I recently went to Japan and made it my mission to find out as much as I could about getting married there. The Japanese people are graceful, warm and humble perfectionists. It wasn't long until I realised quite how big the wedding market is in Japan. There are signs in the street, shops selling package deals and travel agents with wedding gowns in the window. There's a huge range of options available for couples.
From an elegant traditional ceremony to a full blown package deal, there are loads of options for couples on any budget. The flowers in Japan are also stunning, you can find incredible cocktails (including a collagen cocktail for a bride in beauty preparation!) and humble people who will always offer a hand.
Brides (shinpu) and grooms (shinro) thinking about getting married in Japan need to consider the legalities first.
For local Japanese people, the easiest way to get married is to register at the ward office (区役所, kuyakusho). If you are getting married in Japan, you need to have civil marriage registration at the Japanese Municipal Government Office for the area in which people live. This is what you need to be married. The ceremony is only the celebration.
For foreigners wanting to get married you need to abide by the local law of marriage for your marriage to be valid. You also have to follow the civil registration process. The first place you should visit is your embassy. If you live outside of Japan then visit the Japanese embassy in your home country.
There are also minimum age requirements. Women can be legally married in Japan at the age of 16. However, if your country has a legal age of 18 then you must wait until you are the legal age within your own country.
You will need to get an Affidavit of Competency to Marry, which affirms that you are legally free to marry, from your embassy. You’ll also need to have your passport valid and a certified copy of your birth certificate with a Japanese translation. Once you have checked all this off with your Embassy, the paperwork will need to be given to the Japanese municipal government office to register your marriage. They will give you a Registration of Marriage Form (kon in todoke) to lodge and have signed by two witnesses. Your final acceptance certificate (Kon-in Todoke Juri Shomeisho) will be in Japanese.
We wanted to share what we learnt however strongly suggest you contact your local Embassy for finer details concerning how this may apply to you. Embassy details below.
If you want a traditional marriage then you can wed in a Shinto Shrine. The option to get married in a shrine however has become less popular as more Japanese couples opt for the Wedding Hall package weddings.
A Shinto Shrine is a religious place visited by Japanese. All Japanese people are born into the Shinto religion; however, the majority also consider themselves Buddhist. Buddhism was introduced to Japan in the sixth century and the Buddha was accepted as one of the Shinto’s many gods.
A western style wedding is usually less expensive than a traditional Japanese style wedding (shinzen shiki). Chapels are available for a simple style wedding or you can hire furniture for a garden wedding. There is a nice pre-ceremony ritual where the bride’s mother lowers her daughter’s veil to signify the final act between mother and child. The father’s final act is to escort the bride down the aisle. The procession ends with the groom bowing to the bride’s father – an act of respect. When the groom lifts the veil he has taken responsibility for the daughter.
The ceremony service (kekkon shiki) proceeds much like a western wedding with flowers, ring cushions, music, hymns, bible readings, vows (seiyaku) and ring exchange (yubiwa no kokan). Couples then sign a chapel register (shomeisho) and the marriage is announced (kekkon-sengen). The service is performed in Japanese, English or both. If English is used, there is usually a mix of Japanese in the prayers and blessings. The ceremony length is also flexible.
After the ceremony, couples often go to a studio to take photos before the reception. The reception is enjoyed with live music, banquet and toasts to the new couple. Gifts (usually crisp new bank notes) are given to the couple as a way to help them start their life together. Wedding cake is served and a bouquet is tossed. Men also toss a bouquet (usually of broccoli) as a joke. One person that we spoke to suggested you could rent robot waiters to deliver your drinks or get offbeat invitations from the designers such as Monster Mix.
When doing our research we came across a site Kekkon which might be useful for planning your day – just hit the translate button!
Wedding Hall Package Wedding
You can pick up an all-inclusive wedding package very easily. Travel agents sell them, you can buy them online or wedding factories are set up to make your entire event for you. That includes rental clothes, ceremony, dinner, MC, priest (often someone with no training and just reads from a script), and a photographer. They have a real Disneyesque feel to them! We picked up a whole range of brochures, which give information on all the packages you can pick from.
Don’t Need A Groom Wedding
There are services today offering the option for brides who don’t have a groom to get married solo! A Japanese company called Cerca Travel is offering a Solo Wedding package for brides to get hitched on a two-day package costing around $2750US. That includes a bouquet, dress for hire, limo, hair and make-up. They can even choose a man to accompany them on a photo shoot. And, for those who don’t want to wear white they can be dressed up like traditional Geishas. The bride then has a special night in a fancy hotel’s honeymoon suite. Wedding professionals plan the day completely. At least 10 people have bought this service since it started. Each to their own!!
Our Favourite Spots
The ancient town of Kyoto is where Geisha’s roam the cobblestone streets with white faces, dark hair, deep red lips and a traditional kimono. They spend years training how to be the perfect entertainer for Japanese high society. Kyoto is filled with beautiful old buildings, large cherry blossom trees and high mountains overlooking the town - the perfect backdrop for a traditional Shinto wedding. Your guests can visit ancient temples, traditional restaurants, steak houses (we’d recommend Steak House Yoshida for an incredible dining experience), museums and bars. It is also a really lovely idea to stay in a Ryokan for a traditional Japanese stay.
Invite your guests to celebrate your nuptials in the hustle and bustle of this spectacular city. There are amazing restaurants (we recommend Ninja for a fun group dining experience) and activities for your guests to try in the lead up to your wedding.
For an incredible 5-star wedding we’d suggest checking out the Park Hyatt Tokyo. We stayed there during our visit and the service was impeccable. The New York bar is incredible and was the setting for the movie Lost In Translation with Scarlett Johansson. This is one of our picks for top wedding hotels around the world. Another hotel you could also consider is the Cerulean Tower Hotel. We visited their wedding office and they offer some really nice packages and really set up to handle weddings.
In the fancy shopping district of Ginza you can visit one of many high end dress designers, wedding planners, purchase bridesmaids outfits and look at reception locations.
A Work Of Art - Designing your own japanese wedding
The one thing that stood out to me most on my trip was how the Japanese culture encourages perfectionism and craftsmanship. From a very early age the Japanese people take on a challenge and work extremely hard to master it. Whether that is Sumo wrestling, becoming a Gesha, playing archery or simply mastering their professional life, they don't stop until they have become the best they could individually be. What an honourable trait!
When planning your wedding, keep this in mind. Try to be the best you can be throughout the process in true Japanese style. Be kind, patient and firm. Don't give up even when it gets tough. At the end of the day, you'll have created a work of art to share with your loved ones and something you can always be proud of.
Spend some time before your wedding planning begins exploring all the wonderful things Japan has to offer. You can really learn so much about food, culture and the arts when wandering the streets, talk to the locals and dine in little holes in the wall. Take note of the architecture, the glassware, the style of decor in fancy restaurants, high-end fashion, and the elegant Japanese women walking the streets. You can make a simple room look spectacular by incorporating elements of the world that surrounds you. Careful placement, design and precision.
Japan is also renown for its inventive food so why not try and incorporate something really exciting into your wedding menu?! Serve your guests a bonsai tree dessert, flaming ramen, some fine kobe beef, or speak to a local bar about what cocktail they could invent for your wedding (and share that with your venue!). Make your wedding a work of art.
We have plenty of tips to share so feel free to contact us.
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