Saturday, January 23, 2010

How Deep Is Your Love?

Last weekend, I went zooming around the ring road all the way up to Kemayoran Expo in order to take in the Jakarta Mega Wedding Festival 2010. I should just say at this point that I'm not planning a wedding myself, be it mega or otherwise, in the near future. I'm clearly not very commited when it comes to the fairer sex and it's going to take a very special lady to keep me smiling (or a whole bunch of average ones... I mean either way it's all good).

I did however spy a number of Western gentlemen mingling in amongst the mainly ethnic Chinese attendees. They were being tugged reluctantly around the stalls and stands by their eager local fiancés.

So, what was on offer for young lovebirds to feast on down at the Jakarta Mega Wedding Festival 2010? Everything that any loving couple could possibly want from their big day out in fact: fancy rings to show off to those bitches at work, cakes the size of wardrobes, dresses for fatties, elaborate wedding tuxedos that'll make any groom look like a gay maitre d’, hideously expensive photographers who’ll airbrush your memories of that big day to a Hollywood level of blandness. Yes, there were literally a million and one ways of blowing a sizeable chunk of cash that would otherwise be better spent on a prefabricated starter home outside Bekasi that will look like a Roman ruin within five years.

Alas, the festival has now finished, so if you're planning to get hitched in the near future, then you've missed all the best deals on an aspirational wedding that will create a satisfactory illusion of wealth and grandeur for your friends to try and top.

Weddings don't come cheap though, even in Indonesia. I checked out prices for the various elements of the classic wedding and it certainly all adds up. A photographer will cost you a minimum of Rp.3,500,000 for indoors and Rp.6,000,000 for outdoors (no, I don't understand the difference either). Surely you could get a friend to take a few snaps for you in these days of powerful digital cameras? Ha, I’m such a cheapskate. We’d better take a figure of Rp.6,000,000 then.

Next up is the catering. If you wish to invite a large crowd of wedding goers, say 500 people, then the cheapest deal I could find was Rp.38,000,000 all in. Actually, I had great fun at the catering stalls as they all featured example wedding buffets for potential clients to test.
"Did the black pepper beef perform for you, Sir?"
"Not bad my good man, I think I'll try the caterers two stalls down though, just to make a comparison".
Several hours later, I was getting stuck into the antacids. The things I do for this column.

Next up comes a cake. You can save a bit of money here by renting a pretend cake several feet high for only Rp.1,000,000 and then giving your guests pieces from a more modest offering that has just been cut up behind the scenes. Honesty, that's what launching a successful marriage is all about.

Next comes a hall or hotel function room to hold the reception in. This will set you back about another Rp.20,000,000 minimum. Then there are the rings. We'd better add about Rp.30,000,000 there. Then there are the invites and the little gifts that are always given to wedding guests on the door in Indonesia. Whole selections of gift ideas were on display and ranged from clichéd and boring fans to photo frames to rather more interesting beer bottle openers.

A wedding that I attended once actually gave away shot glasses, my personal best door gift winner. Moreover, when ex-strongman Suharto's grandson got married a couple of years back, all of the guests were given a rose made from five Rp.10,000 notes with two Rp.20,000 notes for the leaves, pretty much summing up that particular family's weltanschauung. In any case, we'd better add about Rp.12,000,000 for the invites and gifts. So that leaves us with a grand total of Rp.107,000,000. This is around US$10,000, roughly half the cost of the average American wedding, although I've probably forgotten lots of other stuff. I am a man after all.

I said that the wedding Festival reflected the classic western Christianized wedding and seemed to be catering for a mainly ethnic Chinese clientele, however I find Indonesian weddings, be they Muslim or Christian, to be much of a muchness. Many that I've attended haven't been a whole heap of fun to be frank. There is usually no drinking or dancing, as we have in the West, and certainly nothing like those week-long affairs that they have in India. The bride and groom themselves have to do a whole lot of standing around looking like androgynous mannequins and generally avoiding any spontaneous displays of enjoyment.

No, no, I can't face it. It's elopement to Vegas for me if I ever get hitched to an Indonesian lass. When I tie the knot I want a quick 10 minute ceremony presided over by a dead-on-the-toilet, cheeseburger era Elvis followed by a 24-hour Jack Daniel's bender. Now that's what I call a day to remember.