When a man and a woman share a sincere, loving relationship, this union is legalised in marriage. As official husband and wife this union becomes legal according to religion and tradition.
In Java , the decision to get married is usually made by the couple involved.
In the past, some marriages were decided by parents. Traditionally, this was based on the Javanese saying Witing tresno jalaran saka kulino – which means “Love grows with familiarity”.
In Javanese culture, a wedding is the beginning of the union between two families as family relations are strongly honoured. In this tradition, the couple informs their respective families that they have found a suitable partner.
Bibit, Bebet, Bobot
Traditionally, and according to tradition, a prospective daughter or son-in-law is accepted with the following in mind:
- Bibit - One’s family background and good name.
- Bebet - Guarantee that the prospective husband can provide for his family.
- Bobot -. Excellent credentials, good education and strong morals .
Once the union has been approved, several steps are taken prior to the wedding;
The prospective groom’s family proposes to the family of the prospective bride. Traditionally, they would sent a number of family members to act as envoys and ask for the lady’s hand in marriage. Nowadays, the prospective groom’s parents can propose directly to the parents of the prospective bride.
When the prospective bride’s family have accepted the proposal, they are required to consent to some important requirements such as the exact time of the wedding. A good day is decided upon as well as the best month and time which is considered good according to the Javanese tradition and calendar.
What constitutes a “good day”
The Javanese believe that certain activities should only be conducted on an auspicious day. For instance the building of a house, establishing a business, and weddings. All these should be conducted on an auspicious day in order that the house will be safe when occupied and will bring luck and happiness for the occupants. So too weddings must be conducted on certain days in order for the couple to live a happy, healthy, safe, prosperous life which produces healthy and good children. It is feared that if the wedding is conducted on a day which is unsuitable, the life of the couple will also be unhappy. Once the time and day of the wedding is decided, the schedule for other wedding rituals and ceremonies are also matched to schedule.
Pemaes - Beautician
It is absolutely important to decide on a good Pemaes – a traditional beautician who takes care of the make-up and hair and who dresses the bride and groom. Her role is very important in a traditional wedding ceremony because the beautician and her assistants are also in charge of the rituals. They lead the ceremony and conduct the traditional offerings sesaji, for each ceremony.
A Pemaes, who has a good reputation is very much sought after. In the ‘good months’ when many weddings are held, a well-known Pemaes, is booked every day to perform wedding ceremonies. There are four ‘good months’ for wedding in Javanese tradition: : Jumadilakhir, Rejeb, Ruwah and Besar. So it is important to book a wellknown Pemaes well in advance.
Once the date has been set, the venue for the wedding ceremonies must be decided upon. In Java, this is decided by the parents of the bride. The groom’s family play a minor role in the wedding preparations. The bride’s parents decide on the kind of ceremonies, music, dance performances and the size of the wedding according to their budget. It is not unusual for both parties to negotiate the costs involved.
The parents of the bride have to invite family members and close friends to form a committee where everyone is assigned a certain task in order that the wedding runs smoothly and without impediment.
They also have to decide on caterers.
But, traditional weddings are not only parties for family and friends, it is also a means to strengthen family ties, business relations and friendships. So, by paying an event organiser there is a risk that the opportunity to strengthen family ties is lost. By involving family, there is a certain ‘spirit’ which is shared by all involved. Hence, when using the services of an event organiser, it is advisable to still form a committee of family members who will greet guests, and show the spirit of gotong royong -mutual assistance – which is a tradition in Javanese society.
Attaching the Bleketepe and Tarub to the front fence
On the day before the wedding, the front gate of the bride’s parents is decorated with bleketepe and tarub. This is an arch made of plant with a significance in meaning called tuwuhan. On either side of the arch a banana tree with ripe fruits is planted which symbolises the capability to live anywhere as banana trees can live anywhere. And hopefully the family will have harmonious relationships with their neighbours wherever they live.
A pair of tebu wulung – reddish sugar cane, depict a committed will (mantebing kalbu in Javanese or mantapnya kalbu in Indonesian) so that the family is based on means : The new family shall build the the family wholeheartedly.
