Japanese Weddings and Speeches

I’m so happy to say that I’ll be going to Japan again next year! My friend who I’ve known since university is getting married, and has invited me to share what will probably be one of the happiest days of her life 🙂 So I’m super excited to attend the wedding, and I’m super excited about going to Japan again. However! I am worried about one thing. My friend has asked me to do a speech…in Japanese Σ( ̄。 ̄ノ)ノ We had joked about this several times before she even met her fiancé, but I guess she wasn’t joking (T . T) So before I ruin her magical day, I thought it’d be wise to do a little reasearch before.

There are two types of weddings in Japan: the traditional Japanese style and Western style. The traditional Japanese wedding is often held at a shinto shrine, which only close friends and family attend. The bride is dressed in a traditional white kimono called 白無垢 (shiro muku). Her hair is worn in a bun, with colourful ornamental hairpins called kanzashi. Then on top of her head is a white hood called 角隠し (tsuno kakushi). This a symbolic piece, and by wearing it the bride hides her two “horns of jealousy” and promises to be an obedient wife. Being a woman, I’m not quite sure how I feel about that. But it’s tradition. The bride also carries a fan that is worn on the obi, which symbolises happiness.  The groom on the other hand wears a black formal kimono called 紋付 (montsuki), usually decorated with one’s family crest. He also wears a haori (a formal Japanese coat) and hakama.

During the ceremony the couple is purified and they perform a ritual called 三々九度 (san san ku do): three-times-three exchange of nuptial cups. The name of this ritual literally translates as “three-three-nine times” in English. The first “three” is said to represent 3 couples: the bride, the groom and the parents. The second “three” represents 3 human flaws: passion, ignorance and hatred. While the “nine” is simply a lucky number. It is said that the ceremony which takes place at a shrine is not only to unify two people, but two families. Which is why the san san ku do involves the bride and groom, but also both sets of parents. Each person takes three sips of sake from 3 different cups. The groom then reads words of commitments, and the ceremony ends with offerings to the kami, or God.

The western wedding style involves a ceremony at a chapel. Neither the couple, nor the minister need to be christian. It is simply a symbolic ceremony. The bride and groom wear western clothing and exchange rings. Other than that, I’m not too sure what else happens, so if anyone knows, feel free to share 😉

After the ceremony, shinto or western, is the reception. The reception is slightly different from western receptions. For one, there is NO dancing. My friend had to keep repeating that to me till it finally sunk in. Anyone that knows me knows the slightest beat will get me on my feet dancing, so I’m a bit sad I’ll have to stay in my seat :s What I am looking forward to however, is the food! That’s one piece of information she didn’t have to tell me twice ^^ Many courses are served, but never in multiples of four, because  the number four in Japanese, shi, sounds like the word for death.

The reception is not exclusively reserved for close friends and family, but it is also customary to invite your colleagues, boss etc. Guests are also expected to bring money as a gift called, ご祝儀 (go shuugi). You should only give brand new crisp notes, and it must be enclosed in a special envelope called shuugi bukuro. In fact Fran from Sequins and Cherry Blossoms wrote a wonderful post about these envelopes here. So upon arriving, you hand over the envelope at the reception desk and sign the guest book.

As I said earlier, there is no dancing at the reception. Mostly there are speeches and performances from friends and family. Those who can sing or play an instrument may sometimes dedicate a piece to the bride and groom. And of course this is where I would come in with my speech (^◇^;)

I have another 3 months to prepare my speech, but as preparation I would like to know if there are any customs to follow, anything I should, or should not say. If anyone has any tips or advice, please do share in the comments below.

Yasumi from Worship Blues did suggest I take inspiration from the speech in My Neighbours The Yamadas, which you can hear the start of here:



“Life, as they say, has its ups and downs. At times, the waves may taunt you, tossing you in their swells. But take heart. It’s hard to stick with it and make it on your own. But even a couple of losers can survive most things if they’re together. So listen, take some advice and have children as soon as you can. Children are the best reasons for riding out life’s storms. Nowadays, people say child-rearing is challenging and difficult, but we’ve done it from time immemorial. Children grow even without parents. So hold them close to your heart as they crawl, then walk. They’ll be fine.”

Not a bad speech at all if you ask me…


(Feature image source)

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