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My Cousin’s Javanese Wedding

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During the summer I had the amazing opportunity to go and visit my family in Indonesia. This trip was special for two main reasons: my mom, who is from Indonesia, had not been back to visit for several years, and my cousin Yessie was getting married.

My time there proved to be a memorable experience, as it consisted of many wonderful reunions with family and friends. However, my cousin’s wedding truly astounded me as it was an event that I had never experienced before. Indeed, you could even say that it was the kind of wedding that was a “once in a lifetime” event. The wedding took place in Yogyakarta, which is a city on the Indonesian island of Java. Yogyakarta is known for being rich in arts and culture. At the heart of the city is the Kraton of Yogyakarta, a palace complex which is the official seat of the reigning Sultan of Yogyakarta and his extended family. My aunt, who is the mother of my cousin Yessie, has a connection to the Sultan of Yogyakarta and grew up in the Kraton. That meant that my cousin’s wedding would not only be a traditional Javanese wedding, it would also be a Kraton wedding. The amount of time it takes to prepare such an event is unfathomable. It takes months and every detail is planned meticulously.

The wedding took place over a two-day period and consisted of five main ceremonies. For each ceremony I wore a batik (traditional cloth) sarong, and a shirt called a kebaya. When looking at the five ceremonies, several events stand out. One event is when my cousin Yessie had a traditional shower. It is when the bride is dressed in batik and gets water poured over her by her parents, and people that are meaningful in her life like her teachers, family friends and mentors. What is interesting is that this water comes from seven different places. These places must be special in the bride’s life. For example, some water came from her grandmother’s house. I was at first confused because I thought my cousin would literally have water poured on her from seven different hoses at once.

However, my cousin was quick to correct me that the water would be mixed together in one basin and then poured over her with a ladle. One funny aspect of the wedding was that instead of a bouquet, one of the parents threw a live chicken to a crowd of people. This was symbolic of my cousin Yessie becoming independent and leaving the family. It was hilarious seeing everybody chasing after a chicken. Finally, the most spectacular event was the reception that was held at the Kraton. My cousin Yessie, and her new husband Anto were celebrated as members of the sultan’s family. The reception had over 1,500 guests and was truly a spectacular golden wonderland. There were ornate carriages, traditional javanese dancers, as well as traditional gamelan music. I came away with a much better understanding of the beautiful culture of Yogyakarta, and I’ve never felt closer to my Indonesian (Javanese) family.