Wedding Traditions By Jessica Weltersen The Japanese culture is renowned for its emphasis on finding the perfect balance between aesthetics and function. Japan’s colorful history is witnessed through its people’s complex and yet absolutely orderly rituals and practices. (see Japan – Your destination to the Rising Sun) Japanese weddings best showcase how the Japanese strike the perfect balance or fusion between contemporary Western elements and traditional Japanese beliefs. The Japanese Wedding These days, you will find many ways in which contemporary Japanese weddings are celebrated. Traditionally, religious Japanese weddings were celebrated Shinto style at the couple’s chosen shrine. These days, Japanese weddings can be held in various locations, including the hotel where the reception is supposed to take place. The Shinto priest can conduct the wedding ceremony with only the bride, her groom and their close family members in attendance. During the actual Japanese wedding ceremony, the bride and the groom are “purified.” They drink sake and the groom reads his vows. After the vows, the couple gives symbolic offerings to their Kami or Lord. After the wedding comes the reception party. Today’s Japanese wedding receptions tend to echo Western practices. Most Japanese brides prefer to wear white Western-style wedding dresses over their traditional kimono. Planning a Japanese Wedding When planning a contemporary Japanese wedding with a slight traditional twist, you first need to determine the right wedding day based on the old Japanese calendar. Remember, you are looking for an auspicious date for you and your partner. Before you get married, you and your groom’s families will need to exchange Yui-no gifts or engagement gifts. The groom is usually given a hakama that represents fidelity during the couple’s formal dinner. The bride, on the other hand, is presented with an obi, which signifies female virtue. After the exchange gifts, you and your partner can decide on where you will hold your Japanese wedding. A great Shinto shrine is always the most traditional and socially-accepted choice, although you could also hold your wedding outdoors or in a nice hotel if you want. During the wedding ceremony, you are expected to drink nine sips of sake simultaneously with your partner. Remember, you’re both supposed to set your cups down at the same time. There is a belief that the last person to put down his or her sake cup will be the first to die. After your brief ceremony with your new husband, offer the sake to your parents to help complete the unification between both families. Japanese Wedding Attire While Japanese brides today have the option of wearing Western-style wedding dresses for their wedding ceremonies, the kimono remains the popular garment of choice. The bride wears a beautiful kimono called the shiromuku, and may even wear a heavily brocaded shiromuku called the uchikake over her kimono and obi. (Tips on how to wear a kimono) The groom is expected to wear a formal silken kimono called the hakama, with a short coat called the haori. Wedding hakamas are usually black or gray in color, to represent the solemnity of the occasion. Here is a clip of the traditional Japanese wedding, marching way through the shrine.