An Etiquette Guide for Those Attending a Japanese Wedding
Follow these tips to avoid committing a social blunder!
Have you ever been invited to a Japanese wedding?
As most of you would expect, weddings differ in every country. Japan’s rich culture and long history of traditions have shaped the way they perceive and celebrate wedding ceremonies. Whether it’s a Buddhist, Shinto, or Christian wedding, they more or less follow the same practices. It is, however, very important for foreigners to familiarize themselves with the proper behavior and etiquette when attending one.
Below is a step-by-step guide for attending wedding ceremonies in Japan:
Expect an informal invitation.
Nowadays, thanks to technology, many bride- or groom-to-bes will usually reach out to family members and friends through social media or messaging apps. This is done about two to three months prior to inform their guests of their wedding date. This is also their way of confirming the guest’s address so they can send the official invitation to them.
Receive the official invitation.
An invitation typically consists of the detailed information of the wedding and the attendance card to RSVP.
Send back the attendance card.
While the purpose of this is to confirm your attendance, there are also some things that you need to do and take note of to show your politeness.
At the front of the card, cross out the “?” character at the addressee and instead write “?” next to it. At the back, cross out all “?” and “?” letters with two parallel lines (This is the proper way in Japanese to erase). Should you be writing a message, avoid using commas (,) and periods (.) as their functions are to stop or break clauses, which can indirectly be implied to the relationship of the groom and bride.
Both kanji characters ? (read as go) and ? (read as sama) are keigo or polite words you can use to address the receiver. On the other hand, ? (read as iki) is a humble language that’s used when one mentions him/herself.
Prepare your wedding present.
You won’t have to go into the trouble of thinking of the perfect gift for the couple as Japan has a tradition of giving ??? (goshugi) or ???? (oiwaikin) or gift money.
When preparing goshugi, make sure that the bills are new and don't have any stains or markings. The amount should be in ten thousands and odd number denominations. You should avoid numbers such as two and four, as these numbers relate to the idea of splitting.
The amount you'll be giving the couple will depend on how you're related to them. If it's your friend’s or colleague’s wedding, ¥30,000 is suitable (if you're still a student, ¥20,000 will do). Meanwhile, if you're a senpai or manager of the groom or the bride, you're expected to pay more than ¥50,000.
Aside from that, you should also take notice of the number of bills you're giving. The rule of odd numbers is applied here too. If you're planning to give ¥30,000, prepare three pieces of ¥10,000 bills. If you're planning to give ¥20,000, prepare one piece of ¥10,000 bill and two pieces of ¥5,000 bills so that the total number of pieces is three.
Insert the money inside a goshugi-bukuro.
Goshugi-bukuro is the special envelope you insert your gift money in. You should write your name here using a black pen, or better yet, a Japanese calligraphy brush.
Inside is a white envelope called ??? (nakazutsumi). This is where you should write the amount of cash in front, then your name and address at the back. You can use a regular black pen for this one.
Prepare ?? fukusa.
A fukusa is a piece of cloth to wrap your goshugi in when you carry it around the reception. Warm colors are usually used for weddings, cold colors for funerals, and purple for either of the cases.
On the Day
The basic flow for a Japanese wedding is this: wedding ceremony, wedding reception, then the after-party.
Majority of Japanese couples today prefer holding their weddings at Western-style venues such as a church or hotel ballroom. However, there remain a few who stick to a Japanese-style wedding and hold it at shrines while wearing traditional clothes.
Here are a few tips when preparing for the day:
Wear a suitable dress.
For females, avoid wearing mini skirts. Avoid showing your shoulders by wearing a dress with sleeves or putting on a stole or jacket. Keep in mind that you're not supposed to expose your skin too much in formal events.
You should also avoid wearing white because it's the color of the bride. In addition, avoid black clothes because this color is normally associated with funerals. Avoid wearing two tones, as well, because it can mean "splitting."
For males, wear a dark-colored suit, white shirt, and white or light-colored tie. Wearing a vest that matches the suit is acceptable.
Wear suitable accessories.
For females, pearls are the best choice for any kind of formal scene. Avoid overly shiny accessories, since the bride is the one who's supposed to shine the most on her special day.
Find a suitable purse.
At wedding party venues, there's usually a place where you can leave your coat and bags behind and just bring your party purse with you. But do take note that you're not supposed to use purses that are made of leather or have fur on them as these symbolize the killing of animals, which is bad luck.
Set your hair neatly.
For females, having your hair down is actually considered informal, no matter how smooth your hair is. If you're not good at styling your hair, book a hairstylist and he/she can finish doing it within an hour.
Attend the ??? nijikai.
If the wedding ceremony is held in the morning or afternoon, chances are, there's going to be an after-party too. Different from the ceremony and reception, the nijikai is organized by the groom and the bride's close friends.
They usually set the contribution fee, in addition to the goshugi, to around ¥8,000. The amount is normally announced before the wedding day.
The nijikai is a casual and livelier party with friends. Most of the time, it is a standing and buffet-style kind of celebration. During the party, various games are played and winners are awarded with prizes.
And that's about it! Remember, what's truly important is to enjoy and celebrate in the happiness of the newlyweds' special day. Make this experience one for the books!
(20 June 2019)