Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Japanese wedding

On December 07, hubby and me attended the wedding ceremony of our friend (the groom) who was also our junior colleague about ten years back in the University in Tokyo suburbs. Professor Murata, who was our research advisor, also attended the ceremony along with his wife. The wedding ceremony was held in Tado shrine, which is a Shinto shrine located in the Tado-cho area of the city of Kuwana in Mie prefecture, Japan. Since we were visiting my father-in-law and stayed with him in Ichinomiya city of Aichi prefecture from 5th to 8th December, he gave hubby and me a ride by his car up to Nagoya railway station on the morning of 7th December. From there, it took us about one hour to reach the Shrine by bus.
Contemporary Japanese weddings are celebrated in a variety of ways. Many contain traditional Japanese and western elements side by side. A Japanese wedding ceremony can be Christian, Buddhist, Shinto, and non-religious styles. The wedding style does not necessarily match with a person's religion. Non-Christian couples often have their wedding ceremony at chapels, which seems to be the recent trend. Legal marriage in Japan is civil marriage that is established through reporting the marriage at a city hall of the Japanese government by submitting a marriage registration form (Kon-in Todoke in Japanese), and not by the blessing from the priest whether it is Christian or Shinto. This is because the State is separated from religion according to Article 20 of the 1947 Constitution of the Japanese government. Since wedding ceremonies have no legal significance in Japan, people try to make the wedding day special, enjoyable, and memorable by celebrating it in the way they wish/prefer.
Our friend's wedding ceremony was held in the Shinto style. It was the first time that I attended a Shinto-style wedding and I found it very exciting and interesting! Hubby and me dressed formally for the occassion. I wore a semiformal dress and hubby wore a black formal suit. At the entrance of the wedding hall of the shrine, we handed over an envelope containing some cash as wedding gift for our friend to the shrine staff at the reception desk and signed our name in the guestbook. The gift cash was enclosed in a special cute looking envelope called 'shugi-bukuro' with our name written in the front of the envelope. It is polite to use new bills with no creasing. Usually, giving cash as gift is the accepted norm and bringing any other form of presents is almost unheard of.

The type of shugi-bukuro we used for enclosing the wedding gift

Next, we went to the shrine. On our way to the shrine, we saw the groom, bride, and their families in beautiful traditional clothes. The bride wore a traditional wedding kimono called 'shiromuku' and the groom wore 'montsuki haori hakama'. The couple looked so beautiful. The traditional custome worn by the bride is perhaps the highlight of the ceremony! The 'shiromuku', also called 'uchikake', is a white gorgeous kimono with great details in patterns woven into the material. While the couple and their family took the blessings of the Shinto God by praying infront of the Shrine, we took several photos of them. Below are some of the photos of the bride and the groom in wedding custome.

Bride and groom in traditional Japanese wedding custome

Bride and groom

Bride and groom posing with their parents

It was the coldest day of the year and the mercury dipped to one degree centigrade. Hubby took a photo of me shivering in a dress made up of very thin material. It felt cold! But the excitement of attending the wedding made me bear the cold. It was really worth!

Me in front of the shrine

The wedding took place before a Shinto sanctuary set up for the occassion. The reception place was equipped with a special room for the wedding ceremony. Such a wedding is usually attended by members of both the families and close relatives. So we were really fortunate to have attended the actual wedding ceremony. However, taking photos and videos was not allowed. So, unfortuantely, I have no photos of the actual wedding ceremony. The wedding was presided by a Shinto priest who first held a purification service of all present. After some ritual by the priest, the bridegroom read an oath to keep faithful and obedient to each other in the married life. The 'san-san-kudo' or ceremony of the three-times-three exchange of nuptial cups was then performed by the bridegroom and bride. This was followed by the exchange of wedding rings. Drinks of 'sake' was then exchanged between members and close relatives of both the families (we also performed this ceremony) to signify their union through the wedding. The wedding was accompanied by traditional music and attended by 'miko' maidens who served 'sake' in red and white dresses. The bridegroom and bride proceed to the sanctuary to offer twigs of 'sakaki' sacred tree in worship to Gods to end the main part of the wedding ceremony. It was a short and simple service with a solemn atmosphere.
After the ceremony, a reception party called 'kekkon hiroen' was held in an adjacent hall. There were about 50 guests who were relatives, friends, and present/past coworkers. The seating arrangement at the reception party is extremely important. Prof. Murata and his wife, my hubby and me were seated at the first table closest to the bride and groom, who were seated in the center front of the room. This meant that we were very important guests for the occasion! I noticed that the families and relatives were seated way back in the room. It was easy to find our seats as our names were printed on the tables. After taking our seats, I saw that my name was written by including my hubby's family name too. It read 'Nagata (in Kanji characters) Kundu Manisha (in Katakana)'. I was really happy to see my name written in this particular manner!
My name printed as 'Nagata Kundu Manisha'

After all the guests were seated in their respective seats, the bride and groom entered the reception hall in the fabulous wedding dress they wore for the ceremony. The couple then proceeded to the center stage, bowed to all the guests, and then sat enjoying the speeches made by various guests. Prof. Murata made a nice speech about the professional career of the groom.

