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Part I - Nyoman and Kadek are Getting Married

A Balinese Family Prepares for a Wedding.

(9/8/2002) Nyoman is the groom, predictably bewildered. Kadek is the bride, restraining her smile.

Ibu Nyoman, who is Nyoman's mother, is in charge of sprucing up their compound where the ceremony and reception will take place. She is busy painting one of the buildings when I arrive to congratulate Nyoman. Disappearing briefly, she returns with a coffee and biscuits for Bapak Wayan and me. Pak Wayan is Nyoman's father. He is typically quiet, but unusually full of jitters, making lists – never a need for paper: the building of a temporary roof structure for the wedding guests, reviewing the materials needed for a half-dozen other ceremonial constructions. Nyoman's elder sister, Wayan, sits in near silence, posing questions whenever the conversation wanes.

Nyoman is bleary this morning. His wedding is just three weeks away. There is much to be done. Basically, following instructions given by his mother and father. What fabric store has the blues and reds he must wear during the wedding ceremony? Where is the best price for the bamboo? What needs to be moved to make room for 500 guests? What is the menu? Who's invited? The list of undone tasks seems to be growing.

Sitting on the worn tile floor, I'm searching for questions to cross the bridge between a Western and a Balinese wedding - questions about the priest, the schedule, the wedding party.

And the answers make sense. We are not so different, not in our reliance on family, not on our unabashed willingness to guide a couple's private matters, our eagerness to make the ceremony worthy of remembrance and engraved with sincerity.

All it takes is a whole lot of family. A whole lot of food. A whole lot of money and toil.

Next week, Pak Wayan's brothers will cut the lengths of bamboo for the temporary roof. Every night until the wedding, neighbors and women members of the family will drop in to make the ceremonial offerings and decorations until a pile of hundreds, if not thousands, of deftly folded palm leaves fill baskets waiting for the auspicious day.

Pak Wayan is seeking extra work to earn the Rupiahs that will ease the financial burden. In his heart, he wants to treat his son and daughter-in-law's guests with honor. He is devoted to performing the sacred Balinese Hindu wedding ceremonies with their all-important offerings, priestly blessings, and community involvement.

This is a marriage, after all, the continuation of family, and the final rite of passage in his son's journey to independence.

The wedding day will also be a day of double-ceremony, with Nyoman beginning the day with a tooth filing - a final adolescent rite of passage that must precede the wedding ceremony.

Next week, part two of Nyoman and Kadek's Wedding Story.