Japanese weddings explained

Why does the bride change costume so many times?

They still use the traditional name ironaoshi (色直し- changing/ fixing the colours) for this. Traditionally, the bride changed clothes to show that she had become part of her husband’s family and to be able to help with serving at the second half of the wedding.

Why are only close family members invited to the Shinto ceremony?

Lack of room in a shrine?? Keeping the shrine mysterious by keeping people out as much as possible? I’m going for the second explanation, as they usually don’t let anyone enter.

Why do you have to introduce the bride and groom at the wedding (even showing their childhood photos), surely everyone knows who they are already??

Why do they have a cake to cut (usually made of cardboard) and sometimes a different cake to eat?

If there is cake to eat, it has to be much smaller than the cake you cut as it isn’t taken away as there are already wrapped sweets in the wedding bag to take away. Asians also have very different ideas of authenticity than Northern Europeans.

Why are weddings abroad becoming so popular?

As you can cut down on the number of guests, not pay crazy Japanese prices, not compete with everyone for a lucky date and combine the wedding with your honeymoon, it works out cheaper. As the Japanese ceremony is not a legal marriage anyway, having to go to the local government office when you get back is also not an additional burden. You can also avoid inviting people you don’t want there, such as your boss.

Why do o-miai (お見合い- see and meet) arranged marriage meetings still exist?

The difficulty of meeting people outside your limited social group (often mainly same-sex colleagues), shyness, and an obsession with the nuances of family background (company directors’ sons marry company directors’ daughters).

Why is the shinto wedding dress’s hood called “Tsuno Kakushi” (角隠し- hiding the horns)?

 As in Latin countries and Shakespearean English, horns represent jealousy.

 Why is“Katsuo-bushi” (鰹節- dried bonito flakes) given as a present?

Because it lasts for a long time, it signifies long life and a long marriage

 Why no discos at Japanese weddings?

Why are white dresses, wedding rings, and cake cutting the most popular Western wedding imports in Japanese weddings?

Why do almost all Japanese wedding rings come in matching pairs?

Why is the exchange of rings the only foreign practice that has been introduced into the Shinto ceremony?

Why do people give cash rather than presents at the wedding reception?

The mutual exchange of cash (the couple will send some cash to cover your transport) shows a mutual linkage rather than presents. Also, maybe the importance of this time might make getting exactly the right level and type of present almost impossible, leaving cash as the safest option. I’ve also read that it is supposed to cover the cost of the meal, but as the custom pre-dates eating out on these occasions I am not convinced this was one of the original reasons.

Why sugar as a hikidemono gift?

Why are the guests’ kimono mostly dark?

Dark colours show formality- which is a good thing, you are traditionally more supposed to show you are taking the marriage seriously than you are to show you are enjoying yourself, including in the reception!

Links to other sources on Japanese weddings:

Go-Japan Japanese weddings

Japan-Guide Japanese weddings

Japanese Lifestyle Japanese weddings

Ed’s photos- Photos of a Japanese wedding

Japanese kimono- Wedding kimono


  1. boobafly said,

    May 4, 2008 at 11:01 pm

    I think your comment on ‘why foreign weddings are popular’ in Japan is a good start but needs to be much more comprehensive. First of all, they are not accurately described as ‘foreign’ – the Japanese form has matured and the Japanese version is now being exported to other parts of Asia. Secondly, you omit to say that one of the primary reasons for their popularity is the aesthetic.

    My question is: Where did the tern ‘Virgin Road’ come from? Do you know?

  2. alexcase said,

    May 5, 2008 at 1:19 am

    Actually, in that one I meant weddings abroad rather than Western style weddings.

    Most Japanese English expressions tend to be coined in the same way as “yuppies” etc are coined in English, sometimes off the street, sometimes from the media, sometimes from the government, sometimes from marketing. I’m guessing a wedding company invented that one. If anyone knows a good book on Japanese word histories I’d love to read it.

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