Japanese Wedding Traditions

Integrating Japanese Traditions into Your Wedding

The wedding celebration itself is steeped in history and tradition, and each country has customs and rituals that have been passed down through the generations. Japanese weddings are no exception and there are many long-standing traditions that make these ceremonies unique from other cultures. If you have Japanese roots, or even if you don’t, there are several aspects of the Japanese wedding service you can easily integrate into your own celebration for a unique experience.

Kimonos as Wedding Attire

Traditionally Japanese brides and grooms don white, silk kimonos that they are helped into by friends and family. This could be a much more comfortable and culturally accurate alternative to a tuxedo and wedding gown. However, if you can’t see yourself walking down the aisle in a kimono, consider wearing one for the reception or as you and your groom exit the festivities.

Families Facing Each Other

A wedding is not only the joining of two people, but of two families. In Japan, during a wedding ceremony, the parents of the bride and groom face each other instead of the bride and groom as a way to show that their families are taking these vows as well. This can be an intimate detail to include that will bring your families even closer together. 

Drinking Sake           

It is customary for the newlywed couple to drink nine cups of sake (a Japanese rice wine) before they are considered officially married. Nine cups may be a bit much if you’d like to stay clear-headed, but sake can be a wonderful addition to your cocktail hour or as a drink to toast with at the reception.

Japanese Celebration Dishes

There are certain foods that are always served during any type of celebration in Japan, whether it is a wedding or holiday. These dishes include sashimi and sushi (pieces of raw fish with small, edible garnishes), celebration rice that includes black sesame seeds, and desserts, like cookies, in addition to the wedding cake. Sushi is a very popular culinary trend at the moment and many guests may be delighted to partake in this type of cuisine. You could also consider a small sushi-station in addition to your plated meal or adjacent to the buffet for guests that may just want a small taste.

Honoring the Parents

At a Japanese wedding reception, the bride and groom will each give speeches thanking their parents for their contributions to the wedding and give them a small gift such as flowers or fine fabric as a token of their love and appreciation. Working this tradition into the toasting part of the festivities is a beautiful way to recognize your parents on your wedding day.

1,001 Cranes

In Japanese culture, cranes are considered a symbol of longevity and prosperity. Weeks before a wedding in Japan, friends and family of the couple fold hundreds of origami cranes until they have exactly 1,001 paper cranes to display at the ceremony and/or reception. If your fingers cramp at just the word “origami” you can still incorporate this symbol into your theme subtly by having it as a design element on your invitations or in your décor.

Incorporating the Color Red

Your décor can also reflect Japanese heritage by infusing the color red into some details of the day. The color red is considered good luck in Japan and many Japanese couples choose to have themes centering on the color. You may not want to have an entirely red reception but you can include some small touches such as red flowers or favors that are a nod to the tradition.

Candle Service

Candles are often part of wedding centerpieces and can create the perfect mood lighting for your reception. It’s also considered proper wedding etiquette for the bride and groom to visit each table to thank their guests for attending. You can combine these two things by participating in the Japanese wedding candle service. An unlit candle is placed at each table and, as each group is visited, the couple lights the candle to show that they have spread their “light” around to all of their friends and family members. 

Japanese weddings are beautiful and rich in interesting history that you can borrow from for an individual approach to your wedding theme. A wedding that reflects your heritage not only displays your pride, but also gives your guests a look into a culture they may not know about. These are easy ways to bring a bit of Japan to your wedding location and create a memorable day.