Thursday, October 09, 2008

A Japanese wedding party tutorial, of sorts

I must apologize for the length of this is a bit long...but so are most Japanese wedding parties, so work with me on this one, okay? Thanks!! :-D

In Japan, a quick trip to the city office after filling out a multitude of papers to register the woman into the man's official family register, and the couple is legally "married". I have known one or two couples who decided that the whole party idea was not for them and life just continued on, as usual...except they were now married.

Many times, a couple will go to Hawaii or Guam or even Australia for a western-style wedding there. Hotels have some nice package deals for people who want to go with a small group of family and friends or even just the two of them, alone.

Other couples go the more traditional route.....if you want to learn more about the traditional way of doing things, a quick search on the Internet will give you more than enough information...from the official engagement announcement and exchange of presents among the parents and the the ceremony at a shrine (or temple, I can't remember which it is as I have never been witness to that) who pays for what and what-not.

Most couples will have some sort of party or reception to celebrate their marriage. The K-man and I opted for a more casual affair, with a buffet-style dinner and all-you-can-drink bar. The band that he belonged to at the time even played for the occasion and at one point everyone was on the dance floor!!! It was fun but as most people told us later it was also very, very different!!

At a Japanese wedding reception, you may find just close friends and family or, if a parent is in business or is a doctor, people from that parent's line of work will also be invited. At a wedding one time, I asked the groom who someone was and his answer was, "I'm not sure....maybe my dad knows him."

Now....I will give you a quick "study" in attending a Japanese wedding you have your dress? Your shoes? Are you ready? Let's go....!!!

First of will need to decide how much money you are going to take. In Japan, we give money as gifts for weddings, funerals, new houses and when a baby is born. It is not a part of the Japanese tradition to give presents. much money does one take to a wedding party? When I asked some students this question, they had questions for me: How long have you known the bride? How often do you see her? Are you a close friend? Where is the party?

For a good friend that you are in close contact with, giving the couple 30,000 yen is standard. (Just to make it easy, that is about $300.) But...since I was her teacher ten years ago and we don't really see each other very often, they told me that 20,000 yen was, being the American I am, I am also giving them a present. (Family members are to give much, much more....rules differ depending on the relation....the closer in relation, the more money.)

The money you give is to cover the dinner (where the party is held is a good clue as to how much the dinner will cost--some places are very expensive, some not so much)....the "thank you" present that you receive...the taxi ticket (for the return trip home)...and possibly a little left over for the couple.

You should use new, crisp of mine was a bit wrinkled, but, a hot iron quickly fixed that problem!!!

You then put the envelope of money into another, more decorative type of envelope. When I get to the reception desk, I give them this and sign in. Upon doing this, I will receive my seating assignment and program for the evening.

Speaking of the program....there is a very detailed list of things that happen in a reception...."First we will do this...then this...and then that...and then it will be time for this". What they do at a reception is not so they do it could be.

**The pictures I am using are ones taken by me at 3 of my students'/friends weddings. I've actually been to about a dozen or so weddings, but, many were before digital cameras and if you could only see the box of pictures I need to go'd totally understand!!**

Usually, a bride and groom will start the party in a traditional wedding outfit. (*Please, click on the pictures to get a closer look, if you want.

In Japan, the white head piece is to "cover the woman's horns"...making the groom think he has married an angel" when actually, his new bride is possibly the opposite. I once asked a friend what the man did to hide his faults....she just laughed and said, "Nothing. We know everything about our husbands when we marry them. We know what we're getting into."
Just in case you are wondering....the woman sitting very low next to the bride? She's the woman who helps the bride throughout the party as she stands up and then sits down many times....she is there as the "bride's assistant".

My friend on Saturday first entered with the traditional white covering her kimono...after an introduction...she left and came back with the official wedding kimono....sorry it's hard to see it in this picture thanks to that guy in the front (giving the really long and boring and what-the-heck-is-he-talking-about speech!)'s a better one of her as she was leaving to change, again...she walked in with her father and then out with her mom.
Here is also another "2nd kimono" change from another party:

At some parties, there is the traditional "together, let's hit the barrel of sake to start the party" part of the program. It symbolizes that they are now a couple and this would be the first thing they do as man and wife.

While the changing of wedding outfits is going on....the guests are eating plate after plate of food and drinking wine, beer and sake...and possibly even being entertained by some friends of the couple doing dances, silly games, listening to speeches by various people and you might even be lucky enough to have some geisha-san doing what they do best...dancing, playing various musical instruments and then they go to work and go from table to table pouring drinks and providing stimulating (?) conversation and spreading their charm at each table.

Most Japanese brides will change...again...into a traditional white "western-style" dress. The grooms will also change from their kimono into a tux.
This next one was my friend Kiyo and her husband in February. The battery went kaput on my camera and I had to take it with my cell phone! It's a little blurry but you can still see what her dress looked like. She was so beautiful!!

And what would a wedding be without cake?

Here's the cake from this weekend....

It was a layered, sponge cake filled with cream and fruit....there were chocolate cookies around the outside with slices of passion fruit and then strawberries, pineapple and other fruits on the was delicious!!!

