A Japanese Wedding: An Insider Perspective
They say that you don't just marry a person, you marry a family, right?
Well, half a year ago when I married my husband, I also gained his fun, loving family. A couple weeks ago, we all made the journey up to Fukushima to attend his relative's wedding.
This was actually my fifth Japanese wedding, but my first as a family member. This meant that for one rare and blissful moment which seems to occur so rarely in this very homogenous society, I was uchi, not soto. (For a full look at what those terms imply, please check out Wikipedia or your closest university library.) To put it simply: I was on the inside this time. Goodbye happily smiling yet clueless outsider. (Well, maybe there was still some of that.)
When hosting a wedding in Japan, you are always asked if you have any relatives who plan on wearing kimono. If so, it is considered polite to pay for okitsuke, for someone to dress help them get dressed. This is because a) most people aren't able to put on kimono by themselves any more, and b) wedding kimono are often more extravagant than your average kind.
I was fortunate enough to be offered okitsuke, hair and makeup if I wanted to wear kimono. As a not-so-secret kimono lover, of course I accepted.
After getting dressed, the first function of the day was a relatives' meet and greet. It involved the bride and groom's families sitting on opposite sides of a room, and the father of the families introducing each member by name, who then stood up, bowed, and said the equivalent of "thank you for welcoming me to the family." We then got to just hang out in that room until the ceremony started, provided with free tea and rice crackers. My favourite was the hot cherry blossom water. This room was a huge perk of being a family member!
The ceremony was beautiful, held in the venue's chapel in an imitation of Christian weddings. After that, it was back to the family room to chill until the reception.
The reception itself was typical Japanese style, with welcome bears made by the bride's aunt, the bride changing dresses & hairstyles halfway through (the bear changed with her), and lots of letter-reading and crying.
One element of receptions common to Japanese weddings is a candlelight service. The bride and groom go from table to table lighting a candle at each one. The bride was by now in her second dress, a beautiful light blue that made her look like a living Cinderella.
One thing I particularly liked about this reception was a plate of appetisers waiting at each person's place for them when they entered, so they could snack until the bride and groom arrived. (It's under the little hat on the plate.) Another unique point: the main (meat) dish was served very early on, and the rest of the dishes came after. Apparently this was due to complaints from wedding attendees that they were either too full for the main course, or they always ate it cold because it's served right at the time everyone is getting photos with the bride and groom. Personally, I really enjoyed the slow transition from the heaviest to lighter courses.
After the reception, we skipped the receiving line to head straight to our hotel. We were on the 10th floor with a view overlooking central Fukushima city, and were greeted in the morning with a rainbow. We texted K's cousin to tell them it was a symbol of God's promises. It was a beautiful end to the wedding weekend.
Have you ever attended a Japanese wedding? What additional expectations or duties have you encountered when a relative of the bride or groom?