Cengkir gading – young yellow coconuts depict a strong mind (kencenging pikir in Javanese language) which is the hope that the new couple will build a strongly united family based on strong thoughts.
Various fresh leaves such as : beringin, mojokoro, alang-alang, dhadhap srep are symbols of hope so that , the couple shall live in safety and well-being.
Ornaments made of plaited coconut leaves, bekletepe, are hung above the gate of the house. It is meant o drive out evil spirits as well as a symbol that a wedding is taking place inside the house.
Prior to the instalment of Tarub and Bekletepe a special offering or sesaji- of rice cone, different kinds of fruits including bananas and coconuts, various dishes, cookies, drinks, flowers, jamu – herbal medicine, tempeh – a kind of tofu, buffalo meat, coconut sugar and a lantern are prepared as symbols of prayers to receive God’s blessings and the approval and blessings of ancestors as well as prevention from evil spirits.
The offerings are placed in several places where ritual ceremonies take place such as in the kitchen, bathroom, front gate, under the tarub decoration, in the streets nearby the house etc.
Rituals prior to Wedding
Siraman comes from the word siram which means to shower. So, on the day prior to the actual wedding, the bride and groom are showered in the rite of siraman to cleanse their bodies as well as their souls.
Both the bride and groom are showered in their respective parents’ homes.
The preparations for the siraman, include :
- The place for the siraman in the family bathroom or in a beautifully prepared area in the garden.
- People who should do the shower because apart from the parents of the bride and groom, family elders should be included. They must be women who ideally have grandchildren and a standing in the community.
- Items needed for this occasion are : A big bowl for water ( usually made of copper or bronze), a water dipper, a chair, setaman flowers- various flowers’ petals of rose, yasmin, magnolia, cananga in a bowl of fresh water, cloth, towel, kendi – earthenware flask with a neck and spout.
- The offerings for siraman consists of more than 10 items and include a live rooster.
- The family of the bride will send a bowl of water to the family of the groom. The water is called air suci perwitasari – the essence of life, which consists of water mixed with several kinds of petals. This water is used for the siraman for the groom.
- Once the Siraman is over, the bride wears a batik cloth of Grompol design around her waist and her body is covered with a batik cloth of Nagasari design. She is escorted to kamar pengantin-bride room where she will be part of the Ngerik ritual
Ngerik means “scraping” the hair on the bride’s forehead. The hair is dried and then perfumed powder or ratus wangi. is burnt and passed over the hair by the Pemaes. who then starts the bride’s make up and hair – digelung . the bride is then dressed in a traditional top called kebaya and a kain with the sidomukti or sidoasih, design which symbolises a prosperous life. The Ngerik offerings are identical to the offerings at the siraman ceremony.
This ritual takes place at the Bride’s house on the eve of the wedding. Once the bride is made up and looks as beautiful as a goddess or widodari she has to remain in her room and be awake from 6pm to midnight. It is believed that on this night the bride-to-be is accompanied by several goddesses who descent from heaven. The elders in the family(all women) remain with her to give advise which contain wisdom. There are several offerings in the bride’s room such as foods, herbal medicine, flowers, batik clothes.
This evening, the groom and his family pay a visit to the bride’s family but only the women may enter the bride’s room. The groom’s family eat and socialize with the bride’s family to get better acquanted but the groom must not enter the house. He has to remain outside (usually on the veranda) with some family members and friends and drink only water. This is to symbolise that he will be a patient husband.
Srah-srahan or Peningsetan
During midodareni ceremony, the family of the groom gives some items to the family of the bride. In earlier times, srah-srahan or Peningsetan is done before the midodareni night. Srah-srahan means to handover, to give. Peningsetan comes from the word singset means to tie up, it is symbolizing a strong commitment of marriage. The gifts consists of :
- A set of suruh ayu – beautiful betel leaves with the necessary ingredients, symbolizing a honest hope for safety.
- Several batik clothes of various designs for the bride, symbolizing happiness in life.
- A long white waist sash –stagen for the bride, symbolizing a strong wish.
