When Love Matters: Marrying an Indonesian Citizen in Indonesia

It is almost impossible not to fall in love while in Indonesia. So, it happens on a daily basis that foreign tourists feel their hearts throb. 
Also on a daily basis Indonesian women and men realize they are falling in love with a bule (foreigner) or turis (tourist). It is not something most of them have been waiting for. After all, bule and turis have some negative connotations. Bule are strange, rude and usually non-believers (non Muslims). Yet, bule are also looked up to.

In most cases your Indonesian love will not culminate in a commitment, but sometimes it happens and you decide to go all the way. 'All the way' does involve sunshine and roses, and also lots of often unsuspected and unexpected rules, regulations and habits that may threaten to put a lid on your happiness.

So, how to beat the odds and bring your Indonesian spouse home with you?

Read about Language, Culture, Religion, Preparations, The Ceremony, Immigration Issues, Tax, Local Registration, Citizenship and Children, Getting Married in Bali

Find more details in our free e-Book Visiting Indonesia.


Although the language of love is so powerful that one does not really need to speak the partner's language, in due course there is a need for a more stable linguistic basis than is needed for dating Indonesian women.

Most Indonesians, especially those who have enjoyed secondary school know at least some English. Yet, it may be a good idea for you to learn Indonesian. It will take a long time to master Indonesian, but after a few months of going through a rigorous language course and lots of practice, you wil at least be able to read a newspaper and understand over half of what is said on TV.

Learning Indonesian is only half the job as most Indonesians are used to speaking their local language. There are some 300 languages around. Therefore, while Indonesian is the language most used in public life, you will probably still wonder what is being discussed at the home of your future inlaws.

Find language courses.


A wedding in Indonesia is almost as much an arrangement between two individuals as it is between their relatives. Building a strong bond between these two (extended) families requires time, but it is considered time well invested before the families can decide on the wedding ceremony.

Indonesia has its wedding seasons that are largely based on the Muslim, Hindu or Chinese calendar. For mixed couples an exception can always be made.

Rather than anything else an Indonesian wedding is a highly formal occasion that leaves no room for fun, songs, or informal speeches infused with humor, as in Western cultures. 

The bride and groom are considered to be king and queen for one day. Their role is therefore largely a passive one. Most of the time they are seated on a rented throne and going through the required moves and steps, while parents, essential relatives, neighbors, master of ceremony and make-up experts are fussing about, ensuring the ceremony runs without a glitch or a hitch.

Modern trends are easily blended with tradition. Western style weddings are as common as a traditional Javanese wedding ceremony.

Picture taking has become so important that a visit to a studio will probably be inevitable. During the wedding reception formal photos with different set-ups of relatives, neigbors, friends and co-workers are indispensable.

A video recording of the wedding will undoubtedly be as valuable as the wedding album.

A West Sumatran wedding reception (video).


Indonesians are generally a very religious people, and increasingly so. Foreigners are known of not attaching much of a priority to religion, something most Indonesians consider inappropriate and undesirable. Whatever the religion of your fiance(e), his or her relatives will expect you to convert to their religion.

Although freedom of religion is anchored within the Constitution, in everyday life the translation of that right is a bit different. Only in very rare cases will your partner and the wider group of relatives be willing to tolerate two religions within one household. 

If the foreigner is not prepared to convert to the Indonesian fiance(e)'s religion, the wedding and the relationship are certain to be called off. And if you and your fiance(e) decide to continue it, you must be prepared to face lots of problems with your inlaws for years to come.


Well before the planned day of the wedding ceremony, as a foreign spouse-to-be you need to get in touch with the Immigration authoriti in your country or your embassy in Indonesia to aks about the legal requirements of your marriage. Please ensure that all the paperwork is completed, including official translations of your birth certificate and a declaration of your social status: bachelor or divorced. Be aware that the Indonesian authorities need lots of processing time.
All documents need to be translated into Bahasa Indonesia by an authorized translator.

