Giving gifts and honoring parents aren’t just Korean wedding traditions – they’re also important components of Japanese weddings. In this article, you’ll learn about the unique traditions and rituals associated with Japanese weddings…
When you think of weddings, what comes to mind? A priest, a bride in white, and a groom in a tuxedo? While this may be the case in some cultures, there are many traditions that vary around the world.
Today we’re taking a look at five Japanese wedding traditions that are sure to surprise you!
What Are Japanese Wedding Traditions?
A few popular Japanese wedding traditions include:
- Shintô traditions
- San san kudo
- Japanese wedding attire traditions
- Traditional wedding gifts for parents
Read more about these fun traditional Japanese wedding ideas below! In the meantime, learn more about Japanese culture by signing up for Japanese lessons. You’ll learn everything you need to know about Japanese culture, including weddings. There are plenty of helpful videos out there to acquaint you with Japanese culture, too, like the one you see below:
How Are Weddings Different in Japan?
While weddings in Japan share many features with Western weddings, there are also a number of significant differences.
One key difference is that Japanese weddings are typically Shinto ceremonies, while Western weddings are typically Christian.
As a result, Japanese weddings feature a number of traditional Shinto rituals, such as the offering of sake to the kami (gods), and the exchange of nuptial cups. Another key difference is that Japanese weddings are often held in private homes rather than in public venues such as churches or banquet halls.
This helps to create a more intimate and personal atmosphere. In addition, Japanese wedding traditional ceremonies typically involve much smaller guest lists, often limited to close family and friends.
Finally, Japanese weddings often include a number of unique traditions such as the use of kimono and the exchange of ceremonial fans. These differences help to create wedding ceremonies that are both unique and memorable.
Japanese Wedding Traditions To Know About
Shintô is an ancient Japanese religion that continues to dominate the country’s culture, especially its ceremonial traditions. Up to 79 percent of Japanese people still belong to Shintô temples, but the vast majority don’t identify with its actual beliefs. Instead, they observe ancient rituals as a celebration of their country’s sacred history, and wedding ceremonies are one of the best examples of this.
According to the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), Shintô is an ancient belief system that originated with the worship of demons and evolved into a long cultural tradition of superstitious rituals and icons. Unlike the demonic creatures associated with Western religions, Shintô demons are supernatural human-animal hybrids who bring both good and bad fortune. Most modern-day Shintô traditions are still associated with the pursuit of good fortune, which is the overarching theme of Shintô weddings.
Japanese weddings often take place in Shintô temples, which feature religious iconography that have become distinguishing features of Japanese architecture. These include stone dogs, water pavilions, and tall red gates that mark the division between the spiritual and corporeal worlds.
When Japanese couples opt to hold their main wedding ceremonies in these sacred shrines, they usually limit the attendance to family members and very close friends, who participate in a variety of superstitious rituals.
San san kudo is a sake sharing ceremony and is common in both Shinto and Buddhist Japanese weddings. During this wedding ritual, the bride and groom take three sips of sake from three stacked cups. After the bride and groom sip their sake, both sets of parents also sip the sake. The ritual is complete after a total of nine sips.
The first three (san) represents the three couples: the bride and groom, the bride’s parents, and the groom’s parents. The second three is said to represent the three human flaws: hatred, passion, and ignorance. Some people, however, believe the second three represent heaven, earth, and mankind, or love, wisdom, and happiness.
Nine (ku) is a lucky number in Japanese; the phrase san-san-kudo translates literally to “three, three, nine times.”
Shintô and western weddings have one obvious staple in common: the white wedding dress. White and red, the country’s national colors, are associated with good fortune. Japanese brides almost always wear white and incorporate red into their culinary and decorative choices. While their ensembles vary from delicate silk costumes to sleek evening gowns, their white clothes are consistent symbols of virtue and patience. Grooms often wear black kimonos or suits in Japanese weddings.
A traditional Japanese wedding dress is called a shiromuku. The shiromuku is usually white and is made of silk. It is considered to be a symbol of purity and simplicity.
The bride may also wear a wig and headpiece called a tsunokakushi.
The tsunokakushi covers the bride’s hair and is meant to represent her modesty. The bride may also wear a kimono with a long train called an uchikake. The uchikake is often brightly decorated with embroidery or gold Thread. It is meant to represent the bride’s status and wealth. In addition, the bride may wear several other items of clothing, including a hakama (a divided skirt), a hanayome (a white veil), and tabi (white socks).
These items all serve to represent the bride’s purity and innocence and are key components of traditional Japanese wedding attire.
Brides who want to honor the Shintô tradition will wear a wataboshi, a white silk hood or headdress, over the bukin takashimada (bun) in their hair. This represents modesty and humility.
Others incorporate simple floral kimonos into their wedding day apparel, but fashion-savvy brides are happy to choose haute couture dresses for their special day.
The bride and groom take time during their special day to honor their parents. Gifts include flower bouquets, cards, and letters.
Modern Japanese Wedding Traditions
Japanese weddings are known for their elegant simplicity, but in recent years, many couples have begun to incorporate modern traditions into their ceremony and reception.
One popular trend is a more Western-style wedding dress, which the bride may wear in addition to the traditional kimono.
The groom often wears a Western suit as well. Other popular modern additions include the use of flowers and decorations, professional photography, and a reception with music and dancing.
While some purists may disapprove of these changes, they have helped to make Japanese weddings more accessible and enjoyable for foreign guests. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what weddings are all about?
Who Pays for Japanese Weddings?
In Japan, the cost of a wedding is typically borne by the parents of the bride and groom.
However, in recent years more couples are choosing to pay for their own weddings. This is often due to the increasing cost of weddings and the fact that many couples now wait until they are older to get married.
As a result, they are more likely to have already established themselves financially before tying the knot. In some cases, the bride and groom’s families will split the cost of the wedding.
For example, if the bride’s family is wealthier than the groom’s, they may cover most of the expenses. Or, if both families are equally well-off, they may agree to split the bill evenly.
Ultimately, who pays for a Japanese wedding depends on a variety of factors and is decided on a case-by-case basis.
Do They Kiss in Japanese Weddings?
At a typical Western wedding, the highlight of the ceremony is when the bride and groom exchange vows and share a kiss. This is not the case in Japan, where kissing is considered to be a very intimate act.
In fact, public displays of affection are generally frowned upon in Japanese culture. For this reason, Japanese weddings usually involve a traditional Shinto ceremony, which does not include a kiss.
Instead, the couple exchange ceremonial sake cups and share a brief bow.
Although this may seem like a cold way to celebrate such a special occasion, it is actually a sign of great respect.
By keeping their emotions in check, the couple is showing that they are able to control themselves and act in a proper manner. In many ways, this is seen as being more romantic than a passionate kiss.
Japanese Wedding Tradition – Good to Know!
All of these traditions make you wonder – what other wedding traditions exist around the world? One of the best ways to learn about a new culture is to learn its language. You can put on a Japanese movie with English subtitles, read Japanese literature with a translation, and anything else fun to help you learn the language (while learning about the culture along the way). Just remember, practicing consistently is the key to learning any skill, especially when learning a new language.
Japanese wedding traditions are steeped in symbolism and meaning. If you’re looking to add a touch of Japan to your own wedding, consider these tips.
By incorporating some of the traditional elements into your day, you can create an unforgettable event that is uniquely yours. Have you been inspired by Japanese weddings? Let us know how you plan to incorporate these traditions into your big day!
Want to learn more about Japanese language and culture? Sign up for private lessons with a Japanese tutor, today!