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While Christian-style “white weddings” that are found in western cultures may be becoming more adopted by Japanese couples looking to tie the knot, there still remain many differences between American weddings and their Japanese counterparts. The differences are even more apparent when you look at more traditional Japanese Shinto style weddings.
While weddings in both countries are often expensive affairs that celebrate the love two people share for each other, you will find notable differences when it comes to both wedding ceremonies as well as receptions. Let us look at some of the most prominent disparities that are noticed between the two nations when it comes to weddings.
There are four main wedding styles celebrated in Japan of which include Shinto, Christian, Buddist, and secular. The most popular styles include the more traditional Shinto style and the increasingly popular westernized Christian white wedding. The style of wedding a Japanese couple chooses doesn’t necessarily depend on the type of religion they follow.
In America, you find many more varieties of weddings since there are more religions present. Just some of the wedding styles you will find include Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and Mormon. These weddings take place in a variety of different places of worships such as churches, synagogues, temples, etc. Quite a number of American weddings are also not strictly attached to a religion and may simply be held at a beach, someone’s backyard, City Hall, or even on the Las Vegas Strip getting wed by an Elvis impersonator.
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Most Japanese weddings are much more formal and structured than you’ll find in America. American weddings can often be much more unique and personalized, with many opting for a themed wedding or possible destination wedding. Another marked difference is that you generally won’t find the popular American bachelor/bachelorette parties or bridal showers with Japanese weddings.
Arranged marriages were once more common in Japan but have since been phased out considerably. When they do occur, engagement ceremonies known as Yuino are held and involve the two families coming together to exchange gifts.
In Japan, western style weddings are held in churches even though a very small percentage of the population actually considers themselves to be Christian. Often couples choosing to be married in a more western style will get married in so-called fake churches that are simply designed to produce the look and feel of contemporary white weddings.
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While Japanese western style weddings may be more similar to American weddings, you will really begin to notice differences when it comes to the traditional Shinto style ceremonies.
Shinto style weddings take place in a shrine and often involve a ceremonial drinking of sake known as San San Kudo. This drinking from nuptial cups replaces the vows that are exchanged in American weddings. If vows are read during Japanese weddings, they are often directed to the shrine gods as opposed to saying them to your soon to be spouse.
Dress codes for Japanese weddings are much stricter and you often must receive an invitation in your name to attend. It isn’t common to bring a plus one to a ceremony as is often acceptable in America. With Japanese weddings, the ceremony is usually only reserved for the close family of the bride and groom and casual friends and co-workers usually do not attend. You also don’t find the use of bridesmaids or a best man that you would find in American weddings.
There are also differences when it comes to the style of wedding dress worn. Brides that choose to have a Shinto style wedding wear what is known as a shiromuku instead of a big flowing white dress like you’ll see in America. This ensemble consists of a white furisode kimono, a robe-like kimono known as an uchikake, zōri sandals, and often accessories such as a sensu folding fan or a kaiken knife. Instead of wearing a veil like American brides, Japanese brides wear a hood that is referred to as a wataboshi. They may also choose to wear a tsunokakushi hat over a shimada wig instead.
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Japanese grooms don’t have to dress quite as elaborately but often wear what is called a montsuki haori hakama. This consists of a kimono that may be emblazoned with a family crest, striped trousers, and an overcoat.
One of the first differences you may notice with Japanese weddings is that the immediate family including the parents of the bride and groom are often seated at the back of the reception as opposed to being front and center. This is done out of respect to the many guests who wish to see the bride and groom and may not have been invited to the ceremony.
Outfit changes, especially when it comes to the bride are common in Japanese weddings. The bride may change into several different kimonos or evening dresses between the ceremony and the reception as well as during the reception.
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Unlike American weddings, out of town guest’s transportation, hotel rooms, and food is often covered by the bride and groom or their family. Although this may sound like a great deal for wedding guests, it is often expected that you gift a considerable amount of money to the bride and groom as a way of paying them back. There is generally no gift registry set up with Japanese weddings and only money presented in a fancy envelope known as a goshugi is given as a gift. It is generally polite for each guest to gift around 30,000 yen or well over 100,000 yen if you are a close family member of the bridal couple.
Unlike the small wedding favors that are given at American weddings, guests attending Japanese weddings often receive more expensive gifts known as hikidemono. Large gift bags filled with substantial gifts may be given or you may be given a gift catalogue where you can choose from a selection of gifts that will be sent directly to your home.
Unlike in America, Japanese wedding receptions usually don’t include dancing. In fact, there is generally not much standing at all and the bride and groom don’t generally roam around the room visiting tables like you find with American wedding receptions. Speeches or letters are read much like in America, but they are often much longer and read by far more people. They are also much more serious in tone and seldom comical in nature.
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Because Japanese wedding receptions lack dancing and music, they are usually shorter in duration. While receptions in America may run well past midnight, receptions in Japan only last a few hours on average. Japan weddings do, however, often include after parties where you will find music, games, karaoke, and dancing, but the cost of any alcohol or fees to attend such parties is generally not covered by the bride or groom.
When it comes to footing the bill for the wedding ceremony and reception, it is generally the bride’s family that pays in America while in Japan the cost is split between the families of the bride and groom. However, in Japan the groom’s family often gives the young couple a substantial offering for things like household goods or other things the newly married couple may need.
While American and Japanese weddings may differ in many ways, the end result is hopefully two people coming together to share their love for each other until death do they part.