If you ever get invited to a wedding in another culture, always say yes. That’s exactly what I did recently, and I don’t regret it at all. When our Balinese neighbors invited us to attend a wedding of a family member in a nearby city, we accepted immediately.
The day started early, with us in our finest Balinese clothes and a road trip. We arrived at the home of the groom’s family, and I thought the wedding had already begun, but it was actually a different type of ceremony. Before the wedding ceremony, there was a ritual tooth filing. Because it was a holy day according to the Balinese calendar, the bride & groom shared the ceremony costs with 3 other families with daughters needing to get their pointy incisor teeth filed down. For more on that type of ceremony, check out my earlier blog post.
While the teeth filing was finishing, I explored the property. It was a large typical Balinese living complex, with the bedrooms for family arranged along the perimeter and a large pavilion in the middle for gatherings and family time. They also had a large family temple in the back of the property which was filled with Balinese Hindu chanters the entire time. There had to be at least 100 people gathered for the event. I was struck by the color of the event. I’ve loved the amount of color in Balinese culture, and this wedding ceremony was wall to wall in bright colors. From the flowers to the arches to the clothes and the offerings. It was stunning. The Balinese gamelan band played quietly in the background as guests continued to arrive, dropped off their gifts and greeted one another warmly. This was a family reunion, a holy day teeth filing, and a wedding rolled into one I realized.
The bridge & groom emerge, and begin to greet their guests and pose for photos. I hoped they wouldn’t mind a couple of foreign wedding crashers! They were gracious and kind, and thanked us for coming [in English!]. They were a sweet couple and we wished them the best, and posed for photos together. Everyone seemed to want photos of the foreigners wearing Balinese clothing with the Balinese couple. It was magnificent.
Soon the wedding ceremony began, and it began with a blessing. The bride & groom, and the girls with newly filed teeth stood in front of the high priest for a prayer of blessing and an anointing of holy water. Family members brought a string which was wrapped around them in a specific pattern. The couple led the processional across the property to stand in front of another priest to continue to the blessing of their marriage. I watched with rapt interested. Every single thing that was said, done and given had meaning. Nothing was done without a purpose. I thought back to my own wedding, and how I carefully chose each element of the ceremony. Although our ceremony looked radically different than the one in front of me, we both were making a commitment in front of our family and God to be united as one.
Soon the couple sat on a mat and began their prayers and chants with their offerings. I had no idea what was being said, as the entire ceremony was happening in Balinese, but I photographed the details of the event around me. It was too beautiful not to! After their prayers, the group rose to their feet and took their offerings back to a priest who blessed them again. And then they began talking their family and guests and taking more photos. People began moving to the field in the back of the house where the food tent was set up. I realized the ceremony was over, and now we were to celebrate. We filled our plates with delicious Balinese food, like satay lilit [cooked coconut & fish on a stick] and babi guiling [sucking pig].
The rest of the afternoon was filled with food, conversation, and photos. The bride & groom had left to do another smaller ceremony at the bride’s house, but would return soon. We helped our neighbors serve food and talked about the wedding, the couple, and the difference about weddings in America & Bali. It was a true test of our Indonesian language learning!
The couple returned in new clothes, and looked finer than before. They both wore a rich purple which looked so lush. They continued to chat with family & guests and pose for photos. We had already been at the event for 6 hours, and I know the bride & groom began their day much earlier. Apparently this party would go late into the night, and I felt sympathy for the couple in their heavy decadent clothes in the heat & humidity of Bali. But they were smiling like a couple in love, and didn’t seem to notice.
Eventually we said our farewells, and loaded up the car to drive home. I hadn’t understood everything that I had just watched, but I loved it just the same. Learning about a new culture has been some of my favorite moments while living here. Seeing how a man & woman became husband & wife was a big part of any culture. I was honored to be invited into this sacred event. I’d remember it always.