Sunday, October 19, 2008

Islamic Javanese Wedding

Last night we went to an Islamic Javanese wedding. Islamic weddings are often multi-stage events with the official ceremony involving only the immediate family, and a reception occurring later, sometimes months later. For example, recently I went to a reception for the marriages of two brothers, both of whom had been married months earlier. This reception was very elaborate involving almost a thousand guests and involved a long greeting line with dozens of tables filled with food at the end. However, the event is only one of congratulating the married couple and then eating.

The event Lori and I went to last night was a much simpler event. As is customary, the wedding took place at the house of the bride. The road was blocked off to traffic and a sitting area was set up on the street under a canopy. The marriage ceremony took place in a small room in the house with only the couple, a few family members, and the Muslim official. The ceremony involved readings from the Quran and a prayer in Arabic, even though I am pretty sure neither the couple nor the family members understand Arabic. And then there was, of course, the paper work required by the state. It was a very simple ceremony, which I understand is the norm for Islamic weddings.

While the ceremony was simple, the bride and groom were in elaborate traditional Javanese dress. (See pictures) Both bride and groom had makeup on that lightened their complexion, making them whiter than normal. As I understand it, the desire to appear whiter is related to the association of physical labour with tanned skin. To have lighter skin is a sign of belonging to a higher economic class that does not have to engage in physical labour for a livelihood. A similar sign is men having long fingernails, usually only the thumb or pinkie.

After the wedding ceremony came the reception. The food was traditional Javanese food with rice, spicy vegetables and meat with peanut sauce. What was interesting was that on the tables were we sat were cups holding cigarettes. Many men smoke in Indonesia but I have never seen cigarettes distributed like this. All cigarette advertising in Indonesia comes with large warnings that are very explicit, but cigarettes are very cheap and boys start smoking when they are young. I haven't seen women smoking but I find it hard to believe that it doesn't happen. There might be some sort of social stigma attached to women smoking in public. Anyways, the men were helping themselves to the cigarettes but they didn't smoke around the table, which we greatly appreciated.

We had a good time visiting with friends and eating delicious food.


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