What are the cultural customs and traditions to consider when having a wedding in Japan?

What are the cultural customs and traditions to consider when having a wedding in Japan?

Embarking on the journey of marriage in Japan comes with its own unique set of cultural customs and traditions that are deeply rooted in the country’s rich history and heritage. As you prepare to exchange vows in this beautiful and diverse country, it is vital to be mindful of the significant cultural nuances that can impact your wedding experience. From the traditional Shinto ceremony to the customary attire and symbolic rituals, navigating these cultural elements with sensitivity and respect is crucial to ensuring a meaningful and authentic celebration of love and commitment in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Key Takeaways:

  • Shinto and Buddhist influences: Japanese weddings often incorporate Shinto or Buddhist traditions, such as a traditional Shinto ceremony or a Buddhist ritual for blessings and prayers.
  • Kimono attire: Traditional Japanese weddings often feature the bride and groom wearing traditional kimono attire, with the bride donning a white kimono for the ceremony and a brightly colored one for the reception.
  • Gift-giving and etiquette: It’s customary to give cash gifts in special envelopes called “oshugi” at Japanese weddings, and guests should also be mindful of proper bowing and gift-giving etiquette.

Pre-Wedding Rituals and Engagement

Obviously, when planning a wedding in Japan, there are several customs and traditions that you should be aware of to make sure you are respectful and considerate of the culture. The pre-wedding rituals and engagement period are important parts of the process, and understanding the significance of these customs can help you navigate this aspect of Japanese wedding traditions with grace and respect.

The Yuino: A Symbolic Engagement Exchange

In Japan, the Yuino is a symbolic engagement ceremony where the families of the future bride and groom exchange gifts to symbolize their commitment to the marriage. This exchange is a way for the families to officially acknowledge the relationship and to show their support for the upcoming union. It is a significant and heartwarming ritual that sets the stage for the wedding preparations and the joining of two families. The exchange of gifts, such as sake, food, and other traditional items, is a beautiful and meaningful way to honor the couple and their families coming together in marriage.

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The Kagemi: Preliminary Wedding Arrangements

During the Kagemi stage, preliminary wedding arrangements are made, and the families come together to discuss the details of the upcoming nuptials. This period involves planning the wedding date, selecting the venue, and deciding on the overall theme of the ceremony. It is an important time for both families to come together and begin the process of creating a memorable and meaningful wedding day. The Kagemi period is an opportunity for families to show their support for the couple and to make sure that the wedding reflects the values and traditions that are important to the families involved.

Wedding Ceremony Customs

Now, let’s discuss the customs and traditions associated with wedding ceremonies in Japan. The wedding ceremony is a sacred and elaborate event in Japanese culture, with a rich history and deep-rooted customs that have been followed for centuries.

Shinto vs. Christian vs. Civil Ceremonies

When planning your wedding in Japan, it’s important to consider the different types of wedding ceremonies available. The three main options are Shinto, Christian, and civil ceremonies. A Shinto ceremony is deeply rooted in Japanese tradition and is often held at a Shinto shrine. On the other hand, Christian weddings have also become increasingly popular in Japan, with couples opting for a ceremony in a church. Civil ceremonies, performed by a government official, are also common. Each type of ceremony has its own unique customs and traditions, so it’s important to carefully consider which one best reflects your beliefs and values.

Traditional Attire: Kimonos and Montsuki

One of the most striking aspects of a Japanese wedding ceremony is the traditional attire worn by the bride and groom. For a Shinto wedding, the bride typically wears a white kimono called a shiromuku, adorned with elaborate accessories and a hood to symbolize her maidenhood. The groom wears a montsuki, a formal black kimono with family crests. In a Christian wedding, the bride may choose to wear a Western-style wedding dress, while the groom may opt for a tuxedo. It’s important to carefully consider and choose the right attire, as it is a significant part of the wedding ceremony that holds cultural and traditional significance.

Wedding Reception Practices

To fully understand the cultural customs and traditions to consider when having a wedding in Japan, you need to explore the wedding reception practices. The reception is a vital part of any wedding ceremony, and in Japan, it is no different. Understanding the cultural significance and customs surrounding the wedding reception will help you seamlessly integrate into and respect the traditions of the Japanese culture.

The Reception: Itinerary and Symbolism

During a traditional Japanese wedding reception, there is a specific itinerary that typically includes various ceremonies and rituals. A common practice is the exchanging of wedding vows followed by a toast to the newlyweds’ happiness and longevity. There is often a meal served, consisting of traditional Japanese cuisine, and entertainment such as music and dance performances. Each aspect of the reception itinerary holds its own symbolism and significance, all of which contribute to the overall celebration of the couple’s union.

