Instagram Is Driving Indonesia’s Wedding Culture to New Levels of Excess

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02 August 2017 | Alice | Motherboard

“There’s an old saying that eventually rings true to most young lovers who say “I do:” Weddings aren’t for the bride and groom. The marriage may be for the couple, but the wedding is actually for everyone else.

Okay, so all those long-as-hell traditions are for your parents. The party is for your friends. But everything else? Get real. We all know you’re doing it for the ‘gram.

Instagram is driving Indonesia’s wedding wars to dizzying heights. In the past, you only needed to impress your family, friends, exes, co-workers, neighbors, family friends, local politicians, the doctor who delivered you as a baby, the preacher from down the street, the bosses at your current job, the bosses at the job you really want…the list goes on.

But now, you need to impress all those people, plus millions of strangers stumbling across your amazing floral displays and 12-tiered cakes on Instagram.

“Wedding trends on Instagram have risen the bar higher and higher,” says Kevin Mintaraga, the CEO of Bridestory—the largest online wedding marketplace in Southeast Asia. “People look at the glamorous wedding photographs of their friends, relatives, or social media influencers and they want to match or outdo that.”

The internet, meaning online vendors, search engine results, and, of course, social media, is responsible for about 40 percent of all decisions made by couples planning their wedding, a survey conducted by Bridestory found. (Note: Bridestory is, of course, a wedding vendor so their polls might have included a self-selecting sample).

“The Indonesian wedding industry has definitely gone digital,” Mintaraga says. “Based on our research, smartphone usage dictates wedding trends in Indonesia.”

Instagram is so ubiquitous that wedding companies don’t need to spend money on advertising anymore. Social media is more than enough to keep the best organizers, photographers, and emcees in business.

“This year, we spent almost nothing on marketing,” says Aris, the co-founder of Wymm Organiser, a wedding planning company. “The pictures do the taking. If people like what they see, they ask their friends how to organize weddings like that, which vendors to contact, so on. We’re never short on clients. Social media has made jobs so much easier for us.”

Just how big is Indonesia’s wedding industry? It’s huge. More than 2 million people are married in Indonesia every single year. The average wedding totals 500 guests and cost as much as Rp 300 million ($22,500)—which is nearly five times the average annual income. But 500 guests is only a “medium-sized” wedding in Indonesia.

Plenty of others have guest lists in the thousands, and celebrations that last for days on end. It’s not uncommon to see lines at Indonesian weddings that rival the queues for new Disneyland rides.

Combined, the Indonesian wedding industry brings in an estimated $7 millionannually. That’s only $3 million less than the country’s tourism industry. Indonesian couples spend about the same on weddings as their counterparts in the US, despite the fact that the average American earns 16 times more than the average Indonesian in a single year.

It’s no surprise that Indonesian couples often save for years for their weddings, or go into serious debt, borrowing money from friends and family to finance their increasingly outrageous weddings.

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