Lombok Love: Kidnapping Your Future Wife

Once again, Indonesia proves itself as the home of rich and diverse cultures and traditions. Despite the modernizing centres of Jakarta, Surabaya, Bali and more, the country remains a hub for interesting traditions. One such tradition can be found in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara. A wedding proposal you just won’t believe! 

The Sasak people are proud. Their belief in their traditions are steadfast, effortlessly holding their heritage as the country moves forward without them. In traditional Sasak villages, where homes are made of cow-dung and bamboo (yup, cow dung), one can get a sense of their unwavering traditional beliefs. 

For one, guests may not wander villages unaccompanied by a village dweller. Also, Sasak women may not marry if they are not able to weave their famous ‘ikat’ cloth… sure, all interesting, but what interests us the most is the Sasak ‘wedding proposal’. 

Normally, what happens is a marrying of ‘cousins’, as this usually keeps marriages within the village, which is what the Sasak people want. Secondly, if the marriage is between people of different villages, the parents must agree on the bride’s dowry, usually paid in cash and/or buffalo

However, there comes a time when love comes into the equation. Yet, the lovers are of different villages, of different castes, the man has no money, and the woman’s parents are difficult…etc, etc… a real Romeo and Juliet story! What happens then? Well, the man must kidnap his future wife! 

 If a man’s nyongkolan, or negotiations, with the parents of his loved one fail, he then plans what is called ‘merarik’. Merarik is a Sasak tradition of kidnapping. The man must plan and execute a kidnapping of his wife, keep her at his home, and then inform the village chief of his actions. The village chief tells the woman’s family, who are forced to accept this elopement (sometimes with payment).

Finally, the arrangements are made and these forbidden lovers can tie the knot! Complete with Sasak gear and traditional gendang belek marching drumline…

The sad part however, is that because of the ‘legality’ of this wedding ritual, some men can abuse their power. It’s not unheard of for jealous men to take women away from their real loves…