Friday, December 07, 2012

Getting Married in Japan: Wedding types

The road to a happy marriage is fraught with choices. What ring do you buy? What do you say to your bride's parents? All these questions and more will likely be nagging you right up until your happy day.

Unfortunately, we here at AccessJ can't help you with these questions but we can help you make sense of the variety of wedding ceremonies available in Japan to make your life a bit easier.

Wedding Ceremony Types
When people think of a Japanese wedding, they usually picture a guy in a fancy hakama style kimono and a kimono-clad girl with a large white head dress. While these traditional ceremonies have not disappeared completely, they are much less common in this day and age. Most young couples go for a "White Wedding" complete with a chapel (well, not necessarily a real chapel) and a foreign priest (also, not necessarily a real priest).

However, just about every wedding company offers a variety of options for young love birds and their families. Some of the most common are...

  • 教会式 (kyokai shiki)- This literally means a "church ceremony." Most wedding halls (kekkon shikijo 結婚式所) prominently feature their fancy, purpose-built chapels in their advertising literature. These ceremonies often foreigner acting as a priest (often times part time English teachers) as well as all the "Western" wedding accoutrements like tuxedos and white dresses. However, keep in mind that these ceremonies are almost never held in a real church and, with rare exception, aren't religious in the traditional sense. Rather, they are more for couples who want the ideal "Western wedding" that they so often see in movies and on TV. Not surprisingly, there are very few "real" churches here in agnostic Japan and even fewer that do weddings.
  • 神前式 (shinzen shiki)- The kanji literally mean "before God," but in this case they refer to a Shinto wedding. This wedding type of wedding is often preformed in a shrine before everyone is bused back to a more traditional post-ceremony reception. Naturally, this involves the iconic fancy white bride head dress and kimono, Shinto priest, and a whole bunch of other traditional extras which make Shinto weddings eye-poppingly expensive. Moreover, some couples opt for both a shizenshiki and after another kyokai shiki at a separate church, if only for the sake of pictures. As a matter of fact, you can often find fake church facades near shrines that preform lots of weddings as couples like to have their pictures taken there for their wedding albums.
  • 仏式 (bu shiki)- This refers to a Buddhist style wedding. The exact nature of these ceremonies differs from sect to sect, but they are usually held in temples or in wedding halls with special butsudan(仏壇) or ceremonial alters. While strict Buddhist weddings are becoming rarer these days, they are some times done in addition to a traditional Western ceremony or Shinto ceremony. These ceremonies usually require the presence of a priest so expect to have to pay heaps of yen.
  • 人前式 (jinzen shiki)- The kanji mean "a ceremony before people" and it is sometimes translated as an "eecumenical ceremony." However, a jinzen shiki is not explicitly religious as there is no priest present (although there is usually an officiator) and wedding halls will often remove crosses and church traipsing before the wedding starts. Its basically the closest thing non-denominational ceremony you can find in Japan.
Well that about covers the gambit of litteny of common wedding types. If we are missing any pertinent info, let us know in the comment sections.

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