This article originally appeared on VICE Indonesia.
From sporting events to concerts and conferences, many public gatherings have been cancelled around the world because of the coronavirus. One of the most personal events to be affected, however, are weddings.
In Indonesia, weddings are usually lavish affairs with hundreds, even thousands, of guests. Simple weddings are so rare that they attract media attention. But while some are stressing about the sudden change of plans, many young Indonesian couples are breathing a sigh of relief.
As of writing, the coronavirus has led to 893 confirmed cases in Indonesia, with 78 deaths and 35 recoveries. One of the measures the government has taken to combat the spread of the virus was to ban wedding receptions involving over 10 people.
Some say that simple weddings are almost unheard of in Indonesia, where different ethnic groups have developed their own versions of complex weddings involving as many guests as possible. Couples hoping for a simple ceremony usually do not receive their parents’ blessing.
But large weddings have fallen out of favour among young Indonesians, who increasingly prefer simple, toned-down ceremonies with close friends and family. To them, the new government policy is a blessing in disguise.
26-year-old Safar Nurhan was scheduled to marry his fiance, Nyimas, on March 28 in Jakarta. They are thrilled that their wedding was cancelled. “Nyimas and I are grateful, praise God,” Nurhan told VICE.
“Nyimas is an introvert, and I’m not a fan of huge celebrations. We were doing it for Nyimas’ parents. Her mother is disappointed, but she understands that the situation in Jakarta is dire.”
The couple had considered cancelling their ceremony back when Indonesia reported its first coronavirus-related death in March, but cancellation wasn’t really on the table until Nyimas’ father received a warning against large gatherings from the local Office of Religious Affairs.
When they found out that one person in Pulo Gadung, where the wedding was to be held, had contracted the coronavirus, it was a done deal. The couple cancelled their wedding with no new date in place.
“[When the first patient died], Nyimas’ parents hadn’t given us the green light to cancel the wedding, because the government hadn’t banned large gatherings yet. When Governor Anies Baswedan explicitly banned wedding receptions, we sealed the deal,” Nurhan said.
They made the decision just a week before the wedding was to take place. They contacted all their invitees and cancelled flights for out-of-town relatives. “Praise God, the decorator, equipment rental, and catering understood the situation and refunded us.”
Azka Maula, 28, is not so sure what the future holds for her wedding. Her April 19 reception will definitely be postponed indefinitely, but she has not been guaranteed a refund on her wedding expenses. Luckily, she has not sent out invitations yet.
Maula recently received a WhatsApp message from the Yogyakarta Office of Religious Affairs stating that no more than 10 people may attend wedding ceremonies, and that all attendees must wear gloves and masks.
Still, the ban has not stopped some Indonesians from moving forward with their big wedding plans. On March 22, despite the moratorium, there was a wedding in the city of Purwokerto that had hundreds of guests, including a convoy of four buses from out of town. Police immediately arrived at the scene to shut down the event.
“We closed the road, sprayed the guests with disinfectant, sprayed the buses, and checked the body temperature of all guests. Luckily, everything appeared to be in order,” head of local police Whisnu Caraka told local media.
The coronavirus pandemic is changing our way of life. For Indonesia’s young couples, this could mean finally having that intimate wedding they’ve always wanted.