The past weekend was a celebration of love, togetherness and budding memories. As I attended my first Japanese wedding, I thought of sharing with you how beautiful and different this joyous occasion is from the traditional desi Indian wedding I am accustomed to. Basically a “gaijin’s” POV to a traditional Japanese wedding.
Over the years of living in Japan, I’ve heard various stories and etiquettes that are to be followed at a Japanese wedding. I read a couple of articles on the web as well as asked my Japanese colleagues of what to wear, to gift and to expect. While Indian festivities begin nearly a week in advance and create an aura of joy and excitement, Japanese weddings are sophisticated and an extremely well scheduled one-day celebration. Atypical to the customary one-day wedding celebrations, the wedding I attended was spread across two days.
Btw, catch the wedding highlights on my Instagram, if you haven’t already! 😛
The “kekkon shiki” (wedding ceremony) was held in Kamakura, a coastal town in Kanagawa Prefecture that is well known for Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. The wedding took place at the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, a historical and most important Shinto shrine in the city of Kamakura. I’ve visited this shrine a couple of times and have seen traditional weddings take place there before, but being part of one was a surreal experience to me.
The bride and groom were gracefully dressed in traditional Japanese attire. The bride wore a beautiful white silk kimono, also known as “shiromuku” with a traditional headpiece “tsunokakushi” that is a rectangular white cloth, and the groom wore a “hakama.” There were so many little details as a whole in the ceremony that was fascinating. So systematic and precise that it leaves you in awe. Japanese weddings are extremely orderly and composed, just like its people.
FYI, don’t go into a Japanese wedding expecting hoo-ha because it’s everything but that.
A Shinto wedding is an intimate and private affair with only very close friends and family invited to witness the actual ceremony. Before heading to the shrine, the bride, groom and guests were taken to a waiting room. What was interesting was that the bride and groom’s respective fathers introduced everyone present in the room to become acquainted with. After leaving the waiting room, ritual musicians and Shinto maiden lead the bride, groom and guests to the shrine – referred to as “sanshin” (wedding procession). At all times there was quite a distinguished bride and groom’s side. As I was from the groom’s side, we were all seated on the left side of the shrine. The actual ceremony was half hour long and began with the Shinto priest purifying the bride and groom. After seeking the blessing and protection from deities, the Shinto maiden dedicated a sacred dance to the couple. The bride and groom then took three sips each of sake that was placed before god. Before the exchange of rings, the groom read out the marriage vows. The ceremony concluded with all the guests present in the shrine taking a sip of the sake that was dedicated to god.
After the ceremony, all guests were ushered to the wedding dinner. Before entering the dinner hall, guests handed over goshuugi (money gift), a deeply rooted aspect in the culture of Japanese weddings. With seating arrangements all made beforehand, I was guided to my seat at the dinner hall. I was taken away by the divine six-course Japanese meal, not to forget a special vegetarian meal that was prepared for me. Hands down the best and the most diverse Japanese food I’ve had till now – ha ha yes, vegetarian problems.
The post-wedding dinner was a close-knit affair between the bride and groom’s family and friends. Throughout the dinner, we had family members of the newly wed couple coming to our table individually to express their gratitude and appreciation for being a part of this momentous occasion. In true Japanese manner, plenty of “makotoni omedetougozaimasu” and “yoroshiku onegaishimasu” were exchanged.
This concluded day 1 of the beautiful and prosperous Shinto wedding in Kamakura and the following day was the big (note: term used very lightly as the crowd at an Indian wedding is unbeatable) wedding party!
The following day was the wedding party or “kekkon hiroen” as its called in Japanese. The hiroen was at the Bvlgari Luca Fantin Restaurant in Ginza, Tokyo.
The venue was on the ninth floor, with a high-rise ceiling, chandeliers and gorgeous decor red flower décor on every table. The Italian dinner was scrumptious and the service was impeccable. Special thanks to the restaurant manger for accommodating to my veg-friendly 6-course meal!
Unlike the Western culture, there was no dancing involved at the wedding reception. The bride and groom were seated at the center table and seats were assigned for all guest. With light music playing in the background, the guests, starting with groom’s boss and then the bride’s boss, gave a series of speeches. Yes, a significant level of importance is given to the their colleagues, which is why we got the closest seat to the couple.
The evening was a glamorous, yet formal affair to say the least and a wonderful experience for a “gaijin” like me to be part of a Japanese wedding. An intimate celebration between the newly-weds, family and friends, the entire weekend was something I’ll cherish for years to come!
I believe it’s always insightful to learn and acknowledge different cultures and traditions. This wedding was the same. Coming from an Indian background where weddings are OTT and a grand gathering, Japanese weddings showed me how intimacy and close-knit celebrations can leave the same impact. Having said that, I won’t lie, I did miss grooving a bit. Hehe.
Congratulations to the lovely couple. Wishing them a lifetime of love and togetherness. ♥