Let’s Get This Party Started

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.





  1. dodoling says:

    i cannot more agree with you. those fake and time-and-money-wasting thingies are sometimes considered more important than the most important things that should be placed first.

    I hope i can have this simple kind of wedding day, the day i’m always dreaming of.

    Thanks for the brilliant idea πŸ˜‰

  2. my dear anita, you should be very happy because you and stu can have this dream wedding. I have many indo friends who personally want to have small, intimate and meaningful wedding but their parents always have different desire…include my own wedding in manado, for me and dony, it is too big and showing off but we had fought over it many times. At the end, we gave in that is why my wedding in jakarta is only for 100 close friends who knows me and myy hubby personally. Those friends who at least ever know how I met my dream bubby.

    Can not wait to see you as a bride in bali.

  3. Greetings (^_^)
    I’m a new reader here and this is the longest entry i’ve ever read in my blogging years…

    Anyway, i prefer to have a wedding like you “small, intimate, low key party” and you shouldn’t worried about parent want this, that, expensive things and all… i mean come on, you spend it on how $$$$$ only to have a one day celebration and after that you don’t have savings for your kids, even if you can afford it all why waste the money?…

    Geesh… what is wrong with our parents and their pride obsession ha?

    Wish you had your best day DREAM WEDDING day Finally Woken…


    ,.-*’oo’*-.,_Chronicles of Trisna_,.-*’oo’*-.,

  4. honestyyanwirsal says:

    Less is more, right sista! Your post is sooo meee tho. Think, we have things in common…

    Happy wedding Nit..

    p.s: Love your pic feat Therry, gorgeous!

  5. rimafauzi says:

    good points!

    I almost married an american before i went here, and mom made such a fuss about our would be wedding!

    There were at least 1500 invitations to be sent, and I really felt relieved when things did not work out and we had to call of the wedding!

    My wedding with current hubby was a simple one by indonesian standard. Being used to designing as a result of working in ad agencies, I made the invitations myself (we got married here in Brussels) and that was really something personal.

    I hope you had or will have the wedding reception you wanted, and with none of the fake stuff we are used to see in the usual Indo weddings, although more and more people are like you, opting for simpler weddings nowadays..

    Have fun in Indo nit, and take more pics of you and therry yah!!

    mwa mwa!!

  6. Miss Lai Lai says:

    I love small intimate wedding, and I so want a small one with my closest friends and family member. Just like the one I witnessed recently in Sydney of my best friend.

    Wonder how that’s gonna play with the parents..esp if I happen to go out with a one and only child/son. Good gawd!

    All the best for the wedding..!! Photos k> =)

  7. Finally Woken says:

    @dodoling: kapan ke Abz lagi? well I’m glad I’m not alone on this rubbish Indonesian wedding concept!

    @Melly: LOL, I remember dear. 2000 people!!

    @Trisna: hi, thanks for dropping by. Actually it wasn’t my parents but other people who don’t contribute anything and are not so close to me, who think they have a right to tell me what to do or give some comments, but never offer a help. Just so annoying.

    @Inest: cheers!

    @Rima: I promise you that I wouldn’t have fake wedding cake, ugh!

    @Miss Lai Lai: I don’t think you could runaway from the ‘obligation’. Just go along and have a grand reception and hold a smaller one only to the closest one. Photos would be in FB dong…

  8. So it’s not easy over there to throw a party to your own taste. So much the better to stick to your opinion and to the rule ‘small is beautiful'(although, 100 guests…).

    I think you are totally right. This is no occasion for potlatch or conspicuous consumption. It’s is about your genuine joy and lot of pleasure for all.

    Fuck social control and have a good time!


  9. Your wedding party is probably the first wedding reception I’m actually looking forward to go to – except that I can’t go and it’s killing me, because even though it is low-key or intimate, I know for sure it will be anything but!

    You are one of those rare Indonesians who focus more on the marriage, instead of the wedding. Most Indonesians pend so much time and money on the wedding, the big day, and nothing on the purpose of the wedding itself!

    From what I see, your wedding standard is the best concept I’ve known so far, and I’m determined to follow your footsteps.

