Saturday night, in Semarang, Indonesia, I attended a wedding reception with the minister who married the couple earlier in the day; the pastor is a friend with whom I am staying during my visit to Indonesia.
The reception was held in a beachside resort near the Semarang airport. The resort is new; in fact, construction has not been completed and the hotel is yet to open for business. As we were waiting for our car at the end of the evening, I learned from another guest that work on the washrooms had been finished just moments before the party was set to begin. When the venue was booked by the family of the bride-and-groom-to-be it was expected that the facility would be ready in time but it was clear that makeshift arrangements had to be made.
This was no cozy, intimate gathering. The groom is the only son of a very wealthy businessman and no expense was spared for the celebration of his marriage. Estimates of the guest list ranged between 1600 and 2000 names; the hall used for the event could easily have accommodated a Lakers-Knicks game and a large number of the fans who were keen to attend. The governor of the province of Central Java, in which the city of Semarang is located, was in attendance.
The ceiling of the hall was draped with black cloth and hung with a gigantic “chandelier” consisting of strings of lights, several smaller chandeliers, and cascades of simulated branches filled with leaves. I was told that the ceiling decorations alone cost US$200,000.
The hall was filled with dozens of bouquets, of all sizes, consisting of fresh white roses, tulips, and lilies. Each table featured a beautiful candelabra with wax-burning candles. There were three large video screens as well as a giant LCD screen behind the orchestra.
The orchestra, most of whose members had been flown in from the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, for the church service, which had been held in the late morning, as well as for the reception, consisted of twenty-five members plus a conductor. Singers and dancers had also been brought from Jakarta; these included two wonderful singers, Sienna, an excellent pop-jazz vocalist, and “Jakarta Mike,” winner of the Indonesian Idol contest and a fine R&B artist, who performed an outstanding rendition of James Brown’s “I Feel Good.”
Each table had a handsomely uniformed waiter who stood at attention until it was time to serve or clear or to refill glasses. The menu was first-class, the food delicious.
The total cost for this event could not have been less than $500,000.
By the end of the evening, when the guests were ready to leave, the heavy rain that can occur at any time during this season had begun to fall and the truly provisional nature of the facility made itself felt. Guests waited up to 90 minutes under a rather flimsy canopy for their cars to be brought from the parking lot as there was only one narrow lane in front of the hotel for vehicles to pass in order to exit the resort property.
While the decorations, the food, and the entertainment were indeed impressive, the sheer opulence of the reception swept away the warmth and the communal feeling of joy that some of us might expect to experience at such an event.
I will definitely be scaling down my own wedding plans.
All photos by Juswantori Ichwan – All rights reserved
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