- Several kind of foodstuffs a.o. : rice, sugar,salt, cooking oil, fruits etc. Symbolizing a prosperous and happy life for the new family.
- A set of wedding rings.
- On this occassion, the family of the groom give some money for the process of marriage. ( This is merely formality, as in fact they have already contributed the money ).
Note : According to Surakarta tradition, when the family of the groom is leaving, the bride’s family give them some gifts in return. It is called angsul-angsulan and consists of some fruits, cakes and a custume to be worn by the groom the following day. There is no angsul-angsulan in the Yogyakarta wedding tradition.
Usually all members of the groom family including the groom himself must leave the bride’s house at the end of the midodareni ceremony.But, sometimes both families reach an agreement of Nyantri i.e. the groom may stay in the house of bride’s parents. After his family leaves, at midnight, the groom is invited to enter the house for supper. After supper ,he is escorted to sleep in a room prepared for him. He is not allowed to see the bride .
Nyantri is done for practical reason. As the groom will have to be dressed for the wedding ceremony in the morning, it makes it easier for the bride and groom to be at the same location.
Ijab is the most important rite to legalize a marriage. Ijab is a wedding registration in accordance with Islamic religion. In Indonesia, a marriage is legalized according to the religion of the couple. It can be Islam, Christian, Catholic, Hindu, Buddha, Confusius,The believers of one God , Penghayat Kepada Tuhan Yang Maha Esa, are also recoqnized by the state in accordance to the Law of Republic of Indonesia No. 23 Year 2006 and the Government regulation N0.37 Year 2007. After the Ijab , the ceremony is followed by a civil registration which makes the couple legally husband and wife.
Panggih or Temu Manten
Panggih or Temu Manten Ceremony is a traditional ceremony which takes place in the home of the bride’s parents. It is the meeting of the bride and groom and is conducted immediately after the Ijab / religious marriage and the civil registration.
During this part of the ceremony, the groom is accompanied by his close relatives (but not his parents who are disallowed to be present) and stop at the front gate while the bride and her parents stand inside the front door. Two young girls called Patah, stand in front of the bride holding fans. Two boys or elderly women each hold a a one meter high floral bouquet called Kembar Mayang.
A female family member of the groom steps forward and gives the mother of the bride a token of appreciation for her hospitality in the form of a gift of bananas and flowers in a tray covered with banana leaves called Sanggan .
After the Panggih meeting between the bride and groom, the Kembar Mayang is strewn at the nearest intersection in order that no evil spirits can reach the house and disturb the matrimonials.
Balangan Suruh – Throwing betel leaves
The bride meets the groom in the front veranda of the house . They are approaching each other. When they are about two meters facing each other, they stop and start with the rite of Balangan Suruh.That is, throwing to each other seven bundles of betel leaves with lime inside tied with white yarn. They do it eagerly, smiling, witnessed happily by everyone presents. According to ancient belief, betel leaves have natural energy to drive out evil spirits.
Through this ritual of Balangan Suruh, the bride and the groom are the real persons, not ghosts nor fakes .
Following the previous rituals, the groom then crashes a chicken egg with his right foot, the bride washes his foot with water mixed with several kind of petals of flowers. It depicts, the groom is ready to become a responsible head of the family and the family will have good children.
The Yogyakarta pattern of this ritual is as follow :
The bride and the groom stand face to face. The bride kneels to wash the right foot of the groom with water mixed with several kind of flowers’ petals. The Pemaes- The Beautician who leads the ceremony holds a chicken egg in her right hand. She touches the forehead of the groom and the bride using the tip of the egg. Then, she breaks the egg above the petals of flowers on the floor between the bride and the groom. It depicts the couple have already a strong mind and they are aware to build a family based upon mutual love.They believe, blessed by The Loving God to have a happy family with good children.
Kacar Kucur or Tampa Kaya
The couple walks by holding each other with their little fingers to the site where this rite is going to be held i.e. in front of the Krobongan.( In a Javanese traditional house , every house has a Krobongan i.e a room located in the center of the house where offerings are placed on certain auspicious days. In front of the room stand a pair of wooden statues called Loro Blonyo, the symbol of prosperity. Prayers, meditation, special events including wedding ceremonies are held in front of the Krobongan.
