Fragrant, colorful, rich with tradition; these are the elements of the Javanese wedding ceremony. On the wedding day, the bride and groom are adorned with jasmine flowers and wrapped in jasmine-scented traditional fabrics accented with ornate brass and gold ornaments. The throne where they reside for most of the wedding day is decorated with flowers as well.
Later, the couple will find their bedroom entrance and honeymoon bed covered with flowers, sweet rice cakes, coconuts and auspicious bundles of plants. These are given as offerings for fertility that their first evening together be blessed with offspring.
Even before the wedding day ceremonies, a most luxurious ritual called lulur is prepared for the bride-to-be. Lulur originated in the royal palaces of Central Java, Indonesia, and is still practiced among Indonesian women and spa goers in Asia. The ritual, which lasts for the 40 days prior to the wedding, is honored as a time for nurturing and privacy when the women of the family can share sacred stories with the young virgin girl. Lulur is given to the bride-to-be to beautify, soften, and sweeten her skin.
The traditional lulur ritual begins with a massage with coconut oil infused with pandanus leaves and cempaka flowers followed by exfoliation with a blend of rice, turmeric, sandalwood, jasmine flowers and a hint of jasmine oil, leaving the skin gently scented. The massage and exfoliation treatments are followed by a flower bath laced with petals of jasmine, rose frangipani, seasonal aromatic blossoms and astringent leaves.
During the bath, the bride sips a traditional tonic beverage called jamu. Made of turmeric, ginger, egg yolk, and healing herbs, jamu tones the blood. In modern times, the lulur is completed with an application of jasmine and frangipani moisturizer. The ritual itself takes about 2 hours. As a spa treatment, this is one of the most pampering experiences available today.
It is important to note that in the past true jasmine absolute was used in the lulur ritual for the royal family. In modern times, however, jasmine perfume is used in this popular and common ceremony. The bride to be of the royal family of the past and the bride in Central Java today might also precede her flower bath with a sandalwood steam, believed to purify the skin and help remove odors from the vagina.
The extensive use of flowering plants, rice and coconuts throughout the lulur ritual and wedding ceremony is symbolic as well as fragrant and beautiful. As symbols, they represent life, fertility, and prosperity respectively. Aromatic plants are a botanical metaphor demonstrating life and well being through their abundant growth and propagation.