18 09 2007


In a country where around 99% of the population is not Christian Christian style weddings are very popular.   The setting in the above photo is pretty typical except that that wedding was in a hotel courtyard while many hotels have specially built chapels only for weddings.  Many hotels here offer wedding packages that include in the price the use of the chapel and (usually fake) minister, banquet, photographer, plus clothes rental for bride and groom.  Everything is in one building, highly choreographed, and unless you attend the so called after party with close friends and family  everything is over by around 6pm.  There is no dancing let alone late into the night unless there is dancing at the after party which I have never attended. 

From my own observations the ceremony is about 15-20 minutes long.  It is conducted in Japanese with a sprinkeling of English.  The English is not necessary but seemingly simply for show.  The minister is usually not an ordained or certified minister of any sort just a man hired by the hotel or agency.  A foreign caucasian English speaking clean cut type is popular and gets paid around 10 000 yen an hour (about $100US) and with several weddings on a good weekend he can make a lot of side money from his usual day job.  The music is often on an electric keyboard so they can even play bells ringing, and there may or may not be a few singers.  Some ceremonies even have a reading from the Bible usually Corintheans  about love.  The minister may even use phrases like “may the Lord Jesus bless you.”  I haven’t witnessed any “do you take” vows  rather a few simple lines, a ring exchange and a kiss.  Flower petals may or may not be thrown after.  From my experience it is always flower petals thrown not confetti or rice.  The real marriage is considered to have taken place when  all the forms are filled out and taken to city hall which may be on a different day.  If people choose to have no ceremony and just submit forms there is no civil ceremony conducted by a justice of the peace or other such official the couple simply hand over the forms. 

Yes many couples these days exchange and wear wedding rings but even just a generation before their parents did not have the custom.  It simply wasn’t part of Japanese culture.  Most likely the parents were married in a Shinto ceremony where the marriage is sealed by taking three sips of sake and no kiss as far as I know.  I will go slightly off topic but Japan is a country where spouses or couples rarely show affection for each other in public.  Holding hands especially among young people yes but that is pretty much it.  You will see men reading very lewd porn comics though right there on the train and no one sems bothered yet if a loving couple were to part or greet each other with a kiss even on the cheek there would be shocked looks.  So for many couples their wedding kiss may be their first and last in public.

My own guess as to why Western Christian style weddings are popular over the traditional Shinto weddings is for one it’s fashionable, and two it’s cheaper than a Shinto wedding.  I say Christian style because I don’t, and the Japanese I’ve talked to don’t consider it to be a real Protestant or Catholic wedding.  The Shinto wedding isn’t a style but a real ceremony of that religion.  There are no pre marriage classes for any type of wedding I mentioned such as the Pre Cana classes in the Catholic church. 




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