When I was in Kuta I had the opportunity to see a traditional wedding. I was at my villa and two of the girls that worked there came to my room telling me to hurry up to come and see the wedding on the street. I quickly found my camera and followed her out.
The street was packed and loud music was playing. On one end of the street was the family of the bride lined up in a straight line with a loud speaker and musicians playing in the background. Everyone in the line was dancing as they walked down the street. We walked with them for a few blocks until they met the grooms family that was walking towards them from the other end of the street.
There were 2 things that I noticed as I watch the entire thing go down. The first was that the bride and the groom looked so young! They were not more than 20 years old. The second was that the bride was crying and not in a happy way but in a very sad way.
When we got back to the hotel I asked the 2 girls that worked there to tell me a little bit more about marriages in Lombok. They said the average age to get married was between 17 and 23 and usually not much later than that. I stared at them blankly, 17 years old? How was someone capable of picking their life partner at the age of 17? I look back to the people I liked when I was that age and there is no way that I would ever like them now, let alone be married to them! “Yes”, they said, “you have to get married at that age or else someone else will steal you’re significant other away”. Steal them away? Ok I was confused. They explained that since they are Muslims it is not possible to openly date. If a boy and a girl like each other they have to keep it private due to their religion. Once a boy decides he wants to marry a girl he will take her away for a night and the next day when he brings her back to her parents house they are considered engaged and married within a few weeks. Sometimes in traditional families if A boy takes a girl out and brings her back after 11pm they are forced to get married. Ok so I understood this but what did they mean by “stealing”? There was a man working at the hotel who overheard our conversation and he tried to explain. Sometimes there is a pretty girl in the village and many men would like to marry her so they will fight for her. Sometimes she might not like any of them but if one managers to kidnap her for the evening then she is forced to marry him. Ok- what. the. heck???? It’s 2014 is this is really happening? YES, they all said at once, this is how it’s done here. The man went on to say that he had 2 separate girlfriends and both of them were kidnapped by his friends and were forced to marry them. He then said that when he finally found his third and final girlfriend he married her immediately so that someone wouldn’t steal her away. I could not believe my ears! So to sum it up, if a girl and a boy like each other and want to get married the boy will take her away for the evening and the next day they are considered engaged. But sometimes a boy will physically kidnap a girl and not bring her back purposely so that he can marry her. It’s not “kidnapping” in the sense that we know it but he will take her out for the evening and then not bring her home (since girls can’t walk alone on the streets late at night) until the morning or late at night.
Maybe this is why the bride looked so sad! Maybe she never even wanted to marry this boy but was being forced to. I immediately thought back to all of my married friends on Gili Meno was this how they all got married? I asked the girls if all marriages in Lombok were like this and they said, “yes, this is how its done here”.
They day I was in Kuta Lombok I was very sad for a variety of things and for nothing at all. I think it was the realization that my trip was coming to an end and it was time for me to start thinking about what I wanted to do with my life amongst other things. They could see that I was sad and to cheer me up they asked me to tell them about my travels. As I talked about all the different places that I visited all they could say was, “wow you so lucky, lucky girl, wow oh wow, you so very lucky Amanda, we wish we lucky like you, wow”. They went on to say that they had never even been to Bali. Bali is one and a half hours from Lombok but they have never been there. They said that it was their dream to go there and hopefully one day their dream would come true. I couldn’t believe it, here I was feeling sorry for myself because my travels were coming to an end and I was meeting two girls who couldn’t even afford to take a boat an hour away to another city in their own country. It’s funny how God speaks to you sometimes and helps you to put things in perspective. I was lucky and instead of being sad that it was over it was time to start being grateful for all that I have experienced in the past 6 months (as well as being grateful that I’ve never been kidnapped and forced to marry a guy that I didn’t want to)!