Bride and groom during the wedding reception

Bride and groom enjoying the speeches made by the guests

Prof. Murata giving a speech about the professional career of the groom

This was followed by the ritual called 'kagami biraki'. From ancient times, 'kagami biraki' has been one of the essential practices at wedding ceremonies to share felicitations and to celebrate the threshold of the couple's new life. During this ceremony, the bride and groom opened the top of the 'sake' barrel with a small mallet amidst yells of congratulations. Then, the 'sake' was served to all the attendants to share the happy moment. We all did 'kanpai' (cheers) using 'sake' with the newly wedded couple to wish them a happy married life.

Bride and groom opening the top of a sake barrel

Kanpai with sake

A full course Japanese meal was served to each guest. After the 'kanpai' with the 'sake', all the guests started eating the eleven course meal. It was really superb. There was a generous flow of alcohol (beer and sake) during the meal.
The bride and broom changed costumes a couple of times during the wedding reception, which is the usual practice nowadays. So, during the course of the reception the bride and groom were led out to change the dress. Although the groom did not change the cloth for the second appearance into the reception room, the bride changed to a second wedding kimono dress, which was different in design and color but was just as beautiful and elaborate as the first one. The couple walked around the room, greeted the guests, and lit the candles at each table. Finally, the couple lit a large candle at the center stage of the room.

Bride and groom lighting a candle at the center stage

This was followed by more speeches and performances by the guests, which the couple enjoyed sitting at the center stage. My hubby also made a small speech about the groom as well as the bride. This is because my hubby was not only the colleague of the groom but is a good friend of both the groom as well as the bride. I remember that all four of us have gone out for dinner on several occasions over the past couple of years.

My hubby giving a speech during the reception

Bride and groom enjoying the speeches made by various guests

Next, the bride and groom cut a large wedding cake amongst cheers and clapping from all the guests. The atmosphere in the reception room was getting more and more festive as the consumption of alcohol continued along with the meal.

Bride and groom cutting the wedding cake

For the entertainment of the guests as well as the newly wedded couple, two 'samisen' performers played the 'samisen' and sang for about 20 min. It was nice to listen to the traditional Japanese instrumental music.

Two performers playing Samisen musical instrument

The bride and groom were led out of the reception room a second time to change their dress. During their next appearance into the reception room, the couple was attired in western outfit with the groom wearing a grey morning suit and the bride wearing an exquisite white wedding gown. The bride looked very beautiful in the white gown. The couple moved around the room and individually served the already cut wedding cake to each guest.

Bride and groom wearing western wedding custome and accepting flower bouquets from children

Bride and groom posing with children

Bride and groom serving cake to Prof. Murata

Next, the couple made speeches to thank their parents for everything they had done for the couple. Most of the guests got rather emotional listening to the speeches and there were tears in the eyes of almost every guest. Although it was really sad for the bride to leave her parents' home but it was also a happy moment as she entered a new phase of her life with husband and his family. The couple thanked all the guests once again and were led out of the reception room. Finally, the reception was declared over by one of the couple's relative.

Groom giving a speech thanking his parents and relatives

Prof. Murata, his wife, my hubby, and me took a photo together for the sake of remembrance. In addition, hubby and me posed in front of the center stage where the bride and groom sat during the reception.

Me, hubby, Prof. Murata, and his wife during the reception

Me and hubby in the reception room

We are not supposed to wear shoes in the Japanese tatami style reception room

The newly wedded couple and their parents stood at the exit of the wedding reception hall, and thanked the leaving guests by giving a bag containing souvenirs called 'hikidemono' to take home.
It was almost 4.4o pm by the time the reception got over. There was a bus waiting for us at the entrance of the shrine to return back to Nagoya railway station. We were back to my father-in-law's home by 6.15 pm. It was a long day for hubby and me. But we were really happy to have attended our friend's wedding. It was a nice and enjoyable day!

Note: I would like to thank the newly wedded couple for their kind permission to upload their wedding photos in this blog.


mylifeinjapan-jayaprakash said...

It was a nice experience to read through your blog. I like to read the real life experiences like this.

My life in Japan is only 11 months old, but I am excited by this wonderful part of our world - Japan. Japan is different from other parts of the world, the you may know better than me. Thanks for visiting my blog.

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks for reading my blog, Jayaprakash. Hope you are enjoying your stay in Japan.

Bob said...

I am traveling to Japan in four weeks to attend the wedding of my adopted Japanese daughter (she lived with us from age 9 to 18 as our daughter). Her parents will be in attendance so they will offically be the "parents" but we will be honored guests (adopted parents). I have been assked to give a 3-5 minute speech at the reception. I enjoyed reading you blog on Japanese weddings. Do you have any advice for constructing my 3-5 minute wedding/reception speech? Thank you. Bob Elliott,
Manhattan Beach, California

Anindya said...

Keep sharing your experiences, they are a great read.

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks Bob for your comment. I am really sorry that somehow I missed seeing your comment until today. Hope your daughter's marriage went off well and you all had a nice time in Japan.

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks Anindiya for your comment. Yeah, it is a pleasure sharing some of my experieneces with others throught this blog. Please visit the blog often and leave you valuable comments.

Princess Dieter said...

Thank you for sharing the photos of such an elegant, lovely wedding. I so much prefer the traditional Japanese formal outfits on the bride and groom. :) Thanks.

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks Princess Dieter for your comment and for liking the photos. Yeah, the traditional Japanese wedding outfits are really beautiful. But nowadays, the Japanese couples usually opt for western formal wear. It is probably because any kind of religious wedding ceremonies have no legal significance in Japan since mid 1940s. So people just wish to enjoy their wedding in their own special and memorable way. In fact, this wedding was the first Shinto wedding I attended, and I loved it.