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15 May '16

Muslim Weddings in Indonesia

Posted by Priyanka S in Islamic culture

Practitioners of Islam are in the overwhelming majority in Indonesia, but the group of islands in fact includes many different ethnic groups, each of which brings their unique style of ceremony and celebration to the joining of a couple in matrimony. One of the most important parts of the Indonesian wedding is declaring one's religion; the government of the country does not recognize unions that are not made under the auspices of some religion. Islamic marriages are not required to be registered in the Civil Registry, although those between other religions are.

Islamic marriages in Indonesia must be presided over by both a government official and a religious officiator.


One of the most intricate marriage unions in Indonesia, or anywhere else in the world, takes place within the Bugis tribe who live east of Borneo. The nuptials of a Bugis couple is a highly traditional and regimented procedure, within the guiding principles of Islam.

The family of a young man will usually decide on a young woman they would prefer their son to marry. Their decision is made known to their son, who will tell his parents how he feels about the choice. Upon his acceptance, the young woman is asked if she has any strong feelings against the union as it has been proposed. If she does not, an intermediate is used to determine if a bride's parents will be receptive to the proposal; if an acceptance is likely, the interceder will propose a marriage to the family of the bride.

The Ceremony 

The intercedent may be accompanied by other representatives of the groom to make the formal marriage proposal. This proposal will take place at a ceremony where refreshments will be served. Giving of gifts is an important aspect of this ceremony, with the bride's family receiving gifts from that of the groom. A bride with a higher social status means that the groom's family has to ask what gifts are preferred, while equal rank means that the groom's family may give whatever gifts they choose.


The formal announcement of the marriage takes place at the Engagement Meeting, with the readings from the Quran and the cleansing ceremony taking place.

Similarities between cultures

While each tribe of Indonesia has its own wedding customs, there are several aspects of Indonesian wedding ceremonies that are similar to each ethnicity.
• Indonesian weddings are large. Everyone remotely associated with the couple are invited. Attendance is mandatory, if the guest wishes not to offend the hosts.
• Receptions are raucous affairs, with dancing, many dishes of food, and elaborate dresses.

Some differences

• Among the Bugis, the marriage ceremony is known as the nikah. The groom’s mother and father do not attend this ceremony, which is conducted by an imam.
• In Northern Sumatra, the bride’s party recites poetry to welcome the groom to the bride’s home, where the ceremony is performed.
• On Bali, groom wears a sword during the wedding.
• On Java, the bride and groom both sit on the lap of the father of the bride, one on each leg. The father states that both of the individuals weigh the same; this symbolizes that the couple are equal as individuals in the eyes of their family.

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