I'm going to say something that everyone but the last of those starry-eyed romantics figured out a long time ago. Marriage is messy. It's a complicated thing and there's no way of knowing if it's actually going to work out.
A lot of times it doesn't. Here in Indonesia, the divorce rate is actually on the rise, increasing 15 percent between 2010 and 2015. Every single day, at least 40 couples in Indonesia are calling it quits on their marriage. (But it's still far less than the United States, where half of all heterosexual marriages end in divorce).
It reminds me of a joke my friend once told me: "If you go to a wedding reception, go to the buffet first, and then go to the stage and greet the bride and groom. Here's why: their marriage will last at least a month—there's plenty of time to congratulate them—but the buffet will only last a few hours. We need to get our priorities straight."
Indonesian weddings are in a class of their own. Half the marriages in the U.S. fail? So what, when the average number of guests is a little more than 120? One hundred twenty people? By Indonesian standards, that's nothing. It's common for an Indonesian wedding to total in the thousands. (The average cost? Surprisingly, it's about the same.)
It's all so much that the most-logical solution seems to be to hold off getting married until my mother just can't stand it anymore. But say you're actually going to get married. What's it really like? I reached out to actual people who are either already married or about to be to figure it out.
Teo Minaroy, 30, Teacher
VICE Indonesia: Teo, I heard you're getting married this year?
Teo Minaroy: That's the plan. We're getting married in October of this year after dating for more than four years.
So what's the plan?
My fiancée and I agreed to throw a simple, modest wedding. We're only inviting our families and very close friends. We're going to have a ceremony with about 300 people, but I think only 200 of them will come.
How much is this all going to cost?
Around Rp 70 to 100 million [$5,200-$7,500 USD].
What's the point of a wedding, aside from pronouncing your never-ending love, of course?
Well, it's to avoid the fitnah [rumors]. A wedding is a public announcement that from then on, you and your partner will live together. So we need to inform as many people as possible. But not everyone needs to be invited. Look, at the end of the day, practical things—like a stove—are really expensive. I would rather buy one of those than throw a big lavish wedding.
Chaulla Jawwas, 24, Businesswoman
Chaulla, when are you getting married?
Chaulla Jawwas: Ten days!
Holy shit! Are you nervous?
No, not really. I'm not losing any sleep over it. I think I just want to get this over with ASAP. That's the sunnah anyway, as soon as the guy proposes, we have to throw the wedding as soon as possible.
Tell me about it.
My fiancé and I are both Arab, right? So a couple of days before my post-grad graduation, he came to my house and asked for my parents' blessings. The whole thing is going to be very Islamic. And Arab too. I won't be there during ijab qabul. It'll just be the boys. I'll come in after the ceremony is over. It'll be at my house. On the reception night, the ballroom will be separated into two areas: one for men and one for women. But we can still take photos together.
What's the budget?
Around Rp 500-700 million [$37,000-$52,000 USD]. I think it's impossible to throw a wedding for less than Rp 200 million [$15,000 USD].
Is it everything you always wanted it to be?
I'm so into fairy tales, so I thought I would have more elaborate lights at my wedding. [Laughs] But to be honest, I thought my wedding would be bigger than this. I thought I would invite more than 1,000 guests. But it's OK. I see now that it's more important to have an intimate celebration and keep my parents happy. We invited about 500 people to my ijab qabul. Because this is the most important part, more people want to come. Especially the men. It's said that men get pahala whenever they attend a ijab qabul ceremony.
Oh really? So I might go to heaven if I go to enough weddings?
I'm not sure that's how it works, but who knows. [Laughs]
Teddy Wijayakusuma, 36, Co-Owner, POST Bookshop
OK, so tell me about your wedding.
Well, based on our IDs, I'm Hindu and my partner's Catholic. I'm Balinese and she's Chinese. We wanted to get married without having to convert religions. So, with the help of Yayasan Indonesia Bahagia, we were pronounced husband and wife at the civil registry. Afterward, we had a modest reception with our families and about 20 friends. We ate, we drank, we danced. The second wedding was a tea ceremony with our two families. And the third one was at the family's shrine in Bali. They were all very simple, just the way we like it.
Yeah, it's frustrating that people of different faiths can't marry in Indonesia.
We owe our marriage to Yayasan Indonesia Bahagia. Nothing pisses me off more than the fact that people of different religions can't get married. But I was a bit worried that my partner would get overwhelmed. There are a lot of new things in Balinese culture. But my partner handled it well. Even when a relative who came a long way asked to touch tongues as a sign of good luck. My partner understood that he meant well. She's the best.
Did you get any shit for not inviting like 1,000 people?
Some people think they need to invite everyone. Trust me. Those second-degree friends don't care that much.