A wedding! One of the most important days in any person’s life, there are all kinds of expectations and preparations that go into planning a wedding. Weddings in Japan have changed drastically in the last few decades, and while there are some similarities between Western and Japanese weddings– There are a few uniquely Japanese customs it’s important to be prepared for!
Whether you are planning a wedding for yourself, or attending as a guest, as a foreigner living in Japan you are going to be in for a few surprises when it comes to the big day!
Kimono or Princess Dress?
Western-style weddings have exploded in popularity in Japan over the last few decades, with most couples choosing to hold their ceremonies in hotels, resorts, or banquet halls. Churches, chapels, or even elaborate sets to resemble churches (without the religious connotations) are popular as well!
Probably the most important Western wedding tradition to cross over to Japan is the white wedding “princess style” dress. Japanese brides tend to go all-out in their wedding fashions. At most weddings I’ve attended in the US, brides will usually have a maximum of two dresses; their white wedding dress for the ceremony, and another dress for the reception or party afterwards. At many Japanese weddings, you should expect at least two outfit changes (complete with hair and makeup refreshes)– If not more!
Even though the popularity of Western-style weddings hold a vast majority of the wedding market, there are still many people who opt to include Japanese traditions as either their whole, or part of their celebrations.
Japanese Shinto-style weddings differ than Western-style weddings in more than just dress! In fact, in a Shinto ceremony, only close family members are invited to attend– the rest of the wedding party will join up at the reception! For this reason, having a Shinto ceremony, and a Western reception is a popular choice for couples. Giving them the best of both worlds– and the most range of outfit choices!
No Gifts Please!
The tradition in the US is to give newlyweds some gift of homeware, or something off of their wedding registry. However, in Japan you can forget about shopping for overpriced flatware– the only acceptable gift is cash.
The cash gift, known as goshugi is handed to someone at the door before you even enter the wedding. The average amount to give when you are attending a friends wedding is 30,000 yen, up that to 50,000 yen if you are attending as a couple! If it’s a family member, you may be expected to give no less than 50,000 yen (unless you’re a student or working a low-pay job). When preparing your gift, make sure to use fresh crisp bills straight from the bank, and to avoid an amount easily broke in two (think numbers beginning in 2 and 4) as this can be bad luck. Write your name on the front of the special goshugi-bukuro (money envelope) and write the amount on the inside as well.
An Orderly Affair
Don’t expect many surprises at a Japanese wedding! From the moment you hand over your goshugi-bukuro, expect the rest of the day to go off without a hitch. Events are planned down to the minute, and everyone always seems to know what is coming next. That is because couples and families will rehearse far ahead of time, and meticulously plan the entire event.
Also, using a wedding “host” smooths out the process of moving people in and out of different venues. The host will announce the arrival of the bride and groom, introduce speakers or performers, and keep track of the flow of the proceedings. Nothing is left up to chance!
The After Party
Don’t expect a Japanese wedding to go all night! Unlike a lot of American weddings, Japanese weddings tend to have a strict end time. Theres the ceremony, which lasts about an hour, than the reception, which will usually be about two hours, then it’s time to say goodbye! There may be an additional after party for close friends or coworkers after the reception, but for the majority of guests it’s time to go home.
Don’t expect a lot of raucous drinking or dancing after the ceremony either. Though there will be wine and sake served, the reception tends to be more of a sit-down style dinner. Food will be enjoyed, then expect to listen to a number of speeches for the remainder of the event.
Who is giving the speeches?
Well generally, the first speech will be given by the groom’s boss! Followed by a few speeches from friends, and a tearful letter read by the bride to her family. Expect to shed a tear or two during this tradition!
Where to Begin?
If you are in the process of planning a wedding in Japan, the whole process can seem almost overwhelming! But don’t worry, there are countless wedding planning services and agencies just waiting to help you plan your special day. Whether you opt for Western or Japanese, small or large; just like any wedding you can expect to tailor it to meet you and your partners individual preferences and personalities. In any case, the most fun and memorable weddings show off the couples personalities and no matter what you plan, it’s sure to be an incredible day.
Check out other articles in this series:
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