The ritual Kacar Kucur depicts the husband gives all his income to his wife. In this rite, the groom gives to his wife some mixture of peanuts, soybean, rice, corns, yellow rice, dlingo bengle herbs, severaL kind of petals of flowers, coins ( the quantity of the coins must be even). The bride with open heart receives these gifts in a small white cloth, above an old mat on her lap. It symbolizes she must be a good wife and mother who always behaves responsibly.
Note : In the old days, the rite of Tampa Kaya, Dhahar Kembul- eating together are held in front of the Krobongan in the center of the house. Nowadays, even a wedding party is held in a hotel or convention hall, the rituals are also carried out.The place where these rituals are held is decorated with krobongan like ornaments.
Dhahar Klimah or Dhahar Kembul
The rite of eating together for the bride and the groom, witnessed by the parents and close families of the bride. The groom makes three small balls of yellow rice with dishes of fried eggs, tempeh, soybean, slices of dried fried meat ( abon), chicken’s liver.
First, the groom feeds the bride and in turn the bride feeds the groom. Then they drink sweet tea from the same cup. This rite depicts that from now on, they will use and enjoy their belongings together.
Mertui or Mapag Besan
The bride’s parents meet the parents of the groom in front of the house. If the wedding is held in a , function centre they will meet them in the front door of the reception hall. They walk together to the place of the ceremony. The mothers walk in front of the fathers. The parents of the groom are seated on the left side of of the newly wed couple. The bride’s parents sit on the right side of the couple.
The groom and the bride do sungkem (putting both hands together as in prayer and bowing seeking blessings) to both parents. First to the parents of the bride, then to the parents of the groom.
Sungkem is a show of deep respect, traditionally done :
- The parents sit on a chair.
- The bride and the groom kneel in front of them. The groom does the sungkem first to his father- in- law, then to mother-in-law. Kneeling he does a sembah- respecful greeting with his two palms of the hands joined together, fingertips upward, his two thumbs touching the tip of his nose. Slowly and lightly, he holds the right knee of his father – in-law and presses lightly his face to his father-in-law’s knee. In a low voice, politely, he says to him :” I give you my pangabekti – devotion”.
- The father-in-law with his left hand touching the upper part of his son-in-law’s back, in whispering voice says :” Accept my sincere blessings”.
While the groom is doing sungkem, he is not allowed to wear his kris-dagger. Temporarily, the Pemaes holds the kris. After the sungkeman, the groom wears again his kris. After the groom, the bride is also doing sungkem. Then they do sungkem also to parents of the groom.
The sungkem ceremony is very touchy for the parents as well as for the newlyweds. The parents wholeheartedly accept their children’s love and devotion and at the same time, they give the very best wishes to their children to live happily in a harmonious fortunate family.
In fact, the parents have given their blessing to the newly wed couple by wearing batik clothes of truntum designs during the wedding ceremony. It means a wish for fortunate life for the couple.
The parents of both sides also wear the same design of Sindhur – a large and long waist sash with its curved edges which means life is like a river which winds through the mountains which symbolises that the parents are imploring their offspring to act wisely in their walk in life.
The above rituals are mainly performed in a Yogyakarta wedding. In Surakarta and other regions of Java, there are additional rituals which are explained below:
After the ritual of Wiji Dadi, the father of the bride leads the newly wed couple to walk to the wedding chair in front of the krobongan, the mother of the bride covers the couple’s shoulders with Sindhur –a large cloth symbolizing : the father shows the way to happiness, while the mother gives a moral support.
The bride and the groom sit on each lap of the father of the bride who will say that both of them are of the same weight. This means that he will treat them and love them both equally without favouritism.
The father of the bride seats the couple in the wedding chair. It depicts that he has approved the marriage and gives them his blessings.
The bride’s father after the Panggih ceremony drinks a bit of rujak degan – a refreshment drink made of coconut meat, in front of the krobongan. His wife asks him : Is it ok? He replies : It is quite refreshing. I hope, it is also refreshing for all members of our family. He passes on the drink to his wife. The wife drinks a bit, gives it to her son-in-law and to her daughter. This ritual depict, the newly wed soon have a baby.
