Bigger is better. More glamorous is better. More people to attend is better. Longer train, heavier make-up, and higher hair, are better. The more expensive is better. The more famous people, from caterer, hairstylist, until the list of guests, are definitely better. Anything that screams ‘I’m rich, I’m fabulous‘, is typical Indonesian wedding. Even though the bride might look like Krisdayanti rather than herself on her wedding day.
But we are going to have something small, intimate, low-key, party. We had tied the knot last year, and this time is the celebration as well as the first anniversary party. We only invite a bunch of close friends and family and after a long consideration we changed from 50 to 100 guests, well, less than 100. It’s considered very, very, very small in Indonesia, but that’s what we want.
It’s funny when the news travels around some people think that they are supposed to be invited. Those who don’t have my mobile number. Those who don’t even in my Facebook or Friendster’s list. People I only bump into at social gatherings or bars occasionally and exchange air-kisses. People who hear about us from the third parties but think they know us. People who never drop e-mails (or return mine) to maintain a contact, let alone a friendship. How could they immediately assume that since we have partied and clubhopped together a year ago hence they’re automatically my best friends? I seriously doubt they know my last name so how could they think they are entitled to share our joy?
And then there are things I don’t consider important which turn out to be judging points for others. Our simple invitation gets the tongues wagged, because when compares to others, it is not outstanding. Apparently there is a growing trend in Indonesia that to represents the couple’s (or in most cases, their parents’) wealth, prestige, image, you name it, the wedding invitation should look expensive and made of expensive materials. Last year when visited one of the high-profile wedding invitation vendors, I was shown several of their best collections. One practically is not an invite, it’s a jewelry box complete with tiny drawers, mirrors, and compartments to store our rings and bracelets, and the picture of the bride and the groom forever stare back at us when we open the lid (creepy isn’t it). One is printed on leather. Many are crafted with complicated techniques and joined with unusual materials like lace. Some is put in a glamorous box with soft fabric surrounded the invite like it is a fragile china. Some use swarovski crystal on its bow. And all use the thickest, heaviest, material possible. And of course every time we ask, they will give us quotation for minimum 200 invites, or 500 invites. I was rejected immediately by this snob vendor when I mentioned I only wanted to print 50 invites since my guests are only 100 people. And people wouldn’t understand our decision having a simple invitation until I told them that most of them will be sent overseas, and I wouldn’t want to spend so much money just for distributing them. These people who have the biggest and heaviest invitation probably only invite their colleagues and family so they don’t have to fedex them. Plus I don’t see the point of spending so much money for it. What are you going to do with the invitation afterwards? Put it in a scrapebook filled with other wedding invitations as a collection?
Favours, or souvenirs in Indonesian term, is another case. Souvenirs in Indonesia are not what other weddings in other countries have. If the holy Martha Stewart suggests some local sweets, from saltwater taffy (New Jersey) to bags of roasted peanuts (Virginia), or even fresh fruits like berry basket (see picture on the right), in Indonesia, handmade soap or bookmark is probably the cheapest souvenir you would get. Nowadays people give oil burner made of porcelain with a shape of a couple of angels holding the tea light together, to champagne crystal glass. Since most parties are held in big venues, there is a big possibility they will have wedding crashers, hence Indonesians invent the voucher system. Only those who get the invitation (real invitees), where the voucher is inserted, will get these expensive souvenirs by exchanging the voucher in a specific counter at the wedding venue. Just like exchanging our gift voucher at the shop. Really.
I personally never take any souvenirs from the wedding I attend to. First, because I always only carry a pouch which practically only fits for my phone, some money, and keys, and nothing else. Second, because all Indonesian weddings are standing party mode, I wouldn’t be able to eat with one hand holding a pouch and another hand holding a souvenir (usually given when we sign the guest book). Third, because I don’t know what to do with it afterwards. Throw it? Give it to my mother’s maid? Keep it (for what? for how long? I don’t even have a room to store them)? I suspect many people have the same way of thinking, although it’s probably buried so deep in their mind. When I suggested boxes of favours filled with cookies or chocolates, people think I was joking. They suggested things like tissue box (male guests wouldn’t want it), wooden jewelry box with silver engravement (ditto plus it’s heavy for people who will have to carry it in their luggage back to Jakarta, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, and Scotland, who, of course, would love to do some shopping by themselves!), soap, candle, fan (all for female), porcelain vase (breakable), photo frame (ditto). All I don’t even think to keep to myself, so I am sure my guests, especially male guests, wouldn’t even consider to take it home. But of course thinking about others (a.k.a the guests) are not common for Indonesian weddings.
Then it just hit me. Indonesians are all about surface. It’s their image they think about. They try so hard to show that their invitations cost hundred of thousand per piece but they don’t put any personal touch in it. Never expect to receive a thank you note, written by the couple, thanking us for attending their wedding because they will have the thank you note mass printed and everybody gets the same, regardless whether you are their best friend or their acquaintance. Indonesians try so hard to show their prestige by giving expensive souvenirs, without thinking twice whether their guest like it or not, whether it can be used or not, or whether it means something to either themselves or their guest. No wonder they put so much emphasis on such things even though I’m sure they know people wouldn’t keep these items long. As long as their shockingly expensive invitations or their souvenirs can be the topic of afternoon high tea events, they’d dare to spend a fortune for them.
I, on the other hand, although far from perfect, try to at least pay attention to each guest individually. Like I have asked them to mention their dietary requirements, so I can be sure everybody can enjoy the meal, since I know there are people who are vegetarian, who don’t eat beef, who don’t eat seafood, and who don’t eat pork. Do Indonesians think about this on their wedding? Halal food, maybe. But do they think that some people are allergic to nuts or some couldn’t stand spicy food, so they have to separate their dressing or put a note on the menu? Doubt it.
Some people choose strange theme for their big day, like winter theme, complete with fake snow. It is their (supposedly) biggest day on earth, and they are willing to pay something fake, which is strange to me. Oh, some seven-tier wedding cakes displayed on the venue are also fake. Yup, so don’t expect the couple, who pose with a samurai to cut the cake, will really cut it and distribute it to the guests.
To me, everything has to has a meaning either to me, my dear hubbie, or both of us. A small detail like ribbon on the napkin is a representation of my dear hubbie’s clan. People might or might not notice but it means a lot to me. We want everybody to have a good time together because that’s what is important for us. We don’t care if the flowers are imported or locals because as long as they look good, we’re happy. We want people to remember us as a loving couple. not a couple who pays so and so for this and that. I know that to some people this is probably unusual and not according to Indonesian standard. But again, who determines what’s normal and what is not?
So after a couple of days boiling inside receiving sniggering comments from left to right, I know I’m doing this right. We’re doing this right. Nothing else matters unless it matters to us because we’re doing it for us and not to please anyone else.