Customs and Rituals

What occurs at a traditional Japanese wedding?

Contemporary Japanese weddings are celebrated in many ways, often combining traditional Japanese and Western elements side by side. Typically, a religious wedding ceremony is performed in Shinto style at a shrine located inside the hotel where the wedding celebration occurs. A Shinto priest conducts a ceremony attended only by the couple’s closest family members. After rites of purification, the couple drink sake, and the groom reads a statement of commitment. Symbolic offerings to the kami conclude the ritual. Wearing traditional Japanese garb, the couple host a reception after the ceremony, welcoming anywhere from 15 to 250 guests: relatives, friends, and co-workers. After the bride and groom are introduced, a meal is served and brief speeches are delivered. At the end of the party, the couple thank their guests for joining them on this important day.

In recent years, many Japanese couples have incorporated traditionally Western elements into their weddings—for example, brides wearing white, Christian-style dresses. Sometimes the entire ceremony takes place in a Christian church and according to a Christian-like ritual, even when the couple is not Christian. Many couples also perform other Western-style rituals, including cake-cutting, an exchange of rings, and elaborate honeymoons.


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