Weddings in Indonesia tend to be a lavish affair and the more lavishness the greater the expense. The idea of just inviting your close family and friends just does not seem to work even where the bride and groom might just have such an intention. Once the parents get involved it is time to say hello to invitees you have never met before in your life and probably will never meet again!
I am sure someone somewhere has empirical research to confirm the following insights. It seems that a big wedding is par for the course because traditionally you invited all your neighbors in the Kampong and this could run into 30 or 50 people or so. But, alas as the the Kampong grew so did the size of the weddings. When your Kampong is the sprawling rambling metropolis of Jakarta and its somewhere up to 15 million inhabitants, it is not rocket science to see what is going to happen here.
But that is never enough to explain how it works here. One must look at ego and competition to get a real picture of what goes into planning a wedding in Jakarta. Simply, the more people you get to turn out for the big show is indicative of not only your wealth but also your reputation and status within the circles which you mix. Perhaps not you, as in the bride and groom, but you as in the parents of the bride and groom. As for any good party, 'the more the merrier'. This is the ego factor.
The competition factor is the need to stage a wedding that is so big that it is not just a society event but it is the event. This will ensure that whoever follows you must be committed to going the distance and doing it bigger and better or concede defeat and stage a smaller-scale event. This means that the number of invitees can move into the thousands. Even if I knew a thousand people I am sure I would not remember their names. This means that it is not only your friends get invites but also your enemies get them too. This is to ensure that no offence is made to anyone, this is cultural and not some sage advice about keeping your friends close and your enemies even closer.
Indonesians are no different to any other inhabitant of this ever-warming planet of ours, they love a good competition.
I went to a wedding earlier tonight, it was a lavish affair, but for me the amusement always comes from the 'awe' factor. That is the who's who of the community is there. As a journalist there is always the temptation to talk shop and secure interviews for the following day or the next week or to confirm that information gained from sources is on the money or just idle gossip. But the beauty of the no expenses spared reception is that Indonesians really do know how to lay out a good spread - the entrees, the mains, and the desserts were reason enough to put shop talk on hold!
To be sure this is not a criticism of the practice of big weddings. It is rather an attempt to show the rationale. The wedding reception I went to this evening was a great event and a good opportunity to catch up with people I have not seen since the last wedding we were both at or at least people I have not seen in a long time. These musings do not really do justice to the grandness of the event - it really is a case of seeing is believing.
I think it is time a cost - benefit analysis was done on weddings to determine what sort of return you get on the outlay.