Friday, December 27, 2013

Japanese Wedding Etiquette

Japanese weddings are rich with tradition. Many people of Japanese descent have chosen to combine both American and Japanese traditions so as to have a ceremony that reflects both cultures. When working in the traditional realm of Japanese, there is much symbolism to be incorporated.


    Most Japanese ceremonies take place in Shinto Shrines. This is a shrine built to protect sacred objects, not for worship. It is thought to protect the marriage by the ceremony taking place there. The bride is painted pure white from head to toe to declare her maiden status to the gods. The bride also wears a white kimono and ornate headpiece decorated with ornaments inviting good luck to the couple. A white hood is attached to wear like a veil in order to hide her "horns of jealousy," which of course do not really exist, from her future mother-in-law. In the fabled version there would be actual horns growing out of her head, as in the phrase "turning green with envy."
    Sake is also a part of the ceremony. The end is marked by the sharing of the drink from flat cups stacked on top of each other. Both the bride and groom take sips from each cup and then offer it to the families.

Guest Etiquette

    Etiquette for the guests of the wedding include how they sit during the ceremony. The families face each other, not the couple, as they get married. During the reception, the guests take part in games, skits and karaoke. Another tradition is that of the festive envelope bearing money, presented to the bride and groom either before or after the ceremony by each of the guests.

Honoring the Parents

    Usually during the wedding or reception, the couple will take time to honor their parents. The acknowledgment can be as simple as a bouquet of flowers or toast. Sometimes the bride and groom will opt to deliver a personal letter of love and thanks to the parents of both sides.


    At the reception, the bride will arrive in a brightly colored kimono, usually red. Each part of the meal at the reception is symbolic, wishing the couple different things in their marriage such as happiness, prosperity and long life. Lobster is often served because of the red color, which means luck. The number of courses never equals a multiple of four, as the word for four is too close in sound to the word for death.


    The white of the wedding kimono represents both a new beginning and an end as the daughter "dies" as her father's daughter. She is then reborn as a member of her husband's family. The red kimono is the end of her unmarried life. These types of garments are typically worn by young, unmarried women and this will be the last time she wears such a bright, patterned kimono. The color purple is the color of love in Japan, thereby making irises a favored flower.
    Another symbolic tradition is that of folding 1,001 gold origami cranes. These are meant to bring good luck, good fortune, longevity, fidelity and peace to the marriage. The bride and her family do the folding the night before the wedding.

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