pinstriped and three sized too big, underneath the jacket was a t-shirt and adorning the head a rapper style sideways cap. The women were more formal, all in white or flowered headscarves, jeans or long pants and long coloured shirts.

The bride and groom in Indonesian finest marriage wear adorned with sparkles and golden batik and sheer white fabrics covering them both from head to toe.

We entered the tiny marriage office, the family in the main room, the rest of the guests in the following room and children, men and old women stood outside, their faces pressed against the ruddy glass.

During the ceremony the women in the second room giggled and made fun of the bride and groom, like school girls these mothers, teachers and grandmothers hid their faces in their headscraves to stifle their laughter. The men came in and out of the main room, to have a cigarette or play Nintendo DS out the front, even the borther of the groom took a break from the long ceremony (which must have lasted at most 30 minutes) for a smoke and a bit of a play before returning inside.

An important formality of an Indonesian marriage ceremony is when the groom offers the bride money. They say he isn’t buying her, but it seemed an awful lot like that to me. From what I could understand the money is hers, so if the marriage breaks up, if things go wrong, this money is her security net… Its an age old tradition that is now more a formality than anything else, or at least that’s the case in this relationship I’m sure. He speaks the amount of money that he is offering her and she of course accepts it gracefully. They ask for acceptance of this union from the crowd by calling Sa? To which everyone responds Sa! In fits of giggles and claps of soft brown hands.

The air outside was still with the heat and the buzz from the children playing on the soccer field across from the building was mangled in the thickness of it all. It was hotter yet inside. The formality of religion was being passed from Indonesian village life to the French city girl who sat at the table in silence. At least she could understand, her family sat on one side, grinning part out of pride and part out of the sheer absurdity and foreign custom that encapsulated the whole event. She signed her papers which signified a change in religion, a commitment to the church of Islam and a commitment to her new husband.

By the end of it all she looked hot, tired and confused but happy. When the two finally emerged they stood beside each other in front of the crowd and people lined to shake their hands. The locals looked on in the same sort of awe as we had all day as we kissed one cheek and then the other as a sign of respect and happiness… that’s not how they do things here.

The wedding party is not a formal event, it is a buffet serving of sate and noodles and vegetable soup. The music is dangdut, a traditional local style of music that is song by a very provocatively dressed girl who looks around 14 and is dressed in the same sort of clothes that kids where when they perform in shopping malls with cheesy spirit fingers and glossy Vaseline smiles. The marquee is set up in the families front yard and on the little street outside vendors offer deepfried sosiz on a stick to children and sell little plastic $2 shop toys.

The music was thumping and the guests sat around on plastic chairs unable to hear each other speak. Only one of the local crazies danced at the event.

In the evening we sat by candlelight and had a more western celebration we drank French champagne, cognac and beer whilst feasting on goose liver pate and a lamb on the spit roast. Everyone was more relaxed, the bride was showing her skin and was much more in her element. Friends gathered in a small group to celebrate the union of two worlds on the chocolate sandy beach of one of the most magical and mysterious villages in the world.

Barefoot… constantly in awe and celebration of the differences.

One Response to “On a dusty day, a union formed…”
  1. Jenny says:

    Hi, just dropped by and had to say, those are the finest bridal shoes I have ever seen. May I offer a belated congratulations? Gorgeous batik – I love the addition of the golden sparkles.

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