Friday, February 01, 2013

Getting Married in Japan: Negotiating a price

In our last wedding related article we covered the fine art of going to "wedding fairs" in order to get a first hand look at your dream wedding hall. However, all the tours and food are just the beginning. Once you have you tour and complementary food you are expected to get down to brass tacks and talk about cold, hard cash.

According to the wedding website Zexy, the average cost of a wedding for in Japan is 3,567,000 yen. Generally speaking this includes around 70-75 attendees. And yes, that is only the national average. Believe it or not, they actually get more expensive. So, if you want a proper wedding in Japan, you had best get ready to open up your pocket book nice and wide.

Why weddings are so expensive in Japan is a socio-economic conundrum that far exceeds my meager understanding of macro-economics. But luckily there are ways to cut down on the price of a wedding.

Despite having a reputation as a no-bartering country, there are some situations where you can try and talk down prices.  Weddings are one of these situations. After your fair, you meet with your sales person to decide and what sort of package you want, basic extras, what food is avaliable and so on. They will then go to the back room and give you a 明細書 (meisaisho), or detailed invoice. Keep in mind that what ever is printed here will almost certainly go up as you tack on other extras like flowers and gifts. 

Once you get your invoice you can start hemming and hawing about price. Its a good idea to take what ever total you are initially given and say that it is just too much and see if they can do better. Much like buying a car, the very concerned looking sales person will likely have to "go check with the manager" (AKA go have a smoke). If you are lucky they will come back with a slightly better number or at least throw in some freebee options. I have no proof, but I suspect that most wedding companies high-ball their initial offer to make it look like you are getting a good deal. 

However, there are some caveats. First, if a wedding place is sufficiently popular or in peek season (usually the spring time)then there is very little incentive to negotiate. Second, some facilities will tell you straight out that they have a no negotiation policy with price.

Other Ways to Save
Even if you can't get the wedding venue of your choice to budge on price, there are some other ways to hold down costs...
  • Make your own invites- Invitation printing is a pretty big expense so, if you have the artistic talent, you might want to try making some cards on your own.
  • Limit the number of dresses- Japanese weddings often include two or three oiro naoshi (お色直し) or changing clothes during the reception. Naturally renting the dress plus the fees for the stylist and make up artists aren't cheap. If you aren't picky, limit yourself to one change.
  • Bring your own gifts- It is custom to give one or two sets of complimentary gifts to wedding guests. If possible, try purchasing some presents in bulk as the presents offered by the wedding place are likely super overpriced.
  • Make your own nick-nacks- Wedding places love to tack on little extras for things like seating charts and guest books and so on. Its a good idea to see if you can make or bring your own.
However, some wedding places have started cracking down on do-it-yourselfers by charging a fee for bringing your own materials (usually called a mochikomi-ryo 持ち込み料). It is a good idea to ask the wedding place during your negotiations what their policy on bringing your own stuff is.

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