How To Get Married In Bali

9 November 2014

Revered as one of the most magical travel destinations on earth and deemed the 'Isle of the Gods', Bali is steeped in legends and mystical tales. One such myth is that those who marry in Bali will remain in love throughout time. “Sensual pleasures have the fleeting brilliance of a comet; a happy marriage has the tranquillity of a lovely sunset.” – Ann Landers, advice columnist.

Elizabeth and her new husband make it official. Elizabeth and her new husband make it official.

Uluwatu’s limestone cliffs take a battering from the waves below as the sun threatens to set on time. The post-ceremony photographs were planned to coincide with the sun dipping into the Indian Ocean, but my sister hasn’t even made an appearance at her own wedding yet.

This isn’t a case of cold feet. She waits upstairs with our frantic parents wondering where the rest of the family have got to; myself included. We’ve been sitting on a rickety bus for almost three hours stuck in traffic compliments of the Bali’s endless road-works.

We’ve managed to feebly stave off the heat with bottles of water and now bladders are threatening to burst alongside frustrations. Shame the same can’t be said for the fight our hairstyles and make-up are having with the humidity.

Eventually we approach the winding streets of Uluwatu and after an invigorating scrape against the power lines we arrive at Semara Cliff Edge Villas. Set in dramatic seclusion, the venue is usually reserved for A-listers or those lucky enough to be organised enough to book far ahead in advance; like my super-efficient sister.

After piling off the bus and clambering over the anxious wedding planner in search of the toilets, we all obediently take our places and contemplate how the nuptials must be feeling.

Impressively, the bride and groom are a picture of radiance and serenity and shrug off the delay in proceedings. I suspect their calmness probably has something to do with the exotic surroundings and the fact they’ve well and truly had a head start on the festivities and honeymoon.

After all, what could be more romantic than exchanging vows to the sound of crashing waves or staging your wedding photos against the backdrop of an ancient Hindu temple?

 Say '"I do" at the Villa Messina, Canggu

With so many wonderful regions, choosing a location is one of the hardest decisions to make. Surfing mecca Echo Beach is within close proximity of Canggu’s rural landscape and the chaos of Seminyak and with opulent villas dotted all over the region, the choice of wedding themes is plentiful and conveniently located.

Location, location, location

Considered the spiritual capital of Bali, the verdant hilltop town of Ubud is littered with Hindu temples, terraced rice paddies, palaces and plunging river gorges. Many of the villas and resorts are built in the traditional wooden style and with milder weather, exchanging vows in such a setting is surely an extraordinary start to any marriage.

Located on the east coast between the Lombok Strait and mountains to the west and about two hours from the airport, the coastal town of Candi Dasa is famed for its relaxed charm as much as for its snorkelling and diving. Of course, there’s the dramatic option of a cliff-top wedding in the south like Uluwatu.

As sublime as these options are, unless you’re already familiar with the Balinese way of doing business, hiring a wedding planner is invaluable, time saving and cost effective. After all, organising a wedding is stressful enough without relocating it to another country, especially developing one.

 Semara's candelit wedding reception

A wedding expert will be available throughout the entire process and guide you through the paperwork, help your guests with their travel arrangements as well as organising the ceremony and reception. They also come armed with tried and tested recommendations for photographers, videographers, florists, transport and the seemingly endless list of wedding requirements, including the all-important legalities.

They’ll be in attendance on the wedding day to handle those tropical challenges like power outages, incidentals like bouquets wilting in the humidity and even delays caused by crazy traffic. In case you’re wondering the rest of my sister’s wedding was seamless thanks to her fast thinking wedding planner.

It's all in the details

A Balinese wedding only becomes legal when the couple have a religious ceremony of their own faith in advance and only after that will the civil registrar officiate and register the marriage.

Check with your own consulate well in advance as procedures and paperwork may vary according to nationality, but usually your passport must be valid for at least six months and visas, certified birth certificates, legalised written statements confirming your status (e.g. single, widowed, divorced), photos and a Certificate of Non-impediment to Marriage are all required.

Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist religions are recognised in Indonesia and religious ceremonies can be held anywhere except in Balinese temples and Catholic weddings must be held in a church or wedding chapel. Unless already a Hindu, it’s not possible for foreigners to be married in the Balinese Hindu way but a Balinese blessing ceremony and a prayer for the couple in a ceremony is known as a membiakale.

A preliminary visit to Bali to finalise the details will give peace of mind, however if not possible, try to arrive as many days before the wedding to handle any issues that may have arisen.  Although hopefully the arrangements will have gone smoothly with the procurement of a reputable wedding planner like Global Weddings or Bali Weddings International; and you can start the cocktails at sunset as soon as you land.

Remember these I do’s:

  • Don’t ever leave home without travel insurance.
  • Bear in mind the year-round heat and humidity with milder weather from May to August and the monsoon season from December to February.
  • Don’t be offended if everyone can’t make it. Some of your guests won’t be able to get time off from work or have the funds to travel.
  • Check with your doctor about the required immunisations to avoid any nasty reactions on the day.
  • Never EVER drink the tap water and check ice is made with filtered water.

Carmen Jenner

Self-confessed travel addict Carmen Jenner freelances to numerous national and international publications. She is the author of “Permanent Impressions: a salute to contemporary heroines,” which pays homage to 50 of WA’s most prominent women and won bronze in the Independent Book Publishers Awards in New York May 2014. Join the journey at www.fluffytowel.com; travel musings for those who love their adventure as much as their fluffy towels.