Wedding in Bali

by MaryLou Driedger, Aug 31, 2008 | Destinations: Indonesia / Bali
The front gate of a family compound in Bali is decorated for a wedding.

The front gate of a family compound in Bali is decorated for a wedding.

The front gate of a family compound in Bali is decorated for a wedding.
Women preparing special religious offerings for a wedding in Bali.
Woman preparing rice for a wedding feast in Bali.

My husband Dave and I were on a guided cycling trip in Bali near the village of Tanah Lot. We passed some men weaving an elaborate decoration for the gate to their family compound. We stopped to look. Our guide introduced us to the men who told us they were creating their artwork in preparation for a wedding. They immediately invited us to come and see what other family members were doing to get ready for the ‘big day.’

           We walked through the various tents set up in the courtyard where some forty people were working. Six women were preparing the ten kilos of rice required to feed the nearly three hundred wedding guests. An older lady wearing a colorful turban and a traditional skirt tossed the rice in the air from a flat basket in order to separate the husks from the rice kernels. She expertly caught the rice each time. Other women were washing the rice and spreading it out to dry. Three men were whittling wooden sticks for the beef and chicken satays that would be part of the wedding banquet. Dave stopped to chat with four women making a kind of sweet coconut paste and wrapping it in banana leaves. They invited him to try the delicacy.

           The people of Bali are very religious. Each family compound has many altars. Visits to the village temple are a weekly ritual. Unlike the rest of Indonesia, which is basically Muslim, the people of Bali are predominantly Hindu. However they practice a kind of Hinduism that includes unique religious practices. One of these customs is making daily floral and food offerings to present to the gods. Creating offerings for a wedding ceremony requires special expertise. In two tents we saw women preparing different offering baskets. One kind was made from pink and white clay. We were told these were complicated to make so an expert from another village had been hired to help the family. Another kind of offering basket was made out of palm leaves.

          I asked some women where the bride was. They pointed to the kitchen building at the back of the compound where food was cooking in huge iron vats over a fire. The bride poked her head shyly around the corner. One of the women laughed and put her arms way out in front of her stomach. Our guide told us they were trying to tell me that the bride was in her last months of pregnancy. Later on I found out many Balinese brides are pregnant, since men like confirmation their ‘wife-to-be’ is fertile before the wedding. However it is very important for couples to marry before the baby’s birth.

        Weddings in Bali cost around $1000 American. Saving money for a wedding can take time since the average Balinese worker earns only about $40 a month. People are expected to invite everyone in their village to a wedding. Marriage is very important in Bali and divorce still carries a major stigma, although it is acceptable if a couple remains childless. Women go to live with their husbands’ families after the wedding.

           As we left the compound we waved good-bye and thanked the artists who were still busy at work decorating the front gate. Weddings are obviously very important events in family life in Bali, just as they are all over the world.