    I’m not a big fan of the big wedding myself (as evident from my postings about them), and I personally love low-key, intimate weddings in which you can celebrate with the closest people who appreciate all the effort that you make, instead of 1000 people you probably only know a third of!

    All that money being spent on the surface don’t mean shit – it’s the fact that everyone will have a good time, eat, drink and be merry, and everyone’s happy.

    Now that’s a fabulous wedding party to go to!

    PS: I love the wedding invitation – the theme color and the little details that makes the invitee feel involved too.

  10. Finally Woken says:

    @Colson: LOL, yes for you 100 guests is a big party. For Indonesians, it’s very very small.

    @Therry: it’s a bummer you couldn’t make it, since you’d be able to check what’s underneath the kilt by yourself! Thank you for the compliment re. the invite, but honestly not everyone reads it since I’ve heard one will turn up with ball gown and another will turn up with fur coat. Imagine that at hot summer day at 4PM! Should be interesting *wink.

  11. rimafauzi says:

    haa.. ‘checking what’s underneath the kilt’ sounds like fun!!!!!

    me wanna!!! lol

  12. sillystupidlife says:

    happy weeing my dear

    semoga langeng sampe tua yachhhh

    love and hugs..

  13. hehe emang culture nya gitu kali ya. susah lho mau bikin wedding party kecil2an di indo. soalnya kalo ngundang A, gak enak kalo gak ngundang B. kalo ngundang B, gak enak kalo gak ngundang C.

    ya gitu tuh budayanya. banyakan ‘gak enak’nya… kenapa gak dibikin enak aja ya? hahaha. ya gak tau lah…

    nah kalo udah undangannya sampe ratusan dan ribuan, mana bisa lagi mau care ama tamunya apakah alergi atau gak? hihihihi. makanya dibikin prasmanan aja. biar tamunay milih sendiri mau makan apaan. πŸ˜›

    tapi yah balik lagi… selama everybody happy, terutama pengantinnya happy, ya why not :) toh emang tiap orang preferensinya beda2.

    kalo menurut saya sih, yang penting si pengantinnya happy pas di wedding day nya. jangan justru merasa terpaksa hanya karena pihak lain (ortu biasanya). kalo emang pengantinnya juga seneng dengan pesta gede ya why not. tapi kalo pengantinnya sukanay pesta kecil dan ngundang temen yang deket2 aja, tapi dipaksa ortu untuk pesta gede.. nah ini yang jadi gak ok… :)

    btw sekarang di indo udah mulai banyak kok yang wedding partynya small. ortu2 udah mulai bisa memaklumi sepertinya… :)

    btw lagi happy anniversary ya… moga2 langgeng terus selama-lamanya. dan moga2 pestanya lancar semua ya…

  14. Jakartass says:

    Big weddings are for parents, aren’t they?

    I’m happy to say that all my wedding ceremonies have been ‘private’, with the party as large/small as our home permitted.

    And, no, I’m not going to tell you how many. I’m innumerate.

    Anyway, have a good one.


  15. I wish Stuart and Anita the very best for the future.

  16. lucky you :) my husband and i always wanted to have a simple wedding with close family and best friends. but hey.. you give me ideas on how to do our anniversary! better late than never kan? πŸ˜›

  17. Finally Woken says:

    @Rima: if you go to Scotland… I’d ask my friends to prove…

    @Silly: thanks for dropping by. aww very sweet, thank you very much :)

    @Elyani: thanks a lot, my dear.

    @Dinda: glad you could find some inspiration from my experience. Welcome to my blog.

  18. treespotter says:

    so i’m assuming i’m not invited then.


  19. Hope the dress still fit or else I have to do strict diet, bugger

  20. Katadia says:

    Anita…. I had two weddings in Jakarta in two days. One Javanese, one Minang, to make both sides for the family happy. I couldn’t stand up in the pelaminan of the Minang one, after the first five minutes because I almost fainted in exhaustion.

    Like most Indonesians who still negotiates their way around the demands of parental and extended family’s expectations, I didn’t get the wedding I wanted. You’re lucky you are getting what you want :) All the best.

