In the little over two years that we've lived in Indonesia, we had attended several weddings here. Up to my return to Jakarta, I was more familiar with the smaller, more intimate American-style weddings, where guests number just a few hundreds at the most. The biggest wedding I'd ever attended in all my 22+ years in Los Angeles had 500 guests. It was huge for American standards, but puny compared to the massive wedding receptions in Jakarta that typically have several thousand guests, all crowded in humongous hotel ballrooms or function halls. I'd heard of these massive (there's that word again) weddings from Indonesian friends when I was in the U.S., and although I couldn't really imagine it back then, I remember feeling somewhat horrified at the thought.
Now every time I go to one of these enormous (I'm mining the thesaurus for synonyms for 'huge', can you tell?) weddings here, nice and ultra-posh as they are, I can't help but be extremely and eternally grateful that we had our wedding in the United States! As our seventh anniversary was approaching in January, I was struck by this singular moment from our wedding: that as I walked down the aisle toward my Groom and later at the end of the ceremony as we turned around to face the congregation as husband and wife, as I scanned the hundreds of faces packed in the church, I was happy to realize that I KNEW EACH ONE OF THEM PERSONALLY.
How many brides and grooms in the colossal weddings here could say the same thing?
Now I'm not going into the differences between American and Indonesian cultures when it comes to weddings; how different are the expectations, standards and pressures that come from parents, relatives, traditions and society as factors in the definition and execution of a 'wedding'. (Although I could... oh boy, could I go into
Another indelible impression that I got from our nuptial was the overwhelming sense of PURE JOY. Not just our own private bliss because we were getting married to each other, but the joy radiated from our friends and families who came that day. It was so thick, so palpable. I still get all tingly and warm inside every time I remember their outpouring of joy.
I remember standing in the foyer of the church as we began the ceremony and listening through the doors as the church suddenly erupted in wild cheers as my Groom entered the Sanctuary. They also cheered for our Pastor, our Groomsmen and our Maids of Honor. Now I'd been to dozens of wedding ceremonies where the mood was solemn and hushed (it ain't a memorial, people!), but this ... this was the opposite end of the spectrum. As I wrote above, the joy was palpable in that sanctuary, and the noise could be heard outside the walls!
Then, finally, it was my turn. The double doors opened again and I entered and walked down the aisle in the arms of my brother. I wasn't just listening through the doors anymore, I was right in the thick of it: people on both sides of the aisles loudly cheering and clapping (not just 'polite' clapping, mind you, but all out shouting, hootin' and hollerin'!).
(Or maybe they were just cheering because finally! we thought it would never happen: "Tessa is getting married"? Yes, I was over 30 when I walked down the aisle. No, I never regretted not marrying sooner.)
And the worship session... oh, how we sang and worshipped our hearts out. Even though our backs were to the congregation, we could hear the whole church wholeheartedly worshipped with us. Our dear friends and fellow Music Ministers from our churches in Claremont, San Bernardino and the Youth played their instruments and sang their all (I think we had the most complete band ever in the history of weddings in our church).
"You are forever in my life, You've seen me through the seasons... And I sing to You, Lord, a hymn of love for Your faithfulness to me. I'm carried in everlasting arms, You never let me go through it all" *
Those lines perfectly captured all the gratefulness we felt ... The worship session wasn't just a cursory item on our Wedding Program. The presence of God was so strong that even our Pastor said to the congregation afterwards that it was the strongest he ever felt out of all the numerous weddings he had officiated. Even if everything else in our wedding fell apart (although it didn't!), we knew we wanted God's presence there more than anything else.
Then another unforgettable moment came as our Pastor said to my newly minted husband, "You may now kiss the Bride". And boy... kiss me he did! It wasn't the typical quick, shy peck on the lips... No siree! Bern took my face in both hands, pulled me closer and planted a big one on me as seconds ticked by... tick... tock... tick... tock... Oh, how the church exploded again (and not for the last time) in cheers, hootin' and hollerin' as my husband took his sweet, sweet time kissing me (not that I mind... oh, not at all! And the cheers were more raucous this time... yes, I just wrote 'raucous' in the context of a church. You read that right). We didn't plan for the 'Kiss'. We planned the vows and gazillion other wedding details, but we never planned how he would kiss me (what's to plan? But I guess Bern did plan it all along). He surprised me (and our 300+ guests) with that one.
It was a wedding kiss for the record books (well, at least as it pertains to our local church there). In the reception many guys came up to my new husband, complimenting and slapping him on the back for that one. Mantap, bro'!
When we attended other wedding ceremonies since then, as the groom kissed his bride, Bern would nudge me and whisper, "See? No one's beaten my record yet". Yes, honey. I was there.
One of the most precious (and also unplanned) moments happened during the Benediction when our Pastor called other Pastors who were there as guests to join him at the altar. We were so touched as seven Pastors from different churches (they are our friends and mentors) stood side by side at the altar, laid hands upon us and one-by-one blessed us with prayers. We didn't know our Pastor was going to do that, but we are so thankful he did. We were soaked in prayers!
My husband and I walked down aisle in each other's arms to a cheerful Celtic instrumental tune (did I mention we used all Celtic songs for our wedding ceremony? Except for the praise & worship songs, of course. Neither of us have a drop of Irish blood, but we loved the lilting and soulful-yet-uplifting Celtic arrangements of familiar hymns).
Both of us were joyful and happy beyond imagination. We were grateful to the Lord, to our families, and our friends at church who did everything (and I mean everything: decorating, singing, playing music, cooking, cleaning, etc.) to give us a wedding beyond our dreams. You see, our budget for the wedding wasn't big at all. We only had our own savings to rely on, we decided from the beginning that we didn't want to burden our parents. So we planned the simplest wedding that our budget allowed. But when our church leaders and friends heard that, they took it upon themselves to bless us. Oh, how they blessed us!
Some did the flowers and decorations. Others planned the menu, then cooked and plated the beautiful and delicious array of hors d'oeuvres for the reception. Some took pictures and videos. We just reimbursed the cost of the materials to them. That's all they were willing to accept from us. And don't think for a moment that results were amateurish. They were professional and exceptional!
It boggles the mind sometimes to know the budget for weddings in Jakarta. Hundreds of millions of rupiah (tens of thousands of U.S. dollars) for flowers and decoration that would end up in the dumpsters a few hours after the wedding. Then a larger amount for the venue and catering. Then figure in the photographer, video crew and a battalion of others vendors hired to ensure a 'successful' wedding.
I guess that's what 'floats the boat' here.
But for me, all it does is made me very grateful for the wedding we had seven years ago. I wouldn't have it any other way. The memories and significance I take from that day cannot be measured in dollars or rupiah or the number of guests.
If you are single or engaged, then take the opportunity to think of what would be the most important things you'd want to have on your wedding day. Or rather: what memories from your wedding would you rather remember and treasure in five, ten, and thirty years into your marriage? You'd be surprised that the 'material' aspects would fade away quickly. Trust me.
Although we now live on the other side of the globe from the friends who were involved in our wedding, they will always be an integral part of the most important day of our lives.
I'm so thankful that our wedding memories were not (and could not be) bought by money. Our friends and families made us feel like the wealthiest couple by their outpouring of love and care. Time and distance only serve to increase our lasting appreciation.
*Through It All by Hillsong Australia (from their 2002 album "Blessed")