11 Indonesian Wedding Traditions - Etiquette - Ceremonies - Sacred Customs

Last updated on May 28, 2024 by Michelle Devani

Since Indonesia is made up up to 17,000 islands, has six official religions and is home to over 299 different ethnic groups, and keeping up with Indonesia’s wedding etiquette could be overwhelming for some people. If you are about to attend your friend’s wedding in this rich cultured country, we have some quick tips on ‘how to’ navigating common customs and the traditional Indonesian weddings for each culture.

General etiquette of Indonesian wedding:

1. Wedding Invitation

Wedding invitation is really important in Indonesia. And it is acceptable to bring your friends or yours significant other to their wedding or join friends who have been invited. Even though the groom and bride wanna be already try to give enough lead time before their wedding, it’s very common to receive the invitation letter few days before the wedding. It’s not usual for Indonesian to receive verbal invitation, or sometime even from text or email.

2. Dress Code

Most Indonesian would wear formal or traditional wear such as kebaya with sarongs for Indonesian lady in Indonesian wedding. But Indonesian-inspired such as batik or western style dress would be fine too. The ladies are not obligated to cover their hair. But covering from shoulders and upper legs is highly recommended, but it also depend from the family and the style of the wedding party. You will probably see Indonesian lady wearing classy cocktail dresses and sometime the ladies would wear crop top and high waisted sarong tied on thei waist.

3. Gifts for the Braid and Groom 

Bringing gifts into your friend’s wedding is highly recommended. The gifts could be in a ‘gift’ form or cash wrapped in envelope. The amount of the cash ‘gift’ can vary, depending from the social-economic status, but usually the range is between IDR RP. 50.000 – RP. 1.000.000. And the amount of money sometimes will be written next to your name in the guest book, but some party do not require this one. It is quite common for the couple's family to keep on track about the gifts, such as who's given what.

4. Alcohol Free

Since the majority of Indonesia citizen are Muslim, any beverage that contain alcohol are not allowed and not served in wedding party in Indonesia. Even though the Chinese-Indonesian wedding party sometime will serve alcohol such as champagne or wine.

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Indonesian Traditional Wedding Traditions

After we talked about the wedding etiquette in Indonesia, let’s talk about Indonesian wedding tradition

1. Javanese Weddings Traditions 

Javanese is the majority ethnic in Indonesia, which is around 56% of the population in Indonesia. There is three days of celebration in Javanese wedding, starts with 'siraman,' this is where the groom’s parents shower them with flowery water, usually mixed from rose petals and jasmine. This has deep meaning, siraman is symbolized a the last time they got bather by their parents, and as a symbol about how well their parents cared for them.

After this the bride will be serves as a princess and wear traditional wedding dress, the bride will only accompanied by female relatives or siblings or even from the groom’s side all night long. Whils the groom waiting outside the bride’s home, this has meaning that the husband must be patient throughout the marriage. On the second day, the civil wedding held and the guests will allowed to join.

Basically, the official will legalize the marriage as they sign and completed their wedding documents. After done with the paperwork, the couples will performs some rituals, this rituals may vary and are not the same compared to other province in Java. And finally, after done with the rituals, they seek blessing from their family called ‘sungkeman’.
At this moment, the guest are welcome to eat from the food served at the wedding, it usually starts with cake, soup, main dish, and ice cream as a dessert.

2. Sundanese Wedding Traditions 

Next Indonesian wedding tradition is Sundanese culture. Since sundanese are also in Java Island, between sundanese tradition and Javanese tradition are common. Sundanese are from the western part of java island, and the majority of sundanese are following sharia culture and religious practices.

Usually during the ahad nikah or marriage vows, a scarf is put on the head of the groom and bride’s heads to symbolize that they will have the same mission. After this the groom and the brides do ‘sungkeman’ for blessing from the parents and the last ritual is the couple being fed by their parents and symbol that this is gonna be their last time they are under their parent’s wings.

