Times and societies may have changed, but traditions are the anchor to which a community can draw a link to its past. Being one of the most important occasions in any society, weddings are steeped in traditions and customs, and those of the Japanese are no different.
With Shinto being the main belief system in Japan, traditional Japanese weddings would feature Shinto practices, Being a very formal and private event, the traditional Japanese wedding ceremony is presided over by a Shinto priest with only close family members of the couple attending it.
As in any wedding, fashion plays a huge role, though in traditional Japanese weddings the couple’s wedding dress is comparatively modest, as compared to many western wedding fashions.
The bridal dress comprises of an elegant white kimono known as Shiromuku and an elaborate head dress. To symbolise her purity, the bride would don heavy white make-up on her face. As for the groom, his wedding suit will consist of a simple black montsuki kimono with a hakama (kimono pants) and haori (kimono jacket).
During the ceremony, the Shinto priest would purify the couple and offer their union to the gods. To signify their union, the couple and attending family members will partake in a “san-san kudo” ceremony. Translated as “three-times-three”, the san-san kudo ceremony is an exchange of nuptial cups, where sake is ceremoniously drunk by the couple – and their parents – with each taking three sips from each of three cups.
The drinking of sake dates back to the Samurai age where common people used to drink sake in a Shinto ritual to form a connect with the deities. During the ceremony, the groom is seen to be drinking and sharing sate. After the sake-drinking ritual, everyone present stands and claps twice. This is believed to ward off all evil spirits and attract the deities to bless the wedding.
While the traditional Japanese wedding ceremony is a largely private and solemn affair, the couple’s day is finished off with a lively reception ceremony. This is where the newlyweds are introduced as husband and wife to their other family members, friends and colleagues. Speeches are made, more drinking follows, and the reception ends with some music.
That being said, in recent times many Japanese couples are opting for a western style wedding ceremony complete with dresses and ceremonies that resemble those of a western style Christian wedding, even if the couple – or their families – aren’t Christians. Other adopted wedding traditions that some Japanese couples choose to practice are the cake-cutting ceremony and the exchanging of rings.
A Japanese wedding is classy and solemn, and it is common that only close members of the family attend a traditional Japanese wedding. But should you ever get yourself invited to one, do not miss an opportunity to learn about their traditions and customs.
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