Traditional Balinese wedding

photo: Ekaterina Ovechkina
A wedding is a significant event in Balinese society. It is one of the yadnya rituals designed to harmonize the material and spiritual worlds.
The wedding, or pawiwahan, becomes sacred because it involves the participation of three important witness forms: gods, beings from the underworld, and humans.
Additionally, a wedding is important because only after its completion do the groom and bride become full members of the village community, known as the banjar, with all the rights and responsibilities.
After marriage, the man gains the right to have a say in the banjar, and he must take on the responsibility of attending temple ceremonies and participating in community events. In other words, other community members acknowledge him as an adult.
A wedding won't be accepted by society if it is conducted without a Balinese sacred ceremony. In case of a violation, the couple may be excluded from the village community.
The wedding holds a special place because the future generation resulting from it will continue Balinese traditions, lifestyles, and provide an opportunity for the reincarnation of ancestors.
A Balinese wedding is not just the union of spouses but also a significant spiritual event.
The order of wedding rituals is determined by a priest in accordance with the principles of the right place, time, and circumstances.
photo: Ekaterina Ovechkina
There are three types of Balinese weddings depending on the form of proposal:
Ngerorod - Elopement:
The young man and the girl arrange a meeting in a private place outside the control of the girl's parents. Usually, they spend the night together in a friend's house. The information about the event is then spread the next morning.
In these circumstances, the girl cannot return to her parents' house and continue living as before.
In most cases, the girl's parents are not surprised. However, they try to feign disapproval of what happened and demonstrate anger at the shame brought about by the young man.
photo: Ekaterina Ovechkina
In this ceremony, the groom's family comes to the bride's house to announce the groom's intention to marry. The bride confirms her willingness to marry this groom, and the families agree to the union.
This is a more respectful ceremony and involves elaborate processions and offerings, making it a costly process.
It garners more respect from the bride's relatives, but it also carries a risk for the groom, as he must obtain the approval of the bride's parents.
photo: Ekaterina Ovechkina
In this cultural practice, the man moves into the wife's house. This occurs when the bride's parents do not have sons, and consequently, there is no one to take care of their property. In this scenario, the groom is accepted into the bride's family to continue the male lineage of that family. In this case, the consent of the groom's parents is required for the marriage.
photo: Ekaterina Ovechkina
Medewasa Ayu
After receiving consent for marriage, the groom visits a priest to determine a more auspicious day for the wedding. This ritual of determining the right day is called Medewasa Ayu.
The purpose of this ceremony is to prepare the future bride for the role of a wife and homemaker.
It begins with a prayer for happiness and good offspring. The bride's hair is washed as part of a special ritual.
The bride makes offerings, and she is not allowed to leave the room until the groom comes to take her.
When the groom comes to fetch the bride, she wears yellow attire. The ceremony signifies that the bride is ready to leave her past behind and start a new life with her partner.
photo: Ekaterina Ovechkina
Mungkah Lawang
The name of the ritual translates as "opening the door." During the ceremony, the groom knocks on the bride's door three times accompanied by Balinese music and singing. The song's content expresses the groom's request for the bride to open the door for him.
The ceremony takes place when the groom and bride are in the groom's house. It is a ritual inviting the bride. Upon entering the wedding pavilion, the groom's mother asks the bride for a yellow cloth. The veil on the bride is removed, and she exchanges it for symbolic silver coins called kepeng.
The ceremony is aimed at cleansing the groom and bride from negative energies. It is conducted by a Balinese priest.
photo: Ekaterina Ovechkina
Metatah or Mepandes
Tooth filing is an essential ritual for every Balinese individual that must be performed before entering into marriage. Therefore, it often takes place as part of the sequence of wedding events if not conducted earlier upon reaching maturity.
After prayers and offerings to the gods, the couple lies on a low platform surrounded by parents and relatives. A traditional dentist or "sangging" performs the tooth filing. Balinese believe that teeth represent animalistic characteristics in humans.
Usually, the filing process lasts for 10-15 minutes. The sangging places a piece of sugarcane in the corner of the patient's mouth to keep it open. Upper teeth are filed first, followed by the lower ones.
It is believed that this process frees Balinese individuals from the six destructive passions: lust "kama," greed "lobha," anger "kroda," restlessness "moha," vanity "mada," and jealousy "matsarya."
photo: Ekaterina Ovechkina
Mewidhi Widana
This ceremony involves seeking the blessings of the gods for the marriage and asking for their approval of the new family.
Mejauman Ngabe Tipat Bantal
A few days after the couple declares themselves husband and wife, the newlyweds are brought to the bride's home. This ritual symbolizes bidding farewell to parents, relatives, and ancestors.
Wedding clothes
Newlyweds cannot choose their wedding attire entirely at their discretion. It is determined according to their caste. The basis of the costume is a songket fabric, richly adorned with gold and available in vibrant colors such as blue, yellow, orange, and red, symbolizing joy.
The opulence of the songket demonstrates the wealth of the family and affiliation with the caste. The bride wears a crown, and the height of this crown also indicates her caste. The higher the crown, the higher the caste.
New family
After marriage, the wife inherits the caste of her husband. Typically, Balinese from higher castes seek a partner of equal status to continue the caste line.
photo: Ekaterina Ovechkina
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Have you ever attended a Balinese traditional wedding? How did you feel? Which ceremony was the brightest or most interesting for you?
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