Robert and Yuka’s wedding – おめでとうございます!

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!!


12 thoughts on “Robert and Yuka’s wedding – おめでとうございます!

  1. wow, thank you. I was very glad you could come and be part of my substitute family.
    At times the organisation felt military and I was worried about doing things correctly, sometimes I didn’t know want I was meant to do. But I look happy in the photos so I was having fun.

    Chika and Gahzale looked good didn’t they? Yuka’s friends and family thought you looked great as well. Yuka’s sister especially liked your dress.

    Some of the blanks. The legal wedding was days before, no ceremony just a case of paperwork to start Yuka’s own registry, becoming Yuka Belton and adding me to it. This was the official wedding (just like the Queen and birthdays).
    It took two people about an hour and a half to dress me and Yuka, we had our own large tatami room. While you were herded inside the shrine we had our pictures taken, before (white dress) and after (red dress). I thought you might be part of the introductions but that must be families only. They do hajimemashite’s it would be the first time extended families meet each other.

    The sake drinking is the equivalent of the rings I think. It’s the point we are married. It’s called san-kyu-san. The speaking part was the wedding vow. seishi.
    Complex and polite language because we’re speaking to the kami-sama. I was unsure that I could read the hiragana quickly so I had it in romaji on piece of paper!
    I liked the music and dance. I thought they could have been more generous with the sake!
    The seaweed and ika you eat. I don’t know the meaning either.

    The umbrella was a love-love umbrella. To catch good luck or to shield us from bad luck I’m not sure. I wanted to eat dinner not change clothes, as they dragged me away at the soup course. We did get to eat everything though.

    The reception is very different. Much shorter, no dancing, not much drinking. Although tou-san did come and fill my beer glass up. The rich is sekihan, red rice or good luck rice.
    Another difference is the speech to Yuka’s parents, although I deviated from form and gave one to Yuka as well. It impressed her friend Kyouko-san at least.

    It’s nice that you get a present, although it’s really from Yuka’s parents. You’ll remember us when you eat your bentou.

    It was a marvelous day and I never dreampt I’d have a wedding like it.


  2. Guests get presents at British weddings too – well, I guess it depends on the wedding you go to, but it is traditional. They’re called favours and usually involve a nice chocolate in a box, although at one of my friends’ weddings we had a little box filled with different sweets. It can all get quite expensive – I’ve just got some little bars of Divine chocolate from Oxfam, but I think I heard that Posh and Becks’ guests got Rolex watches or something…


  3. Oh yeah, I had forgotten that. I was surprised by te size of the gifts at this wedding though – a lot more than I had expected!!

    Divine chocolate sounds good. The big day is almost here… 😉


  4. Gifts,
    I haven’t been to any wedings in the UK lately. I don’t think gifts are given to guests in Ireland, but the reception goes on for ever with much drinking and dancing.

    You get and give gifts all the time in Japan. Coming back from a trip, spring, new year, weddings, and most strangely of all funerals. Something I’d rather not experience.

    (Also my nephew Shota-kun spotted you in a TV ad so I’m told…)


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