Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Here is the Wedding Story

Japanese wedding

I wrote this while Molly was here.

On Saturday, while Molly went to an onsen (hot spring), I went to a Japanese style wedding ceremony. One of my teacher friends invited me to her wedding (only about 100 people were there so I felt very honored to get this opportunity). The way the Japanese do weddings is very interesting. It's usually a mix between Christian and Shinto traditions. Actually, Japanese culture is an interesting mix of three major religions, most notably expressed during the three major ceremonies in a person's life: birth is Shinto, marriage is Christian, and death is Buddhist.

(Because the Christian aspect is mainly for, well, aesthetic purposes, (the dress, the cake, and minister, the chapel) some foreigners (one of my friends actually does this as a part time job) actually make money in Japan by dressing up as a minister and participating in ceremonies.)

In Japan, when a couple gets married, usually they first get the certificate at city hall. Then they have a ceremony with a Shinto priest (far more genuine, spiritually and culturally, for the couple than the Christian version later, i think), and this includes drinking sake at the alter. Then the couple throws the wedding celebration. Traditionally all guests give money—a two or three hundred dollar gift—in a special envelope. This money helps pay for the ceremony. In return, the guests take home party favors (see all the blue bags of gifts on everyone’s chair?) I got a set of nice whisky glasses from Tiffany's, and boxes of nicely wrapped gourmet food and sweets. The wedding celebration was held in a banquet hall at a hotel (pretty standard here) and it included an announcer hired by the hotel, which was fun. The whole thing felt like a TV game show. There were spotlights and music and guest performances. The bride and groom left the banquet hall and came back four times, and each time they returned there was an announcement, the lights went out, black lights turned on, the spotlight on the door, then the door opened, and the rock music blasted as the couple reentered the room in new clothing. The bride had five different dresses! . . . and five different hairstyles (two of them were wigs). Near the end, family members formally sang karaoke songs (like our toasting speeches?), and the 3rd years from the bride's homeroom class came and sang her a song. That was really sweet, but kind of awkward, because they weren't very good, and didn't practice much, and everyone was watching them.

At the end, with the bride in her second to last dress, she and her husband went around to each table and, while we sat gazing, lit the tall candle on our table. Then they walked up to the stage and lit the candle there, which burned brighter than normal (like a firecracker) and that seemed to be the biggest, most important moment of the wedding.

The food was delicious. All the guests took home flowers. I got to escort the groom out of the hall one time. The anouncer said “And now, David will escort the groom out of the Hall!” Everyone took pictures and clapped. That was an honor. When talking to me about western weddings, one woman asked "Is it true you all dance at the wedding?" Yes, it is! I replied. “Well, that sure is different!” she said.

And yeah, I guess it is.

1 comment:

Abigail said...


May all beings be Free and in Love.

Blog Archive