It is indeed an honour to be asked to a wedding, but when the wedding is between Diwi and Luia, and the ceremony is to be carried out in traditional Javanese dress in Jakarta, Indonesia it becomes even more than an honour. It snowballs into an event of great excitement and a fantastic opportunity for this homely Irish lass to display her worldly ways and openness to other cultures and their traditions.
This was definitely the only time ever in my career of wearing Coast dresses that I was confident no-one at the wedding would have the same dress. Having had two previous incidents of a ‘Coast Clash’ over the years, I was hopeful that lightning wouldn’t strike three times, surely the chances of meeting someone at an Indonesian wedding in Jakarta wearing the same dress were slim, and if not, ‘Please God let her not be slimmer than me, at least a size up, two if poss, thanks God’ went my prayer.
The invitation requested the pleasure of our company between 11a.m. and 1 o’clock, and it was estimated that c. 2,000 people would attend the conference centre to celebrate the union. Arriving five minutes before 11 we walked up the red carpeting steps of the building, where before us was a large table with at least 5 Receptionists. One of whom handed me a photo booth token and souvenir coupon. Another offered me what looked like a guest book and a pen and I duly signed, expressing my wish for the couple to have a long and happy life together. Incidentally I did notice that we were only number seven on the list, which meant either of two things, Indonesians weren’t into signing guest books or at 5 minutes before the ceremony we were early and everyone else was late. Fearful of missing out on the ceremony, after all it was only two hours and I wanted to get as much free champers as possible, we quickly bypassed the others and went inside the main hall.
The red carpet continued through the large room and led to a stage. Along the way there were large ornate vases, decorated with flowers and garlands and ribbons. The centre of the room was occupied by the expansive buffet laid on for all the guests. Around the periphery of the room were red covered stackable chairs, four rows deep, and all were occupied. There was also a VIP eating area, with four round tables and a surrounding decorative picket fence to highlight the importance of those within, I suppose.
The wedding party, c. 30 people strong entered the room, everybody proceeded to the edge of red carpet and the party slowly made their way to the stage. The bride and groom dressed head to toe traditional Javanese attire, looked sombre and neither they nor the attendees smiled. No happy atmosphere, no exaggerated oohs and aahhs at the dress and no jovial pucks in the arm to the groom as he marched to his destiny.
After a long speech in Bahasa Indonesia, (trying to look interested when you don’t understand the language is exhausting) but suddenly, midst the foreign tongue, I hear our names being called. We were the VIP’s, the only ones called to the stage, also the only white people in the room, where I kissed the bride, smudged her ornate make up and got a photograph taken with her black war paint plastered all over my cheek. The other 2,000 people in the room joined the queue to go on stage but the make-up smudge was not repeated.
In the VIP area, we dined on fried rice washed down with orange juice or water and buoyed up as I was with my new VIP status, I barely gave thought to the mini goats cheese tartlets and bubbly surely associated with V.I.P.ism back home. Leaving, I opted for a printed mug from the souvenir table but passed up on the photo booth opportunity.
It was the next day that I learned that the guest book was not a guest book, it was a list to correspond with the envelopes being handed out, the idea, to write your name in the book beside a number, place your money gift inside the envelope and mark same with the corresponding number.
At least no-one had the same dress.