Tumplak punjen is conducted when parents organize a wedding ceremony for their youngest daughter and all other children are married. Tumplak means to pour, to give. Punjen is all the belongings of the parents collected since their marriage. In this ceremony the happy parents give their belongings to their children and desendants. In front of the krobongan, they give to each of them a small packet containing spices, yellow rice, coins made of gold, bronze and copper. By doing ritual of Tumplak Punjen, they wish to give a good example of life to their children and descendants.It is their sincere hope that the younger generation should take care of their properties, health, safety and they should always be grateful to accept God’s gifts.
The bride and the groom exchange wedding rings as a sign of love and showing their official commitment as wife and husband.
After all wedding rituals have been conducted, a wedding reception follows where the newly wed couple flanked by their parents enter the reception hall once the guests have ensembled. Accompanied by soft gamelan, an MC announces the entrance of the bridal party. The procession is led by Suba Manggala as cucuk lampah – a man in Javanese costume walks and dances rhytmically toward the chairs where the new couple are going to be seated in front of the krobongan style decoration. Behind him are the Patah, two small girls specially dressed who are going to sit in the right and left side of the couple. Followed by some dancers in their marvellous costumes. Then, the newly wed couple walk hand-in-hand in their most elegant appearance as the queen and the king of the day.They are flanked by two elderly ladies, holding their hands. Followed by their mothers and fathers and sisters and sisters- in- law and brothers-in-law of the new couple.With tender magical gamelan music accompaniment, the MC in a soft and magnetic voice make some comments of the procession with poetic refined Javanese words. The bride and the groom are seated side by side on a designated chair, flanked by the Patah and the parents of both side.
After the guests have given their congratulations, guests are then invited to enjoy a meal together and socialize with family, friends and other guests.
Often, guests are entertained by classical Javanese dances from the Mahabarata which depict love between a woman and a man such as
Pergiwo –Gatotkaca or Karonsih, in a bridal procession in the royal palaces of Yogyakarta and Surakarta, there is an additional attraction.The joyful and jokingly appearance by a group of “ edan-edananan” ( edan means crazy), consist of some dwarfs with funny dresses and make-up, dancing wildly, laughing noisely accompanied by a load and quick rhythm of gamelan music. This attraction means to chase away evil spirits and any kind of disturbance during the ceremony and depicting a hope the couple should live happily, able to get rid of any obstacles.
Royal wedding ceremonies.
The Karatons – Royal Palaces of Yogyakarta and Surakarta are the source of the wedding customs which are now popular in the society.Those Karatons of Java play very significant role in preserving the Javanese culture and tradition.
Following the change in value, some designs of wedding clothes which were only for the princes and princesses in the old days, at present are also worn by lesser court families and even by common people during a traditional wedding ceremony.Although the wedding ceremonies in the Royal Palaces and outside the royal palaces are the same and have the same purpose of the rituals, but there are some customs which specifically belong to the Royal Palaces.
Some examples from Yogyakarta Royal wedding ceremonies :
Before the midodareni night, the consort of Sultan Hamengku Buwono X, the king of Yogyakarta Palace, Princess GKR. Hemas assisted by several women of court families and employees make apem cakes in Keputren mansion. ( Keputren is a special quarter for princesses).
Ngapeman means to make apem cakes.
Sri Sultan Hamengku Buwono X flanked by his consort asks her daughter before the Ijab- civil and religious registration, that she definitely wishes and agrees to marry her lover to be her husband.
Tantingan comes from the word tanting means to ask for a decision.
According to the Karaton/ royal palaces’ rules, those who are going to marry, the brides to be and the grooms to be, several days before the wedding ceremony have to stay in the palace, they are not allowed to leave the palace compound.It is called “disengker”.( lit. means :to be put in a cage).
Suryo S. Negoro
Edited by Roswita Nimpuno Khaiyath B.A ( Hons ), M.A. NAATI Prof.