Monday May 24th
Aku sayang kamu = I love you
A Balinese Wedding
Imagine our surprise and delight when our couchsurfing hosts invited us to their friend’s house, to be guests, at a Balinese wedding. We were hugely grateful for this rare privilege. So we quickly got on our best travel gear and went along…
There is a Balinese saying which translates to, “ You are not just marrying the bride, but the family”. Balinese marriage means embracing the responsibility to care for the family as well. So most Balinese married couples live with their parents.
In Balinese culture, the wife not only takes the husbands name but also his caste. If the husband has a higher/lower caste than the wife, the wife will be upgraded/downgraded to the husband’s caste. Historically, the caste system was strict and determined who you could marry but now much greater flexibility is practiced. As you can imagine, a Balinese wedding is a often a long, colourful, complex, joyous and multi-layered affair. We were only able to see a few hours of this elaborate event.
In traditional Balinese culture there are four marriage systems.
The first and most common is Mapadick, meaning Proposed. It starts with the procession to meet the parents. The day is chosen using Balinese astronomy and in consultation with both the families. The family of the groom comes to ask for the bride. This ceremony called Ngidih, in English means “ask”. It is held at the bride’s house. The bride recognises leaving the house and leaving all her rights for inheritance as well – being released from her religious responsibilities towards her family and ancestors. Another ceremony is held at the groom house to “welcome” the bride being a future new family member. Then, the bride is officially moved to the groom house and she is also officially moved to the new family temple. These ceremonies might take place in the grooms home town where their family temple is located.
The second, is where the couple elope without parents consent. This might occur for example, if the groom comes from a lower caste. It rarely happens in reality and is more often a symbolic affair with actual consent from both families. Here the groom and his relatives will “kidnap” the bride.
Ngerorod is the Balinese word for elopement which entails much theatrical drama for the sake of tradition. The bride and groom arrange to meet and spend a night at a mutual friend’s house filled with offerings. The bride’s parents pretend to be outraged and then organise an unsuccessful search party while the couple secretly consummate the marriage. Finally, 42 whole days after the drama, there will be a public wedding. Although this is probably the most creative type of ceremony, eloping requires a much smaller budget and is a good choice for couples who want to incorporate fun and tradition without the extravagant cost.
Nyentana/Nyeburin is more unusual. This is a marriage where there is a change of status between the bride and the groom. The bride proposes to the groom and takes him to her home. This happens when the bride is the only child and needs to be Purusa as heir.
Lastly, Melegandang is forced marriage without love. This was historically used in the past Bali Kingdom, when kings wanted to acquire a woman.
The morning after the usual proposal or elopement, a priest performs a simple ceremony called mekala – kalaan, which is similar to a small civil wedding. It is a very private affair and the couple wears only the simplest of traditional Balinese clothes. Then they are legally married.
Often the family of the groom will put on a more elaborate, formal Balinese Wedding Ceremony in which everyone dresses up in traditional Balinese clothing and a priest presides. This is the occasion we were invited to attend and incorporated a delicious buffet feast too.
The groom generally also has a reception for friends of the couple who were not invited to the traditional ceremony, which is strictly western style.
Three days after the wedding procession, the family of the groom visit the family of the girl, at whose house the Ketipat Bantal ceremony is performed. At this ceremony, the two families become united.
Mantras are chanted and offerings given in order to purify the couples union and their future offspring from evil and the influence of demons.
Once married, the couple is automatically considered members of the banjar. Being a patriarchal society, Balinese men are considered the representatives of their families and expected to partake many roles in the banjar, while the women act as support. As members, a family is subjected to all obligations of the banjar and are entitled to banjar rights. Though times are changing, the banjar still remains one of the most important aspects of the Balinese community.
Along with the love between the couple, the love of family, religion and tradition; it unites and strengthens the Balinese culture.
We had an amazing experience as you can see and wish the happy couple every happiness…