3. Balinese Wedding Traditions 

Meanwhile from the other ethnics wedding rituals are done mostly in the bride’s house, in Bali it will be totally different, because the entire rituals or ceremony is mostly done at the groom’s house. In Bali, wedding rituals started with Memadik process, where the groom’s family visiting the bride’s family. And then the second is Ngekeb, this also called as preparation rituals for the bride to be a wife and a mother. At this rituals, the bride should be waiting in a room and wait for the groom’s to pick her up.

Next ritual is called Mungkahlawang and Mesegehagung, this is what happen when the groom’s come and pick up the bride in the room, this is an open gate ceremony. Also there's another procession that called Madengen-dengen lead by an elder (or the leader) called Balian. And there's also a ritual called Mewidhi Widadana, a ceremony where the groom and the bride wears their royal attire to ask blessing from God. This rituals also done by an elder leader called Pemangku Marejan.

4. Chinese-Indonesian Wedding

There is numerous amount of Chinese-Indonesians all over the Indonesia’s Islands. Most of the Chinese-Indonesian are Christian, Catholic and Buddhis. Eventhough Chinese-Indonesian wedding is not similar as traditional Indonesian wedding, they still have Asian charm.

In the morning befor the wedding ceremony, the bride’s family would invite the groom for tea ceremony. After this, everyone heading to the church for the wedding vows. The bride and the groom will sit together in the same car The wedding ceremony is no different with Christian or Catholic wedding ceremonies.

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5. Bataknese Wedding Traditions 

Bataknese is an ethnic from North Sumatra, while marriage means sacrifice the women (Parboru) to the man (Paranak) as the women’s family has to give up the women’s life.

And because of that there is a ceremony called Ulaon Unjuk, which the procession including slaughtering a cow and then the cow would be cooked in traditional way to become the main meal to be eaten together. And because of this sacrifice custom in Batak ethnic, the man (Paranak) obligated highly honor the bride. Indeed, there are many cultures in Indonesian wedding traditions.

Also read: Christian Wedding Traditions

6. Minangkabau Wedding Traditions 

In Minangkabau Marriage is also an abligation for a religion, eventhough it is also important traditional rite of passage. From their customs, it is an obligation to the bride’s family who takes action or initiative for the wedding process. In reality, we mean Indonesia, it’s supposed to be the groom who makes the first move. In Minangkabau the wedding ceremony starts with a ritual called ‘Maresek’, the man will ask for the bride ‘will you marry me’ this also called as lamaran.

At this moment all the families will join and prepare for the wedding with traditional wears with georgeus colours. And then after the wedding ceremony, the husband will live in the wife’s house as a guest. The purpose of this rituals is for respect and show the love to the wife but also to respect the other member who lives there.

7. Minahasa Wedding Traditions 

In Minahasa there is a ceremony called bathing under the fountain, but they already adjust the procedure sunce the fountain is no longer available in the big cities. What is done these days called ‘Lumelek’ this mean stepping on the stone bath and one more called ‘Bacoho’ which mean the bath is done in the bathroom int the house of th bride. In Minahasa, before the wedding day early in the morning, the bride has to do Posanan, similar to Pingitan, where the bride is forbidden to meet the groom for the night before the ceremony. Indonesian Traditional Wedding Traditions.For Minahasa people, it can be done either at the groom's or the bride's house, its not an obligation to always choose the groom’s side or the bride’s sid; it's decided according to which family pays for the all the wedding expenses.

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Indeed, wedding is a sacred moment where two lovers finally become one and forever. In many part of the countries, there are many different and beautiful wedding traditions. In Indonesia, there are also many wedding traditions. In every city, every races, and cultures, there are different traditions of wedding. Still, the purpose of wedding is to unite two people to be one with love. In case you ever heard, always spread love on every corner.

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Michelle Devani
My name is Michelle Devani, and I've been helping people with their relationships since 2003. In 2017 I decided it was about time I started a blog on the topic, and since then more than 2 million people worldwide have read my relationship advice. Drop me a comment below to let me know what you think.

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