But...I must admit...I was a bit disappointed because THIS is what "the wedding cake" usually looks like:

Okay...before you say to yourself, "Oh my God! That can't be real!!" Let me tell you that, is not's made of plastic with only a triangle of sponge cake in which the couple puts the knife mimicking the whole "cutting the cake" idea....making this a very interesting photo op!!! The first time I saw one of those I was pretty shocked!! I wonder what the storage room looks like where they keep all those?!?

Each party will also have a "candle lighting" part of the party. Now, where in a western wedding, this happens during the actual wedding ceremony and with the couple lighting their "unity candle".....each table at a Japanese party will have a candle and the couple will come in.....after changing their outfits for yet another time....and will light the candles at each table. This is one of the last parts of the party. the end of the party, will be the speech by the bride to her mother and father. This is usually the part where the guests end up sniffling because the bride is basically thanking her parents for their love and support and telling them how much she loves them. Traditionally, when a woman marries a man in Japan, she is, from that day, a part of his longer a part of her own. This speech was really a farewell speech to her family. Nowadays, getting married isn't looked upon like that so much...but, the speeches are still full of emotion and the fathers of the brides are usually the ones to lose it first.

The other speeches, at this point, will be from the groom's father thanking everyone for coming and supporting the couple as they start their lives together.

And with that...the party is over....
but wait....when the lights come on, that is the signal to anyone who wants, to basically dismantle any or all of the flower arrangements to take home. can do like I did, and just put the whole damn thing in your "gift bag". (the staff came by and stuck about 6 of the cloth napkins in there, too!!)

In the gift bag, that everyone receives, are presents from the bride and groom to say "thank you" for helping them celebrate. In this bag, you never really know what you are going to find. I have received wine, a flower vase, wine glasses, pottery, cakes and cookies,....once, I even got a catalogue from which I could choose for myself the gift I wanted.

In the bag on Saturday, I got a box with some very lovely cookies and a small chocolate cake that was divine...and I got some very cute dessert dishes..... I will probably actually use these someday....or at least I am planning on it!

And now....some pictures of us girls in all our finest!! I taught the bride and the other youngER girls when they were in high school....they graduated almost 12 years ago...but we have all kept in touch. The lady, on the right, is an English teacher who was also their homeroom teacher in high school. She and I started teaching at that high school at the same time.

This is Shiho....after high school she went to New Zealand to study English and is now working in Australia!! It's always so great to get to see her!!!

And the end of the evening (and the 2nd party with more food~~I passed~~ and more wine~~I didn't pass~~)'s time for Cinderella to head on home. It had been an incredibly long day and this camper needed to turn it in.

If you are here and you read all the way to the end....I do thank you for that! What a nice reader you are. **mwah**

And with here!! Good night, moon.


Peggy Sez.. said...

Very nice! What a lot of thought (and time) goes into these marriages!
You looked great,I love your dress.
Looks like a good time was had by all! ;)

Janet said...

Oh, memories :-) I went to a wedding when I lived in Japan and it was just absolutely gorgeous!

Anonymous said...

Wow, you guys know how to party over there! And you look great!

phd in yogurtry said...

the white head piece is to "cover the woman's horns"

oh my. I didn't wear any head piece or veil for my wedding. At no point did my husband think he was marrying an angel, either ; )

Thanks for the pics and tutorial. Fascinating.

I always thought Japanese were meticulous about gifts. But not at weddings, apparently? Cash always makes sense to me for weddings, so no confusion on that level.

Cheri @ Blog This Mom! said...

Oh. My. Gosh.

I cannot wait for Laura to come home from school so I can show her this post. What a great peek into Japanese culture.

I am LOVING the head piece to cover the horn. Loving it!!!

Excellent, excellent post, dear blog friend.

smalltownmom said...

Thank you for this lovely cultural experience. You looked beautiful, by the way.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

That is a lot of clothes changing.

Lucky for you you got to say in the same dress--you looked fab.

Helena said...

Wow, now wonder they need money for all those different outfits to change into + giving all their guests presents.

Thanks for letting us know that it's possible to hide our horns in a white hat. I might try that sometime :-)

Ciara said...

Your dress was fab, love it. Thanks so much for posting this, its really interesting to see how a marriage/wedding is celebrated in other cultures.
Glad you enjoyed yourself.

ms-teacher said...

that was a wonderful tutorial on Japanese weddings with very beautiful pictures. Thank you for posting this!

The Girl Next Door said...

Holy Cow! What a wedding! Whew. It's a wonder anyone gets married with all that planning that must happen! thanks for sharing - and awesome photos girl~

Grandy said...

You, my dear, are a babe! *Mwah* back atcha and send me a piece of cake. Sponge cake is soft and mushy, right? ;)

stephanie (bad mom) said...

First - you are gorgeous, girlfriend! (Not that I didn't already know that)

Second, thank you for such a detailed overview; everything is so so lovely! I would definitely need a program for myself to make sure I was doing everything right...

Susan said...

What an event! I would love to go go a Janapese wedding. I can't believe how many changes the bride has to go through. And you my dear, look absolutely beautiful!! Can't believe your are ??????? years old.