The Ceremony

Wedding ceremonies in Indonesia are steeped in tradition. A wedding in Batak marriage in Sumatra will be different from one in Central Java or West Timor. Ceremonies in rural areas will differ from hose in major urban areas. Social class manifests itself in the number of guests one is expected to invite, which could easily run into over a thousand.

A traditional wedding is marked by several key stages, sometimes requiring months to perform. For a marriage of mixed race couples, one living overseas, concessions will likely be made by sqeezing the several stages into a week or several days.

The most essential part of te wedding will be the religious ceremony, either in the mosque or in church. The civil procedure is usually woven into the religious ceremony. 
Both husband and wife will receive a copy of the wedding booklet, in different colors that spell out the marriage arrangement and the consequences of divorce.

Muslim wedding ceremony video
Siraman (bathing) ceremony, Solo, Central Java video
Wedding Ceremony in South Sulawesi video.


Countries increasingly put up barriers for Indonesian spouses to enter the Americas or the European Union. The US, Canadian or EU citizen will probably have to return home after the wedding, leaving the Indonesian spouse behind until the entry formalities have been completed. 
That is often a matter of months rather than weeks. But sometimes it takes years before the Indonesian partner is allowed access. In a few cases the spouse has been denied entry.

Dutch citizens need to go to Immigratie en Naturalisatie Dienst first and download loads of documents.

Tax Issues

Before your Indonesian partner can leave the country several tax issues need to be cleared. Residents in possession of a tax declaration known as NPWP need to bring a copy to the airport as proof of having paid taxes. 

Without NPWP residents need to pay a Rp 2.5 million exit fee (fiskal) in cash or by credit card in order to be allowed to leave the country.

Local Registration

Even though your partner will leave Indonesia with you, he or she may not be prepared to give up all legal ties with the country.
Many Indonesian spouses living abroad insist to remain registered on the family card (kartu keluarga) and will keep their national identity card (KTP). The latter, in order to remain valid, needs to be renewed every five years.

Even without plans to return to Indonesia, it is generally a good idea to keep a legal presence in the country and in the neighborhood. Sooner or later, especially if your partner owns property in Indonesia there will emerge a need to be able to demonstrate his or her identity. The possession of a valid KTP will generally result in less hassle and red tape.

Citizenship and Children

Indonesia's laws on citizenship and immigration, while recently revised and improved still are among the most complicated. Basically there are two scenarios:

You are a foreign male, marrying an Indonesian woman.
You are expected to return to your home country, with your wife. Foreign husbands cannot settle in Indonesia permanently and apply for Indonesian citizenship. 
Initially the maximum stay in Indonesia is limited to one year, unless of course as a foreigner you already work and live in Indonesia and are in possession of the required visa.
If you intend to stay in Indonesia for a period longer than one month do arrange your visa beforehand instead of coming to Indonesia on a tourist visa!

A new bill has been passed allowing foreign spouses of mixed marriages to obtain a residence permit. 

You are a foreign female marrying an Indonesian man.
In line with Indonesian law you retain your nationality, and you may stay in Indonesia and apply for Indonesian citizenship.
If you decide to migrate to your country of citizenship your Indonesian husband will need to complete all immigration procedures for entry to your home country.

It is strongly recommended to have your Indonesian marriage registered in your home country.

Children born during your marriage will automatically obtain dual citizenship until the age of 18.

Also see additional information on mixed marriages at

Getting Married in Bali

Bali is a popular destination for wedding ceremonies, especially for foreign couples. 

The best period to schedule your wedding is during the dry season (usually starting in May and ending around October). 

Wedding ceremonies vary from a ceremony on the beach, a yacht, a traditional Balinese wedding, wedding with elephants, a jungle wedding. You name it!

Many local wedding planners are ready to make a success of the most beautiful day of your life. They will take care of your every need and, very importantly, also assist with the complicated and time consuming legal requirements (see under Preparations, above).

Check out these sites:
Bali Dream
Baliholidays Find a Bali dream villa for your wedding, honeymoon or holiday in paradise! Bali dream villa for holidays or wedding.