So what is it like to attend a Japanese wedding and what are the DOs and DON’Ts?
I was invited to a Japanese wedding by one of my Japanese friends. She was my student for several months at a language school in the Philippines and though we have already built a good friendship along the way, it still came as a wonderful surprise to me when she asked me to go to Japan for her wedding with all expenses covered. It was such an honor. That experience will always be special to me.
Japanese weddings fall into two categories: the Traditional Shinto and the Western Style. My friend opted for the latter. It was very formal, grand, and impressive.
SOME FACTS ABOUT THE WESTERN-STYLE JAPANESE WEDDING:
1. Only the invited guests can attend. It is very common for the bride and the groom to only invite the person who is acquainted to them. So, even if you have a spouse or kids, if the invitation is only for you, you shouldn’t bring your family along with you.
2. The wedding ceremony and the reception are usually held in the same hotel. Contemporary wedding hotels in Japan usually have their own wedding chapel and sophisticated banquet halls for this kind of event.
3. The bride changes her dress twice or three times. This is called Oiro Naoshi (お色直し) and is the most anticipated part.
4. Each guest receives a gift set from the married couple as their way of saying ‘Thank You’ for attending their wedding. These tokens are usually found under the tables in the reception hall.
TIPS WHEN ATTENDING A WEDDING IN JAPAN:
How to respond to an invitation:
The invitation is usually sent out several months before the wedding and you have to send it back before the date stated in the invitation letter to confirm your attendance. In my case, I just exchanged private messages with my friend because she understood that I had to get a visa and it might take a while.
What to wear:
Men usually wear black suits with white ties. DO NOT show up in a white suit as this can only be worn by the groom. In other cases, suits with neutral colors like brown, gray, and navy are also acceptable. This also applies with ties in addition to gold, silver, or plain striped. DO NOT wear a black tie as this is only worn when attending a funeral. Shoes must be black.
Women should wear knee-length dresses made of shiny fabric like silk or chiffon. The colors must be anything plain such as beige, brown, blue, baby pink, or maroon. Wearing a white dress is a big NO-NO! Only the bride must be seen in white as this is her day. Don’t forget to wear a plain-colored shawl if you wear a sleeveless dress. It is also a must to wear stockings and closed toe heels.
What to bring as a gift:
And no, I am not talking about the usual gifts we bring to a wedding like a blender, a rice cooker, porcelain plates, and whatnot. I’m talking about money. Yes, it is a culture in Japan to give new, crisp, and unfolded bills as a wedding gift. You have to put them in a money envelope called Goshūgi Bukuro (ご祝儀袋) and the amount depends on your relationship with the bride or the groom.
Please note that even numbers such as 4, 6, 8, and the like should be avoided since these numbers are related to the idea of “splitting up” and the number 4 is connected to “death”. The number 9 should not be on the list too because it indicates “suffering”. And as for the number 2, although it is an even number, it is acceptable since it means “pair”.
Here is a guide on how much you should put in the money envelope:
• ¥20,000 — for acquaintances, friends, and colleagues (You have to prepare one 10,000-yen bill and two 5,000-yen bills so the total number of the bills would be 3.)
• ¥30,000 — for friends and colleagues
• ¥50,000 — for very close friends and company bosses
• ¥100,000 — for families and close relatives
NOTE: Holding a wedding ceremony is not compulsory for a marriage to be legal in Japan. Couples who wish to get married only need to submit an application at the city hall and comply with all the requirements. Receiving the Certificate of Acceptance of Notification of Marriage confirms that they are finally legally married. So a wedding ceremony only serves as a celebration and can be done before or after getting the certificate. In most cases, couples do it several months or a year after.
If you happen to be invited to a Japanese wedding in the future, don’t miss the chance. It is a very exciting experience you will always cherish.