  21. Finally Woken says:

    @Tree: lots of single girls there…

    @Ecky: I’m sure it still fits. If it doesn’t, just turn up with bikini I don’t think anybody would mind…

    @Katadia: wow, I hope you were fine at the end. After reading all of the above comments, I just realize how lucky I am, having it just the way I (we) want. I think the key is who’s paying for the wedding. If it’s our parents, then it’s going to be much more difficult to argue. Plus with so many extended family members who (suddenly) feel they’re your closest cousins/ants/uncles, it’s difficult not to invite them.

  22. Rob Baiton says:

    It is always really intimate to have a wedding reception with 6,000 of your parents closest friends, coleagues, past and present.

    I reckon it is times like these that you find out that your parents have saved every single name card that they have ever received and now they are going to send each and every one of these associates an invitation.

    But you are getting what you want at close to 100, so that is good for you.

    I wrote a comment about this need to be bigger and better than the person before on someone else’s blog that was looking at the economics of the thing.

    But enjoy the belated reception and the anniversary. I trust it is a good one for you and your other half!

  23. nsyahmal says:

    I stumbled on this blog from Tasa’s, and I love this post. Indonesians in the States are no less worse than Indonesians in Indo. They all care about pleasing other people, pride wise, than making things meaningful. My own wedding was a fiasco as it was overrun by hubby’s family and extended friends. I did not get the very small intimate wedding I had wanted and this made planning a reception later on all the more crazy – alas, we still have not had a proper reception. We had over 200 in our wedding, which was in a small house in the peak of summer. My in-laws assured it would be fine, but it wasn’t really. And now I don’t know how to have a proper reception without inviting the other hundred or so people who are upset at not being invited to the original fiasco. lol And it hurts that my wedding will be remembered as the crapshoot wedding by everyone, an event people inspire NOT to have. All because the groom’s family did not want to disappoint their hundred relatives and friends and would not settle for a very intimate affair and patiently wait for a more proper and organized reception later on. I guess I am still bitter lol

  24. nsyahmal says:

    I hope you had or will have the wedding you wanted, without any annoying interferences.

  25. Finally Woken says:

    Rob, my Indian lecturer back in Sydney had his wedding attended probably by 10,000 guests – he had it in a football stadium, or at least that’s a rumour told by my ex-boss a.k.a his schoolmate.

    When Stuart and I attended my friend’s wedding in Manado he couldn’t believe to see so many people (2,000 to be exact), it’s the biggest wedding he’s ever been to. I once attended a wedding in Jakarta where we were greeted by at least 100 pair of ushers, where we had to queue just to congratulate the happy couple and their parents, where the security was tighter than airports because lots of ministers and government officers were present, and where after 20 minutes queue and one second handshaking all 5,000 guests left for the other tent to enjoy the food, leaving the couple and their parents all alone. Yeah, very intimate!

  26. Finally Woken says:

    I have to apologise for my stupidity of not checking my dashboard to see if there are comments stuck in spam.

    So here is my response to all of you whose comments were stuck for days. Sorry folks.

    @Arman: that’s right, it’s back to the couple. Maybe they’re happy having it celebrated as many people as possible.

    @Jakartass: oh please tell me tell me. You know you can be my mentor on how to keep the marriage lasting! Maybe a new book: Marriage Shock?

    @Nsyahmal: Wow… I am so sorry to hear (read) that. But, on the other way around, you and your spouse know that you have passed this, and you both have survived, and if you could survive from this, you have put a strong foundation to be a couple. Welcome to my blog and thank you for leaving a great comment!

  27. Jakartass says:

    Making a marriage last, Anita, is a personal matter. I am who I am, not a great romantic unfortunately (?), but this is it until ‘death us do part’.

    This one has lasted for a long time, nigh on 20 years, because we both know we’ve screwed up previous relationships and now know to give each other space. I suppose it’s respect for who we are rather than who we want the other to be.

    My space is not My Space, the online network, but ‘my’ online network into which I pour my thoughts.

    Such as this one.

  28. Lorraine says:

    Happy anniversary! And have a fabulous party to remember only with your loved-ones & close relatives.

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