Indonesia's President Joko Widodo (second from right), First Lady Iriana Widodo and sons Gibran Rakbuming Raka and Kaesang Pangarep shake hands with guests while holding a traditional ceremony during preparations for the wedding of Kahiyang Ayu in Solo, Central Java on Nov 7, 2017.PHOTO: AFP
JAKARTA - Residents of Solo, the hometown of President Joko Widodo in Central Java, have started holding prayer gatherings and parties, where they eat tumpeng, a Javanese rice dish traditionally served during major family celebrations, days ahead of his daughter's wedding on Wednesday (Nov 8).
More than 7,000 guests, including relatives and friends, as well as ministers, politicians businessmen, are expected to join in the happy occasion in Solo. Mr Joko's only daughter Kahiyang Ayu, 26, is marrying property businessman Bobby Nasution, also 26.
On Tuesday morning, the First Family held a Siraman, where the bride goes through a pre-nuptial ritual bath with water from seven different natural sources, to symbolise blessings being bestowed on her for her new life.
The ritual, held at Mr Joko's private residence in Solo, saw him and First Lady Iriana pour flower-infused water over their daughter, followed by other family members and close relatives.
Hundreds of Solo residents were already waiting along the street in front of the residence in Jalan Kutai Utara for Mr Joko and his wife to arrive. About 1,200 members of Projo, a volunteer group that supports Mr Joko, are also in Solo for the celebration.
"We also want to celebrate. We are happy for them," said Mr Sarwono, 62, a vegetable seller at a wet market. He and about 40 fellow traders bought a huge tumpeng they ate together while holding a mass prayer.
"We pray and hope the reception runs smoothly and the couple will be together until they are grandparents," added Mr Sarwono, who goes by one name.
On Tuesday night, in a procession called Midodareni, the groom's family will deliver the dowry to the bride's home.
According to The Jakarta Post, the Islamic solemnisation ceremony, or akad nikah, will take place at 8 am on Wednesday.
"The President will give his daughter's hand in marriage, while Vice-President Jusuf Kalla will act as witness for the bride and Coordinating Economic Minister Darmin Nasution, as witness for the groom," said wedding coordinator Quirinto Endy.
The couple first met in 2015 when they were in graduate school at the Bogor Agricultural University in Bogor, West Java. They are said to have dated for about a year.
Mr Bobby, a Batak, is the son of the late Erwin Nasution, a former director of state-owned plantation firm Perkebunan Nusantara IV, who died in January. The Bataks are an ethnic group predominantly from North Sumatra.
Ms Kahiyang is the President's middle child. She has two brothers, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, 29, and Kaesang Pangarep, 22.
"I'm about to be a member of a big Batak family," said Mr Joko, who is Javanese, after inaugurating two toll roads in Medan, North Sumatra, in October.
Preparations for the wedding have taken months. Solo's Adi Soemarno International Airport is standing by to receive at least 30 chartered aircraft for Mr Joko's VIP guests, while other commercial airlines have also added flights for Nov 8, considered an auspicious date for the Javanese.
Top hotels in Solo reported that their rooms were nearly all full.
"Demand has increased since the wedding was announced," said Sunan hotel general manager Retno Wulandari.
Security has also been beefed up with about 5,500 police officers and soldiers deployed around the city.
Ms Elfia Eki, 26, a former primary school mate of Ms Kahiyang, said she was surprised to receive an invitation, adding that she met Ms Kahiyang three years ago during a reunion gathering.
"I first heard Ayang was getting married from the media, and didn't expect that I would be invited. Ayang was a great school mate. She was friendly to everyone," Ms Elfia, who works in a hotel, told The Straits Times.
After Solo, Mr Bobby will hold receptions in Medan, his hometown, in the last week of November. More than 50 members of Mr Joko's extended family will also travel to Medan for second part of the couple's celebrations.
This article was first published in The Straits TImes.