Lights! Camera! Wedding!


The fairy tale chapel in this subway ad has nothing to do with religion – it’s actually a new wedding hall outside of Yokohama! Traditionally, Japanese couples got married in a shrine with only immediate family in attendance, then threw a reception party afterwards at a restaurant or nice hotel. But recently, wedding halls and hotels have been catering to couples who want the full bridal extravaganza, from the “wedding ceremony” in a stained glass-lined “chapel” (performed by an actor dressed as a priest) to a lavish ballroom banquet with more mysterious silverware on the table than at the court of Queen Victoria.

The actual legal part of getting married happens when the personal seals of the bride and groom are stamped on marriage registry papers at the local ward office – something they can actually delegate to anyone they trust with their hankos. They’re front and center at the extravaganza, though, often making several changes of clothing during the festivities. The bride usually starts out in a white wedding dress for the “ceremony” then changes into a Cinderella-esque gown halfway through the reception, while the groom exchanges his morning coat for a tuxedo. Everything is rented, including the wedding dress.

Princess gown dream comes true! A wedding picture from the website.
Princess dream comes true! This couple changed into evening wear halfway through their reception, in this picture from the website.

During the feast, elaborate slide shows and/or videos chronicling the bride and groom’s lives are played, speeches are given by selected guests and friends perform various entertainments. Then the couple “cuts” the fake cake (a number of styles are available to choose from) and some other dessert is served. Finally, the bride must read aloud a letter to her parents (Official Moment Of Tear-Jerking) and present their mothers with armfuls of flowers. On the way out, guests are handed gifts by the bride and groom.

And who pays for all this? Actually, with careful planning, the guests. Accepting an invitation to a Japanese wedding means forking over ¥30,000 (about $325) if you’re a friend, and ¥50,000 (about $550) if you’re a relative, wrapped in a traditional envelope and handed to the elegantly clad friend manning the gift table as you enter.

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Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Japan, produces the monthly e-magazine Japanagram, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had

Published by Jonelle Patrick

Writes all the Japan things.

5 thoughts on “Lights! Camera! Wedding!

  1. I beg my friends not to invite me to their weddings in Japan. It’s interesting to see the wedding factories in Ometesando on the weekends. Then you have to go to the second or third party where often there is a cash register and it costs up to 10,000 yen more but you get a receipt!

    1. So true! Almost all my Japanese friends decline invites to all but their best friends’ weddings, unless they’re desperate to meet a potential husband/wife themselves. In which case the whole thing is like a giant gōkon, and the girl invitees drop another couple man on hair-make and one of those pastel go-to-wedding dresses. The best deal is to be invited only to the afterparties, don’t you think?

  2. With all the cash we drop going to nomikai after nomikai in the course of Japanese living it is worth it to blow 30,000 yen just to witness the eminently Japanese fake wedding spectacle. Once.

    1. And actually, judging from what friends are going through in the States right now, 30,000 yen is a BARGAIN. Especially if you (nooooo!) get asked to BE in the wedding. Add up bachelor/ette party weekend (often with hotel & plane flight), wedding weekend (more hotel & plane flight), wedding togs (rental or bridesmaid dress) plus gift = AIEEEEE! And at least the Japanese version is over in three hours, to the minute!

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