Yesterday I attended my friends Robert and Yuka’s wedding. It was a traditional shinto wedding at Wakamiya Shrine in Nagoya, followed by a wedding party at The Princess Garden Hotel, which included a mixture of Japanese and Western traditions.
I’ve never been to a traditional Japanese wedding before, although I have stumbled upon them a couple of times as a tourist. It was really interesting for me to see all of the details, and to see just how much work goes into making sure every step is followed. So, first we all met at the hotel, and I had the chance to meet up with my old friend and Japanese teacher, Chika-san, which was great. She came with another friend of Robert’s, Ghazale. Chika and Ghazale both wore kimonos, but I have to confess I didn’t. Actually, I was worried about being the only one not wearing one, but in the end there was a nice mixture of kimonos and Western style clothes. I would have liked to have worn one, but it’s pretty expensive to hire one and have someone dress you. And from what I could gather from Chika and Ghazale it’s pretty uncomfortable too! So in the end I’m kinda glad I didn’t wear one. Anyway, they looked beautiful…
We all went in a bus from the hotel to the shrine, and then had to hang around for quite a while as they all got ready and did family stuff in separate rooms. Finally we went into the shrine through a series of corridors. Everything was tatami matting, so of course we had to take our shoes off. It was pretty chilly, but they actually had heaters in the main room!
In the main room, Yuka’s family sat one one side and we sat on the other side. Every person had a sort of place setting with a sake bowl which was turned upside down, a little piece of seaweed tied in a knot, and a little piece of dried fish.
During the ceremony the bride and groom drink sake…
…and then the guests do. At one point we also had to pick up the piece of seaweed and the piece of fish and wrap them and take them home. I’m not sure about the meaning behind that part, to be honest. And I’m not sure what to do with the seaweed and fish that are now sitting on my table at home!
Also, during the ceremony there was a sort of dance. It reminded me of tai chi, and was really interesting to watch…
Apparently this dance is done to get the gods’ attention or something. I think that’s why it’s performed by young women, too.
One thing that really struck me as different was that Robert had to stand up and read something, but Yuka didn’t speak at all. I guess that’s just how it goes in Japanese weddings…
I thought Robert did a really good job of reading everything in Japanese! It sounded really complicated to me!!
After the ceremony we all went outside for photographs…
Next, we all bundled back into the bus and went back to the hotel for the wedding party. The wedding party was also a very formal event, and followed a very particular pattern. There were many speeches and, what Japanese wedding would be complete without some karaoke? 🙂
Also, the bride and groom had to change outfits a couple of times, which meant that they missed out on many of the delicious courses of food that we guests were given. I think there were about 7 courses, although I skipped the beef one.
The wedding party was very different to a Western style reception. The food was excellent and the hotel staff were wonderful, but what made it really different is that after the meal, and the speeches, and the karaoke, that was the end and we all left. I think most Western style wedding receptions have more drinking and then dancing into the night, so this struck me as quite different.
Another major difference between cultures is that the guests get presents at a Japanese wedding! In fact, the presents are pretty amazing, too! So, thank you Robert and Yuka!! We all got a little bento box with some lucky rice balls inside (yum!), two gorgeous cakes, and a set of two cups! I knew about getting presents but I just thought it would be a set of chopsticks or something!!
So, thank you Robert and Yuka for inviting me to your special day and allowing me to be a part of it! おめでとうございます！！