Indonesian engagement

Months ago, my son invited me to join him on a three week trip to Indonesia to visit his penpal of nine years. I thought about it, but realized I needed to spend any vacation time I had concentrating on my daughter’s early summer wedding.

I should have gone. His first weekend there, he e-mailed a short note saying he was about to go to his engagement party.
His what?! A party?! And me was half way around the world with no way to get there on time. The next few days I was in shock, “He had an engagement party and I wasn’t there! Sure go to Indonesia and got engaged, but let me go to the engagement party.”

Afterwards he e-mailed, “when you see the photos of the engagement keep in mind that we did not get married … we got engaged.” He was not simply engaged – he was Biblically ‘betrothed.’

Son and fiancé’ met nine years ago during his mission trip to Indonesia. Barely in her teens she wanted an English writing penpal. A second year college man, he agreed to humor the kid. The past couple years, they have written letters and e-mail with increasing frequency, made a few, expensive international phone calls and chatted on line via instant messenger in the early morning and late night hours of their days half a world apart. As she neared the completion of her college course, they began discussing marriage.

He was greeted in Jarkata with a large chocolate cake emblazoned with “welcome to our family.” The next morning, the penpals took a walk. He asked if, having met him in person, she still wanted to marry him. She said, “Yes.” They bought her engagement ring and Batik – traditional Indonesia clothes for important events. That evening he gave her family the gifts he had brought.

Friday, my son formally asked her father to could marry his daughter and presented the man with all the paperwork requested: a certificate of singleness signed his pastor and parents and Mayor Dumas; a letter from the Union County clerk saying they had no record of his marriage, plus, letters of recommendation from a friend and me and my husband. Her father agreed my son could marry into the family. The couple read several Biblical passages about marriage in English and Indonesia, explained what it meant to them.

Early Saturday, my son was told he also needed an engagement ring. While he gone to buy one, his fiancée was taken to a beauty shop where her mother insisted she have her hair and make-up done in the traditional fashion. He returned to a transformed fiancée and house: a canopy shielded the front walk, caterer’s trays, stacks of chairs and an elaborate engagement cake filled the inside. That evening 60 close family, friends and neighbors joined him and his fiancée for a betrothal ceremony and celebration.

They sang a few songs in Indonesian – and one in English. He was asked how they had met and how the relationship had gone on from there. When his understanding of Indonesian failed, he simply told them all about his wonderful bride-to-be. The pastor preached a half hour plus sermon before he was joined by several others in a lengthy covenant prayer over the couple. At one point my son wasn’t too sure if he was being married or engaged to his former penpal. When folks said, “Kiss her.” my son kissed her and the betrothal ceremony was over.

Every Indonesian woman does not have a betrothal ceremony. However the penpal’s family decided to have one to establish their daughter’s relationship to this strange man from the USA.
Then came the party I missed with food, fellowship and that huge engagement cake. The next 10 days they visited her extended family, went shopping and sightseeing and made plans for the next year until their wedding – when there will be another party. A party, I fully intend to make – even if I do have to take a couple weeks off to enjoy it.