Things You Learn at a Balinese Wedding

An invitation to a Balinese wedding is a rare occurrence for a foreigner, and an honor. When Wayan said she wanted me to come to her sister’s wedding I was very excited! I checked with Ketut to make sure he and his motorbike were available to spend the day in a remote village near Mt. Bratan. He was. He said it would take about an hour to get to Palian Banjar in Luwus where the festivities were to occur.

At 8:30 on the appointed day, I arranged myself side-saddle on the motorbike, in my temple clothes, and we set out. I was surprised that Ketut didn’t offer me a helmet. We passed police on the way and I asked him if I should have one on. “No problem,” he said. Usually he won’t let me out of the gate without one. Later, Komang, Wayan’s husband, informed me that when women are in temple clothes a helmet isn’t required. “It will break their hair,” he said. By the time we arrived, having spent an hour with the wind whipping my ‘do’ at 50 mph, my hair was pretty well broken anyway!

P1030401Weddings are an all day affair. When Ketut and I arrived at the bride’s family compound, neither the bride nor the groom was there. They, with the groom’s family, were all at his family home in another village about 45 minutes away.

Wayan and her relatives bustled around, preparing food and taking care of the children.  The pavilion that stages all the important rituals in a family’s life was bountifully decorated with rich fabrics and offerings, awaiting the return of the celebrated couple. An upside-down basket had been placed in the very center of the area with coconuts on top and offerings inside. The contents were offerings for the earth, Komang informed me. In another area there was an altar with more offerings. Those had been placed between the houses and the river. “If the spirits decide to check out what’s going on, they will see the food and stop to eat. This encourages them to come this far but no farther. P1030405P1030406

I asked the significance of the inverted basket. Inquiring minds want to know these things. I was told it was to keep the offerings safe from the dogs and the people roaming the area. Some things are simply practical.

I was invited to sit on the floor of a roofed terrace, and a bottle of sweet tea was brought with a plate of the Balinese kue. I love these sweet treats! They are usually stuffed with some combination of coconut, banana, or palm sugar, wrapped in a piece of banana leaf and boiled or steamed. There are many other variations of kue, slabs of striped seaweed gelatin, cupcakes in shocking colors, sesame seed balls, and coconut macaroon type confections to name a few. But those sticky-sweet rice confections are hard to leave alone.

The morning of the wedding, family members gather to socialize and continue preparations for the afternoon when friends and business associates will arrive. Wayan stir-fried a wok of fresh vegetables preparing mei goreng for the meal to be served later.

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This beauty posed by the huge cocoa pod.

Their property includes groves of trees that extend beyond the buildings and Komang offered to show me the gardens and the ‘investment’. As we strolled he pointed out jackfruit, squash, and many chocolate trees. I was curious about the investment, and I didn’t have to wait long. Two, soft-eyed cows watched us casually from their shelter. Hopefully they will produce milk and offspring.

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The family’s investment

We passed another area of empty stalls. “What are these for?” I asked. “Those are the pigs,” Komang replied. “Didn’t you see his head? We kill them for the wedding.” How did I miss a pig’s head? I followed Komang back to the sumptuous pavilion and there it was, right in plain sight in the midst of the towering offerings.

P1030436We see what we want to see, and the reverse is also true!

Back from our stroll, lunch was served. Wayan’s mei goring was perfect. The lawar, coconut sambal, shredded pork, and a number of dishes that will remain nameless because I couldn’t pronounce them, were enjoyed by all. But I was taken by crispy black chips in a serving dish. “Fried blood,” I was told when I asked. For some things, one taste is enough. That was one of those.

After lunch, I had ample opportunity to massacre the Indonesian language as I tried to communicate with the family. Maybe that’s why nobody’s smiling!

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I asked Komang to take a photo of me with my twin in yellow. We were both wearing our golden lace kebayas with the white, bone crushing Mona Lisa corset underneath! She has the traditional brooch and earrings that I see so many women wearing. That’s on my shopping list!

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Komang works in the hospitality industry and speaks beautiful English. As we chatted through the morning I learned a few Balinese idioms. One of the more portly women of the family sat down at a distance to us. Komang leaned over and said, “In Bali we say her plate is never dry.” That certainly says it all! A little later he told me that when someone thinks they know more than anyone else, they are called a Google mouth. I laughed until I thought I would burst right out of my corset!

The Balinese love to laugh. Their culture isn’t always subtle, and if they see something they tend to comment. Ketut noticed an attractive young woman and someone said, “Cuci mata?” They were asking him if he was window shopping! (Literally it means wash eyes.) He didn’t seem to mind.

I glanced off to the side and saw Komang retying his udeng using the window for a mirror. I admire the attractive, boat-shaped head coverings worn by Balinese men during ceremonies. I took the opportunity to snap his photo and did a little cuci mata myself!

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About 1:30 p.m. the bride and groom arrived. I was enthralled with the bride’s ornate headdress. She cooperated beautifully as I captured her front, back, and sideways!

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P1030446Balinese customs are radically different from those in the west. A couple usually doesn’t announce their engagement until the woman is pregnant. An elaborate abduction is planned where the man and his friends go to the woman’s compound and ‘steal’ her. After the ceremony, the wife remains with the husband’s family. In this case, the husband will remain with the wife’s family because there are no sons here to care for the bride’s parents as they age.

428619_10201026970344831_471840622_nAfter prayers in the family temple, and blessings on the ceremonial platform, the extended family began to disperse. It was about 3:30 in the afternoon. I had logged 8 hours in the corset and was ready to uncage my midsection. Wayan took me into a private room and I changed into much more comfortable clothing that would allow me to straddle the motorbike for the ride home. She produced a helmet since I had shed my temple clothes and my hairdo was no longer exempt. We said our good-by’s and were escorted out of the compound. What a lovely day!

But I didn’t want it to end. We were close to Mt. Bratan and I hadn’t seen this area yet. Ketut nosed the bike into a climb and we headed toward the summit. After about 20 minutes the sky turned black and ominous clouds cooled the air to an uncomfortable degree. Ketut did a swift 180 and we headed for home just in time. The rain caught up with us for a few minutes. We pulled off to the side and I wrapped my sarong around my shoulders, Superman style. It passed quickly and we were once again on our way down the mountain toward home.

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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. healingpilgrim
    May 11, 2013 @ 04:27:49

    Oh what a day! So glad it opened your eyes to new food, phrases and rituals. Love the Google Mouth saying, never heard it before!!

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  2. shanemac
    May 11, 2013 @ 05:59:44

    I understand what you mean about not wanting the day to end. My days in a Balinese village are times when the sense of community and welcome are strong and the customs are delightful. So is your description. You made the day come alive.

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  3. Diane Struble
    May 12, 2013 @ 00:30:42

    What an honor! I loved the bride’s hairpiece as well. And you looked lovely as well.

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  4. Sharon
    May 15, 2013 @ 09:18:43

    What a great experience sherry. I could feel it, thanks to your words and photos. Keep them coming…..

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    Reply

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