Monday, September 13, 2010

marriage request

I was asked by our washing lady (and friend) to photograph her brother-in-law's "masuk minta" celebration.  The literal translation is "enter request", and is the first of a three step process in the local marriage tradition.  The groom-to-be and his family travel to the bride-to-be's house in order to discuss arrangements for the wedding and officially ask for their blessing as a couple.

Jacob Seli-Lenggu : groom-to-be
travelling to the bride in style

The bride is hidden behind closed doors in her house, while the groom is tucked away next door.  The groom's party, dressed in skirts made from a heavy ikat weaving, offer gifts of make-up, plastic kitchen containers & hair accessories to the bride's family.  The  presents are draped in crocheted doilies and plastic flowers that will become cherished table decorations in the newleywed home.
The "best man" holds a flourescent lamp, and much fuss is made over the "light of the Lord" coming down to bless the union.  The fluro disappears into the dark room where the bride is sweating, and the best man's duties are done.

After long speeches and prayers by the village chief and the priest, the immediate families, each with with an elder uncle spokesperson, sit down to chew the fat over cake and sickly sweet coffee.  I am trapped in the small room, the air still, hot and clouded with cigarette smoke.  The discussions go for over an hour and cover the date of the wedding, venue, how many people each family can invite and who is going to provide the food.  "I've got one cow, but that won't feed 300 people...can you donate some goats and chickens?"

Outside, a large crowd waits patiently for the announcement, and the promise of a meal and piece of cake.  Finally, the groom is summoned to grab his girlfriend and appear before the elders and community, to hear what plans have been made for their big day.  Each is asked in turn why they wish to get married, and they both reply "for love."  I am guessing there are three possible answers to this : for love, because she's pregnant, or because our parents said so.

thank god you got me out of that hot box
when's the food coming?
There are hand shakes and nose rubs all round, then a feed of rice, boiled beef, noodles and wilted greens.  I graciously decline, claiming the cake and coffee filled me up, and I really must be going home to see Tom. 

The next event is the "belis", or dowry payment; held at the groom's house with more rice, boiled pig and painfully long speeches.

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thanks for taking the time

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