If you recently gifted or received an engagement ring, then you’re likely to be giving thought to the type of wedding you’d like and where you’d like your big day to take place.
If you are considering getting married in Japan or are merely interested in the wedding traditions of other cultures around the world, then this article will outline the key wedding customs of Japan for you.
A background on Japanese weddings
Despite Western influence, Japanese weddings have retained many traditional Japanese aspects over the years, meaning that Western wedding guests in Japan are in for a beautiful cultural experience.
In the past, Japanese marriages were categorised into either omiai (an arranged marriage) or ren’ai (a marriage by choice); however, the Japanese perception of marriage has changed over time, and there is certainly more focus on true love in Japanese marriages nowadays.
As with many nations around the world, the Japanese are now marrying later in life, and the average age of couples getting married is amongst the highest in Asia. However, marriage is as popular as ever.
So, what happens at a Japanese wedding ceremony?
During a Japanese wedding ceremony
Most Japanese weddings take place in spring and autumn and begin with a formal wedding ceremony. This ceremony is traditional, taking place in a shrine with a Shinto priest.
Here, couples exchange ritual cups of sake as a symbol of their union.
The ceremony is only attended by the bride and groom, close family members, and the nakodo (matchmaker), if relevant.
Alternatively, some couples opt for a Christian ceremony, performed in a church or a dedicated wedding chapel by a priest or minister. These couples aren’t generally Christian or religious; Christian ceremonies are fashionable in Japan.
During a Christian ceremony in Japan, couples exchange wedding rings instead of cups of sake.
Some couples opt for both a Shinto and Christian ceremony, for the best of both worlds.
Much like in the UK, Japanese brides traditionally wear white but, while we opt for a dress, Japanese brides traditionally wear a kimono called an uchikake, along with a sizeable white headdress.
Some brides choose an iro-uchikake (colourful kimono) instead.
Japanese grooms also wear a kimono known as montsuki, but it is black and features the groom’s family crest. This is paired with hakama (wide-legged trousers).
For Christian ceremonies, some modern couples may opt for Western clothing — a classic white dress for the bride paired with a suit or tuxedo for the groom.
After a Japanese wedding ceremony
After a Japanese ceremony, the couple hosts a reception dinner and after-party at a restaurant or in a hall.
Here, the rest of the couple’s family and friends join them to celebrate the wedding, make speeches, and offer goshūgi (gift money).
There is no gift registry for Japanese weddings — attendees give gifts of money only. Closer friends and family gift around double the amount of money as extended family and other friends gift.
Couples who choose a Christian ceremony tend to incorporate Western traditions into their wedding receptions, such as the cutting of the cake, the first dance, and the honeymoon afterwards.