Weddings: Kupang Edition

Two weekends ago I went to my first two weddings here in Kupang and they couldn’t have been more different from weddings on Java.

The first wedding was for a very close family member, a nephew of my ibu’s. We attended not only the wedding but the traditional proposal festivities as well. The night before the wedding, we went to the mother of the groom’s house to prepare to meet the bride’s relatives.

The wedding party waits to enter the bride’s family home

The youngest female family members served as sort of bridesmaids: they dressed in kebaya, the national dress of Indonesia, with sarongs featuring woven patterns distinct to the tribe they’re from. While these gifts look like a “bride price,” they’re just tradition; the marriage was decided months ago, was not arranged, and the act of asking is simply a formality.

Once we finished presenting the gifts (late–I was told by my sister-in-law that for some tribes, that incurs a fine!), everyone sat as a man in traditional clothes sort of MC’d. He led the prayers, directed the groom and bride through the steps of formalizing their engagement, and most importantly told the guests to eat afterward. When we first arrived the bride was no where in sight: the MC said, “There are eleven rooms in this house and your future wife is hiding in one of them. You have to find her. Don’t worry folks, it won’t take long–he has a good antenna.” That’s Indonesia, full of penis jokes, and not just here in Christian Kupang–Muslim Java loves phallus humor too.

Once he found her (quickly, great antenna), the groom presented his bride with traditional clothes from his tribe and after formally asking permission of the bride’s brother, the brother in turn gave the groom a sarong from his tribe. The groom then changed clothes to represent his bride’s tribe. It was incredibly sweet. The bride’s brother seemed genuinely happy to welcome the groom to his family. They sealed the deal with a nose kiss–common here among both men and women, mostly for relatives and close friends. I’ve done it a few times and I really dig it–it’s just a quick swipe of noses and people kind of pull their lips back to make sure they don’t kiss too which cracks me up.

The bride’s family cooked for everyone in attendance and I am not joking, this food was some of the best I’ve ever had in Indonesia. Just goes to show what a group of ibus can do in a kitchen. And then, we all returned the the groom’s family home where we were expected to eat AGAIN. Itulah Indonesia. We sat around for about an hour while people chatted, smoked, and ate sirih pinang–a bitter betel nut and powder that everyone eats especially on formal occasions and, though it’s a green stem and a white powder, when mixed together it turns your mouth red. Everyone says it makes you vomit if you’re not used to it. It also rots your teeth. I’m not on the sirih pinang train.

This is basically what every Indonesian party looks like: the same teal chairs, arranged in rows, where people sit to eat food they’ve taken from the buffet.

I couldn’t go to the actual ceremony because of a school district meeting, but from the pictures I saw it looked very much like a standard Christian wedding in the States. Long white dress, black suit and tie, in a church. The reception was strikingly similar to those in the States as well–with a few notable differences.

We arrived quite early; we’re close relatives so that’s fine, but the bride and groom were running exceptionally late. We didn’t eat dinner until two and a half hours after the reception was supposed to begin. My hanger knew no bounds. This reception hall…I could not believe it. I don’t know if I’ve ever been to a nicer wedding in the States. It was GORGEOUS. The entire thing was incredibly Western and unlike any reception I’ve attended in Indonesia; however, I should note that the groom is a police officer and the bride works in a bank which are both very prestigious, well paid jobs.

This wedding was bananas.

Another Master of Ceremonies at the reception, but this time he was more like Caesar Flickerman than kindly old man with penis jokes. He harassed me into joining the bouquet toss so we weren’t on the best terms. He introduced the entire bridal party and the immediate families of the bride and groom as they entered through pyrotechnics. Indoors. Who needs fire codes?

There were several explosions of fireworks like this as the bride and groom walked through them. Also that cake is fake–believe me, it was the first thing I asked when I walked in the room.

The MC also had the bride and groom kiss in front of everyone. I was shocked. I have never, ever in my two and a half years of living in Indonesia, seen any Indonesians kiss. Ever. It just doesn’t happen. Not even on TV. So to have two Indonesians kiss on stage in front of hundreds of people was mindblowing. Caesar invited various groups to pose for photos with the bride and groom, including groups of co-workers, university friends, etc. Then the couple shared their first dance under a gazeebo (and more fireworks), and finally we were invited to join the buffet line and eat. Notably there was no feet washing; on Java, usually the bride and groom wash their parents feet as a sign of respect and gratitude. Here there was just nose kisses all around. Because we ran late, there wasn’t much time for dancing but I still managed to join a sort of conga line of middle age people doing a tribal step dance. I also ran into my fellow PCV Larissa because literally everyone in Indonesia knows everyone else.

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Two bules, one wedding. #Indonesia

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Me and my whole family ♥

The second wedding I attended was infinitely busier but was a “kampung,” or a village wedding. While the first wedding took place in a hotel, this one took place in someone’s front yard–or rather, several people’s front yards. I thought this meant I could wear the casual jeans and a nice top of Java weddings, but when my bu was like, “…you’re wearing that?” I figured I was wrong and changed. Turns out all weddings are formal occasions here, unlike Java! Over 2,500 people were in attendance. None of the photos I took do justice to how many people were there. It was also a “VIP” wedding, an important businessman and a woman from Japan who had lived here most of her life. Even the mayor showed up. The bride and groom kissed at this wedding too but we didn’t stay for the dancing because it was quite a drive from home and we all had work in the morning. Also everyone was staring at me hard and it just wasn’t fun so I was glad to be done. Crowds in Indonesia are not my jam.

Yes, they all stared at me like this the entire time. This is my life here.

Overall, a really successful weekend and a great introduction to the wedding culture of Kupang! More photos below.


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