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Sunday, November 11, 2012

My Wedding - a letter of explanation to a friend

So Penny, how can I explain an Indonesian wedding. Well, let’s start from the beginning....

Once we’d agreed to get married, Yohana, or Uciel as her nickname dictates, convinced me to use a wedding planner. Her sound reasoning said that, as we both work full-time, it would mean less stress overall. I’m not sure in hindsight whether that was right or not but I guess they organised a lot, even if they did leave one or two of the more important decisions to us, and a tad last minute at that.
Anyway, once we’d decided to use Natasya Wedding Planners, they met with us at our house and showed us what we could have. Basically there were food and entertainment packages and these could be applied to just about anywhere we chose. We’d already checked out a number of venues and had an idea of the place that we wanted but the more we looked into it we felt these other places were ripping us off. To use venues that already had their own caterers, they wanted to charge us service charges to use our own caterers. So, we came up with an awesome location.....
On the outskirts of the city is a place called Taman Mini and it’s a park that, for want of a better explanation, is a miniature version of the whole of Indonesia. There are full sized replicas of houses that you can find on all of Indonesia’s islands as well as a lake with replicas of the islands themselves with the lake acting as the oceans, seas and straits that surround our archeapelago. All contained within a visitors park with cable cars and a great hotel, five minutes fromthe site of our wedding.
We chose North Sulawesi’s show house as our venue as it was a perfect size for 500 people. It caused a lot of confusion for many people who assumed it is where Uciel hails from. She’s actually from Klaten in Central Java.
But, back to the plan. I’ve split between clothing and the events for easiness sake....
Originally I was going to have a light cotton suit in a fawn colour but on visiting the tailor provided by the wedding planners, this turned into a classic black suit with straight tie for the daytime and with the addition of a waistcoat for the evening. The best man and ushers were wearing the same (except for the waistcoat and their ties would be gold to match the bridesmaids.
Uciel had two dresses. One for the daytime, a classic, white kebaya (a traditional Indonesian dress which is easier to show than explain) which was made to measure and which she has kept. For the evening she wore a more western white wedding dress and, as she’s a little on the small side, it was short at the front and long at the back.

The girls were split into two groups. We had the bridesmaids and the ang-pao girls (more about the ang-pao later). They had simple dresses in white (bridesmaids) and gold (ang-pao girls)
My Dad and Uciel’s Stepdad wore normal suits (as it happened, they both wore grey)
As for the Mums, they wore matching gold kebaya in the eveing and their own dresses in the daytime.
The day was split into two with the religious ceremony between 3pm and 5pm and the reception from 7pm until 9pm. It’s not acceptible to have no religion in Indonesia so if you want to get married without all of that you have to go to either Singapore or Bali, which is a Hindu dominated culture in Indonesia. Uciel is a protestant Christian so there was no messing about with swapping or converting religions as happens with people who marry Muslims.
The afternoon was exactly as you’d expect a wedding at home to be, albeit outside in glorious sunshine. The priest/pastor read sermons and we wear rings and sing hymns and I get to kiss the bride. Afterwards we sign a government document in the presence of a registrar and we’re officially married. To finish, it was just cake and tea for those who attended (about 100) while we went back to the park’s hotel where we’d booked rooms for our parents and us. Here the girls were able to re-do make-up and some people to change clothes. It was great being in the hotel and so close as we were able to chill with a beer or a coffee. Very relaxed.
The evening reception is what it’s really all about though. Muslim and Christain Javanese (from the island of Java) are complicated ceremonies with many formalities. I guess ours was a mix of both an Indonesian wedding and a western one.
The parents walk into the grounds first to be seated on a stage, followed by Uciel and I and then the best man and ushers paired off with the three bridesmaids. We take centre place on the stage, flanked by our parents, and we’re all sat in big armchairs and sofas (the male and female attendants now join the rest of the guests gathered at the venue.
There is an MC who narrates and guides the whole process...
1. approaching the stage
2. A prayer given by one of Uciel’s uncles
3. Cake cutting. Ok, this is the bit you’re really curious about. There were lots of tiers of cakes, but the symbolic cutting meant just pretending to slice the riers with a (real) knife, not a lightsabre The cakes are given to us to take away and distribute later.
4. Next was the toast. Some bottles of sparkling something (it looked like cherryade) is poured into a fountain of champagne glasses, after which, two bottles of Lanson were opened for the family. The toast is done with whatever is in your hand at the time. Most weddings are alcohol free events but we’d arranged a beer station giving bottles of beer away.
5. Speeches. This was a bit more western and my best man, Richard delivered a nervous, comedy-filled speech designed to poke fun at, and honour the two of us. After this my Dad gave his thanks to everyone. (Uciel’s stepdad is Korean and, I guess because of his accent and grasp of Indonesian, chose not to say anything)
6. Craziness. In our wedding plan, we were offered the choice of doing whatever we wanted here. We could dance, or have a quiz or, as most Indonesians do, do nothing. Our idea was to give a prize to someone. So we had a dance competition........ “Gangnam Style” . This, I swear, will ensure our wedding winds up in local legend as I’ve been told people have never seen anything like this before.
7. Throwing the bouquet. This was followed by a volley of fireworks located in the footlights of the stage, again, rather unusual by Indonesian standards.
8. Finally people climb the stage to greet us and the parents and then have group and individual photographs taken.
9 I said finally but it wasn’t. As 9pm approaced we were led from the stage by one of my teachers, Mike, for what he promised was a “special” surprise. He wasn’t kidding.
In our invitations we’d included the lyrics of a song. One from me to Uciel and one from her to me. I had chosen Peter Gabriel’s “In your Eyes” which you might know from the movie “Say Anything”with John Cusack. Uciel had chosen “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perry. Well, we sat on chairs in front of three of my teachers. Mike and guitar, Eric and ukelele and Chelsea with her flute, supported by two of our admin girls, Jessica and Dea on vocals. Then a microphone was pushed into my hand as i heard the opening bars of “In Your Eyes” and I sat and sang it to Uciel. This was followed by her singing her song to me.
To say this came as a surprise to us both is a complete and utter understatement (we needed the song sheets for the words!) but what it did do was end our night more perfectly than I can tell you. Even now, five days after the wedding, I am at a complete loss for words to describe the emotion I felt (and knowing how well you know me, I know you also can’t imagine me lost for words!)
I never did get back to the part about the ang-pao. Well, as Indonesia has a huge Chinese demographic, it has adopted some Chinese customs and this is one of them. Instead of buying wedding presents, people put mney into an envelope as a present. I guess this was intended as a start for most newly-wed’s married lives and it’s continued as a tradition.
I hope this goes some way to clearing up confusions and I know I will have missed some stuff out. Please feel free to ask me anything at all Penny.
The end result is that something I thought would never happen, has happened. I’m married to the most beautiful woman in the world and I’m happier than a person has a right to be.