The other day I attended a wedding reception in Belgium. That was the very first time for me to feel the atmosphere of the wedding style in Europe. And a lot of different styles between Belgian and Japanese were found from my Japanese point of view.
It might be also interesting for you, westerners, to get a glimpse of the Japanese wedding style, so let’s see how it goes. You may be surprised by numerous misticious rules over the course of the wedding.
You would get an invitation card 2 or 3 months ahead. To be invited to the wedding is thought honor because the couple ponder who should be invited among friends, colleagues or bosses. So you will answer YES to it asap, but normally the couple would ask your availability in advance of sending the card.
Do and Don’t
- The way you reply on the card is also hassle. The card already has the format to write, however, just writing a check on YES is considered rude and uneducated.
In the front side where the address and the name of the hosts are printed, you have to replace “Iki (行)” meaning “To” with “Sama (様)” an honorific title, otherwise it would be impolite to the recipient.
In the back side of the card, you will write your attendance in the wedding. You have to cross out polite prefixes which honor yourself. As “Gohou (御芳)” in “Gohoumei (御芳名)” at the name format honors your name, you cross out the prefix. And you also cross out “Gokesseki (御欠席)” (= not to attend) and put a circle around “Shusseki (出席)” (= to attend). Please remember to cross out “Go (御)” in “Goshusseki (御出席)” and make a sentence with “Yorokonde (慶んで)” and “Saseteitadakimasu (させていただきます)” in order to make it polite. On top of that, you exceptionally cannot add a period at the end of the sentence, which means the happiness will last forever (without the end).
Traditional Japanese Wedding: Shinto Wedding （神前式）
Nowadays 15% of weddings are the Japanese style: Shinto Wedding.
Shinto is one of the Japanese traditional religions besides Buddhism, which accounts for around 45% population. It is polytheism which regards mostly things in nature or people as Kami (神) or sprits (or Gods).
Shrines are the places to be devoted to the worship of Kami. It is said in “Kojiki” (Records of Ancient Matters) that the wedding of two deities (“Izanagi” and “Izanami”) was the beginning of the creation of Japan or sprits. This is thought to be the route of Shinto wedding style.
The bride and the groom wear the Japanese style wedding clothing, named “Hakama (袴)” and “Shiromuku (白無垢)” respectively. The couple declare the marriage in front of Kami followed by “San-san-ku-do (三三九度)” and so on. San-san-ku-do is to share three cups of Japanese sake between the couple meaning the bond of two sides of the families.
Strangely enough, over 50% of weddings in Japan are in the christian weddings nevertheless only 1% of the Japanese population are christian. The shortness of churches ends up making fake churches in ceremony holes and they often invite just a foreigner in Japan as a priest. Of course, there are a lot of the real christian weddings with the real priest. Civil weddings in the church are increasing these days.
I am not sure whether this christian style wedding is similar to the western one (I assume so). But I guess the participants are supposed to be quieter than in the western culture. It may seem funny that the participants intensively take photos of the couple as it is often the case of Japanese.
Do and Don’t
- Wedding money must be prepared with a special envelope for the wedding, called “Goshugi-bukuro (ご祝儀袋)”. It has to include more than 30,000 JPY (= $270 or 240 Euro). But 40,000 or 60,000 JPY are not acceptable because 4 and 6 can be divided by 2 implying the couple also could be divided (divorced). The bills also should be new ones (at least, look new ones). You are supposed to write your name on the upside of the envelope with a calligraphy-brush pen in a good way. The calligraphy-brush pen might have thick black color and pale black color at the either end of the pen, but the thick black must be used. The pale black side is used for a funeral envelope. The envelope is put in a purple or a warm-colored “fukusa (袱紗)”, a textile for wrapping gift, and will be submitted before the ceremony (might be at the reception later on).
- Male participants wear usually black suits with a preferably white tie (never black). Female participants wear dresses or Kimono, but the exposure of a lot of skin is not recommended and a white color dress is not permitted because white is taken by the groom.
- If there is a participant list on the table of the reception, you will write you name (and address) on the list.
You will move to the hole for the wedding reception which is often held in a hotel regardless of the style of the wedding ceremony. If you didn’t yet submit the wedding money, you will do it at the reception and write your name on the participant list. You will get a seating chart and also find a name card on your table. The more front of the tables the more honored they are, so the very front of the tables will be occupied by such as bosses of the bride and the groom.
Once the bride and the groom enter the hole and sit on the top table, MC will introduce the couple. A greeting as the guest of honor and toasting will be done followed by cutting the wedding cake. Some friends of the couple may deliver complimentary speeches or do performances. The groom will change dresses several times. The groom may read a letter for her parents and highly likely she cries. A unique thing is a candle-lightning ceremony where the bride and the groom will go around the table to light candles.
Do and Don’t
- In the middle of the reception, some relatives of the couple may come to you to serve beer. You drink a bit of your glass prior to it and let them to serve.
- While the groom is going out for changing dresses, you (and the guys in the same table) will go to the bride to serve beer. Actually the bride will throw the beer in a bucket under the table.
- You will have wedding favors near the table. Do not open it right and then.
You can also attend an afterparty which is often organized friends of the couple. Or you may also be invited from the afterparty. The party will be much more relaxing because the participants are mostly close friends. The participation fee will be 6,000-10,000 JPY, somehow the fee of a male is higher than a female. The agenda rather varies depending on the organizers. They might have quiz games about the couples or bingo games along with prizes.