Weddings in Japan, or all over the world for that matter, are solemnised in accordance with the unique culture of the land. But the love and joy associated with the coming together of two families remain the same, marking a very special landmark in the life of the bride and groom.
While love marriages are increasingly on the rise, the ancient practice of ‘Mi-ai’ is still observed in Japan. This is a meeting of the girl and boy with their families, arranged by a third party, which acts as a go-between. This meeting is arranged with consideration of social background and other factors, and may or may not result in marriage. The go-betweens or Nakodo are historically important and may be elderly couples known to one or both the families. If the girl’s family accepts the proposal, then a ceremonial exchange of drinks occurs between the bride’s family and the Nakodo.
If both families are agreeable to the match then they meet again on an auspicious day in accordance to the Japanese calendar and ‘Yui-no’ or engagement gifts are exchanged. The girl receives an obi, or kimono sash representing virtue, while the boy receives a hakama skirt which represents fidelity. Other gifts that traditionally symbolise happiness and good fortune are also exchanged.
The wedding is usually arranged for a particular, auspicious day during springtime or autumn. Traditional Japanese weddings take place in a Shinto shrine. Some hotels also have provision for a special room for weddings, and the wedding party comprises the families of the bride and bridegroom, close relatives and the go-betweens.
The Shinto wedding ceremony begins with the priest offering prayers to the gods. Once the couple is purified, the groom offers his vows to his bride. The bride and bridegroom proceed to exchange nuptial cups thrice, in a ceremony called ‘San-san-kudo’, and each takes three sips of sake from a small, medium and large cup. The families then exchange sake to signify their union. The ceremony is short, ending with the wedding couple offering sacred twigs of ‘Sakaki’ to the gods in the sanctuary. Traditional music plays during the length of the ceremony.
The bride and groom are donned in a Japanese wedding kimono. A white ‘uchikake’ for the bride, worn with a white headdress, and a black kimono for the groom, embroidered with the family symbol in white. Their mothers are elegantly clad in ‘tomesode‘, formal black kimonos bearing colourfully embroidered designs while the men are smartly dressed in black suits with white ties.
After the wedding ceremony, the newly wedded couple change their attire and partake in a celebratory, traditional Japanese meal with their families and matchmakers.
Weddings are solemn yet joyous occasions in Japan. If you ever get the chance to view one such traditional wedding, you’ll gain an insight into the lovely ceremony and the old-age charm associated with it.
If you are planning to visit Japan, do not hesitate to contact your luxury travel designer Mr. Isao Numano.