Balinese Hindu wedding ceremony or Pawiwahan is a sacred wedding ritual and consists of series of ceremonies that should be followed. It is one of the most important ceremonies in the life of a Balinese. Marriage is so important in the Balinese society that you have to fill it in on all personal documents (even on your resume) and when asked whether you are married or not, Balinese will always answer either yes or not yet. Being divorced or choosing not to get married is not a generally accepted situation, as the Balinese structure/ society heavily depends on this status.
Consider yourself lucky if you have the opportunity to attend a Balinese wedding. The fascinating wedding ceremonies and festivities give you a unique opportunity to see the Balinese traditions in ‘real life’ and to get more understanding about them.
Don’t be surprised or suspicious when you get an invitation-
“The More the Merrier” this seems to be one of the most important concepts of an Indonesian wedding. Literally every family member (even far relatives), acquaintance, colleague or business partner will be invited to the wedding (depending on the budget of the family, but most will go out of their way to make sure everybody they know if invited). When you receive an invitation, make sure to go! Balinese are really honored by your attendance. Even just dropping by (which most of them to during the day anyway) shows that you care, that you respect the people and your relationship with them. You need not question the intention of someone you just met when they invite you to their cousins wedding: joining a group of others that are invited, even if you did not receive an invitation personally addressed to you, is also appreciated and they really want you to come and join in on the festivities!
Balinese wedding traditions
As most Balinese are Hindu we will discuss the ways of the Hindu marriage here. In a traditional Hindu marriage in general the woman follows the man. That means that from the day of the wedding the woman will leave her own family compound and join her husband in his. In some traditions the wife-to-be joins her husband-to-be in his compound 3 days before the wedding, where they are not allowed to leave the premise. This is to avoid tempting the ‘bad spirits’. From the moment of the wedding his family is the place where she belongs, she will participate in all the family ceremonies of her husbands’ family and she will participate in all the daily female chores (like sweeping, making offerings and cooking) that all the other women in the compound do as well.
Balinese wedding costumes
The male and female wedding costumes are very great, there are lots of colors, gold (heavy crown) and make-up (for both man and female!!). The more expensive a wedding is, the more costumes the woman will have. Usually the woman would have one outfit for the ceremonies in the morning, and one for the rest of the day- the reception.
Balinese wedding gifts
When you are invited to a Balinese wedding, you may think you need to bring something. However it is Balinese custom to bring an envelope with money in it. In the old days people would bring rice and coffee, but nowadays if you do want bring a gift, it would be something like drinking glasses, or something else to celebrate their union and their lives together.
Top photo by Akusara photography
Photo below by Volunteer Guide Bali