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San-san-kudo: The Shared Sake Tradition

One of the most important and revered traditions during a Japanese wedding reception is the ‘San-san-kudo’ or the three by three cup sake ritual. This ritual involves the bride and groom sipping sake from three different-sized cups, each representing a different virtue: happiness, luck, and longevity. The sharing of sake symbolizes the union of the couple and the blending of their families. It is a beautiful and significant part of the reception that should be honored and respected.

Post-Wedding Customs

Unlike Western weddings where the festivities often wind down after the reception, in Japan there are several post-wedding customs that you should be aware of. These customs are an important part of the overall wedding experience and should be approached with respect and understanding.

Okurimono: Gift-Giving Etiquette

After your wedding day, it is customary for you and your new spouse to give gifts to those who have supported you throughout the planning and celebration. This gift-giving, known as Okurimono, is a way to show your gratitude to your friends, family, and any others who have helped make your wedding day special. When selecting gifts, it is important to choose items that are thoughtful and meaningful, as the act of gift-giving holds great significance in Japanese culture. You’ll want to make sure that the gifts you choose are of high quality and are beautifully presented, as this reflects the honor and respect you have for the recipient.

The Role of Nijikai: The After-Party

Following the conclusion of your wedding reception, it is common to host an after-party, known as Nijikai. This gathering allows you to continue the celebration in a more relaxed and informal setting, giving you the opportunity to spend quality time with your close friends and family members. The Nijikai is a time for you and your guests to let loose and enjoy each other’s company, often featuring entertainment, karaoke, and plenty of food and drinks. It is a chance for everyone to unwind and create lasting memories together, further solidifying the bond between you and your loved ones.


Upon reflecting on the cultural customs and traditions to consider when having a wedding in Japan, it becomes evident that there are a myriad of intricate ceremonial practices that hold deep significance and should be respected. From the traditional Shinto ceremonies to the importance of certain colors and the exchange of symbolic gifts, it is crucial to embrace and honor these customs if you are planning a wedding in Japan. By understanding and incorporating these traditions into your wedding, you not only show respect for the culture, but you also create a unique and meaningful experience for both you and your guests. By doing so, you can ensure that your special day in Japan is not only beautiful, but also rich in cultural significance.

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Q: What cultural customs and traditions should be considered when having a wedding in Japan?

A: When having a wedding in Japan, it is important to consider the following customs and traditions:
– Kimono attire: Traditional Japanese weddings often involve the bride and groom wearing a kimono, which holds significant cultural and symbolic meaning.
– Shinto rituals: Many Japanese weddings incorporate Shinto ceremonies, such as the sharing of sake and the exchange of nuptial cups, to bless the union.
– Seating arrangements: It is customary to have specific seating arrangements for family members and guests based on their relationship to the bride and groom.
– Gift-giving: The bride and groom traditionally give gifts to their guests as a token of appreciation for attending the wedding.
– Traditional cuisine: Serving traditional Japanese cuisine at the wedding reception is often expected.

Q: How should guests behave at a Japanese wedding?

A: Guests attending a Japanese wedding should keep in mind the following customs and traditions:
– Dress code: It is customary to dress formally and modestly for a Japanese wedding, with muted colors being preferred to avoid drawing attention away from the bride and groom.
– Gift-giving: Guests are expected to bring monetary gifts known as “goshugi” in special envelopes to present to the bride and groom.
– Etiquette during ceremonies: Guests should observe and follow the rituals and ceremonies with respect and attentiveness.
– Behavior at the reception: Guests should show appreciation for the food and hospitality offered during the wedding reception and participate in the festivities with grace and gratitude.

Q: Are there any specific customs or superstitions to be aware of when planning a Japanese wedding?

A: Yes, when planning a Japanese wedding, it is important to be aware of the following customs and superstitions:
– Date selection: Some dates are considered unlucky or inauspicious for weddings in Japanese culture, so careful consideration of the chosen wedding date is vital.
– Sake sharing: The ritual of “san-san-kudo,” which involves the sharing of three cups of sake between the bride and groom and their parents, symbolizes the union of the families and is a significant tradition to be observed.
– Avoiding the number four: In Japanese culture, the number four is associated with death, so it is best to avoid incorporating the number four into any aspect of the wedding, such as the guest count, seating arrangements, or gift-giving.

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