For a groom to give his prospective bride a gift or dowry, such as cash, gold or a praying rug and veil, is a traditional custom in Indonesia.But whereas pieces of gold or a praying rug and veil set can be placed nicely in antique boxes, demanding relatively little skill, giving money has become an art - in the sense of a craft.
For a groom to offer his bride cold hard cash as the present does not have to be boring, with many vendors now offering grooms a distinctive service: Fashion their cash into shapes such as a dozen roses, butterflies, an eagle, a mosque, a traditional wedding couple, a peacock, a marine scene, a traditional ship or a traditional house.
"Ship and houses are the most popular models especially among people from Sulawesi and Sumatra because they symbolize a long-lasting journey and a home for the family, but sometimes customers want something extraordinary such as a police officer wanted me to make the police logo out of his money," said Sylvia Hasan, the owner of The House of Seserahan.
The bills are folded and arranged in an origami-type style in a two- or three-dimensional frame. Within the frame, alongside the folded cash, may be additional ornaments to help bring out the shape. An aquarium scene might include some sea shells, for example.
The amount of money a man might give as a gift can range from just a few thousand rupiah to millions. The amount of money usually represents the wedding date or another date special to the couple.
If cash denominations don't fit the date, artisans look for obsolete bills, which are available at some traditional markets or from the central bank. But, Sylvia said, old money is easily torn and can generally only be put in the frame without much folding.
Where there is a large sum of money, artisans may advise the customer to use only the small bills for the money art, with the rest simply placed in the frame.
"If they want the gift to be memorable, we usually advise them to use only small notes so *the gift* doesn't have to be pulled apart after the wedding. And large amounts of money in a frame could invite criminals," added Attila Sawir, who was once asked to make a traditional house of the Minang people, rumah gadang, from Rp 25 million in cash.
Foreign currencies are also used. "People from Sulawesi tend to have money from Arab regions such as riyals or dinars, but a few times I have had grooms bring all kinds of money, saying they wanted to travel to all the countries the money comes from," said Siti Aisyah, the owner of Istje Souvenir.
As the money-folding skill is a rare one, prices for the service are higher than for other pre-wedding gifts.
Attila Collection, for example, charges from Rp 100,000 to 350,000 for arranging money in a frame. The House of Seserahan charges between Rp 550,000 and Rp 600,000 for a two-dimensional construction and between Rp 1 million and Rp 1.5 million for three dimensions.
- JP/Matheos V. Messakh