It takes a whole village to prepare for a traditional Balinese wedding.
Everyone in the couple’s banjar will come out to help make preparations, decorations and offer their congratulations – even before the big day!
Weddings can last for days, with a series of ceremonies and processions.
Although many young couples these days are introducing more modern aspects into their special day, much of Bali’s centuries old culture is honoured.
Here is everything you need to know about Balinese weddings.
What Happens at a Balinese Wedding?
Traditional Balinese weddings are made up of a various series of events divided into two processions – memadik (the proposal) which takes place at the bride’s house, and merangkat at the groom’s house.
There are about 11 mini-ceremonies that a Balinese bride and groom must be part of before officially getting married.
During mesedek, the groom’s parents will go to the bride’s house to introduce themselves, and make a marriage proposal.
At this event, the bride’s parents will determine whether the groom is appropriate, and if they approve of the proposal.
If the union is approved by the bride’s parents, the next step will be selecting the wedding day.
Balinese Hindus believe that getting married on an auspicious day will secure the success of the marriage.
The selection is made by a Sulinggih, an expert in selecting dates for Hindu beliefs.
Held the day before the wedding ceremony, ngekeb symbolizes the bride changing from a single woman, to a wife.
The ceremony includes the bride being bathed and scrubbed with a mixture of peacock leaves, ylang flowers, turmeric and rice.
Preparing her not only aesthetically, but mentally, she will be kept in her room until the morning of the wedding when the groom comes to collect her.
Meaning opening the door, this is the ceremony where the groom ‘picks up’ the bride.
Dressed in a yellow fabric, the bride will be collected from her home by the groom.
When they meet, they will recite Vedic verses to each other, and throw betel leaves which are believed to ward off evil forces.
During medagang-dagangan, bride and groom will exchange gifts as a trade.
The bride will sit on coconut fiber, and offers her wares.
The groom will tear a small bamboo mat, or tikeh dadakan, as a symbol for the purity of the bride.
Next, the bride will take taro and turmeric, and plant them to worship the ancestral spirits.
The couple will also cut a thread on a dapdap tree, and bathe.
The purpose of the makala-kala ceremony is to protect the couple. They will burn tetimpug, a trio of bamboo.
It is believed to help build protection against the dangers of buthakala, a large and frightening figure that can disrupt married life.
Metegen-tegenan and suun-suuman
The bride and groom will walk around a sacred fire seven times, clockwise, while saying prayers in Sanskrit.
Bringing their offerings, they are tied together with a belt, the groom in front and the woman following, as a symbol of the beginning of their life.
Majauman is when the bridge bids farewell to her family and her ancestors.
For this ceremony, the groom hands over a gifts to the mother of bride – usually jewelry.
This ritual is usually performed on the bride’s bed.
The gift is believed to be a symbol and substitute for a mother’s love in raising her daughter.
During tadtadan the bride’s mother will gift a set of jewelry and clothing to her daughter.
It is a symbol of hope that she will always remember the love and struggle of her mother.
At this ceremony, the bride and groom are legally husband and wife.
Following this ritual, the bride and groom may not go out or travel for three days and should only stay at home.
The aim is to increase intimacy, as well as respect for the bride’s family.
How Long is a Balinese Wedding?
There are a lot of ceremonies and rituals to get through during a Balinese wedding. They can take up to 3 days! Although guests aren’t expected to attend every ceremony, many of them are kept private for the family.
What to Wear to a Balinese Wedding
There is an unwritten rule that wedding guests should never outshine the bride. Although, the beauty of Balinese brides is pretty unmatched.
There is a dress code that requires you to wear certain color clothes, modern or traditional, and so on.
For female guests who are asked to wear traditional clothing, the most appropriate option is a kebaya. It is made of cotton, silk, or lace, paired with a brightly colored Balinese sarong, and belt.
Even though it’s traditional, the kebaya isn’t boring. Nowadays, kebaya comes in various types of fabrics, cuts, color combinations. Choose the one that suits you and your style best!
Male guests will need to dress smart with a collared shirt and trousers. Perhaps even a Batik shirt to add a traditional touch.
Seeing the amazing Balinese culture come to life during a Balinese wedding is an incredible sight to see.
If you are lucky enough to be invited to attend a wedding, be sure you are respectful – and take lots of pictures!
Featured image: Balinese Wedding Ceremony