Customs and Rituals

Are there Shinto rituals of marriage?

Weddings in Japan have traditionally followed Shinto ritual, and the vast majority still include Shinto elements even when performed in connection with other traditions, such as Christianity. Until recent times, however, weddings occurred in homes and were performed by laypeople only. Since the mid-nineteenth century, shrine nuptials performed by Shinto priests have been more common. A ceremony called shinzenkekkon (nuptials in the presence of kami) may take place in a wedding hall, on shrine grounds, or in other public spaces. According to some, a marriage deity called musubi no kami (“the god who ties the knot”) is a Japanese counterpart to the moon-dwelling Daoist, Yue Lao, who bound together the feet of marriage partners. Many Japanese continue the ancient practice of arranged marriage, and some young couples still live with the groom’s family, following Confucian traditions. At the heart of the wedding ceremony is a shared drink of sake (rice wine). Many Japanese families still value elaborate ritual as a form of social communication, and some will even have two ceremonies, one Shinto and one Christian, for example. Daoist-influenced traditions still recommend that couples be wed only on days determined to be auspicious.


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