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Part III - Nyoman & Kadek Are Getting Married

The Final Installment on our Coverage of a Wedding in Bali.

(9/22/2002) From sunrise until after sundown on their wedding day, Nyoman and Kadek wore their elegant ceremonial clothing. A shimmering golden bridal crown made of leaf-shaped foil rose above the Kadek's black hair. Her sarong, wrapped tightly layer upon layer, accentuated her perfect posture. Nyoman's attire was not dissimilar - tight layers of red sarongs bound by a brilliant yellow sash decorated with prada. A ceremonial sword was tucked behind his back, the gilded hilt topped by a pearl-colored handle. Both bride and groom wore heavy make-up.

Family and friends wore their finest clothes. The women wore lacy kabayas and multi-colored sarongs. The men wore dark blue Nero style jackets and two layers of sarongs.

The day-long ceremonial was consumed with prayers to bless their union. All the while, the ringing bell-tones of gamelangongs blended with a throaty flute song, the recitation of ancient Balinese texts, and the insistent chime of the priest's bell. It was a cacophony difficult to join into one orchestration. Their vows were not proclaimed in a climactic "I do," rather, the couple, the parents, a local priest, and a high priest solemnized the union via their abundance of prayers vocalized over clouds of incense.

At times, the priests were nowhere to be seen, and the family was left to remember the complex sequence of offerings on their own. When the priests officiated, a more ancient and guttural sounding Balinese came quietly from their concentrated mouths. They sprinkled holy water and precisely flicked red, white, or magenta flowers. Meanwhile, guests mingled and chatted, ate and drank, appearing seemingly indifferent to the binding moments their hosts were celebrating.

Prayers were made in numerous places at Nyoman's house, at the family temple, before an altar specially prepared by the priests, and at the neighborhood temple. This went on throughout the day, first at Nyoman's and later at Kadek's parent's house, more than one hour away. Offerings made in advance surrounded every place of prayer and were presented in hand-made plates and palm-sized, boat-shaped tangkeh, all prepared by the families using a variety of natural materials such as palm leaves, apples, oranges, salak, bananas, eggs, chickens, and flowers - all presented to the gods on behalf of Nyoman and Kadek. Elaborately cut, round decorations appeared like suns and moons at every concentration of offerings. At Kadek's parents house, a whole-roasted pig glistened at the foot of a mountain of offerings. At times, the couple were encouraged to make gestures, cryptic even to them, urged on by family elders.

Nyoman and Kadek's wedding day over-fills any attempts to capture the event in mere words. In the ceremony's wake we are left with memorized nuances of a multitude of voices, gamelan music, the visual stir of brightly-colored cloths, spicy foods and sweet cakes, and the sense of prayers hovering overheard.

The life changing ceremony of Nyoman and Kadek's wedding, just one of the traditional religious events that makes Bali exotic to an outsider and home to the Balinese.