Time flies, I remembered saying that I would like to write about my Japan wedding earlier this year and woah, come to think of it a year had passed since we got hitched! I decided that I should really sit down and write this down before I forget all the little details and today is just a nice time to reminiscence about what happened a year ago. [Caution: EXTREMELY long post, detailing the Japanese wedding journey. Read it if you are interested in the Japanese way of getting hitched.] Everything written is just my own personal experience and opinions which may not be the exact way of things that may happen for other Japanese couples.
Finding the Wedding Venue (January)
Like any other wedding around the world, you have to decide on a location where you would like to celebrate your nuptials! Since we decided that most of the traditional events would be held in Singapore aka a Singapore Chinese wedding, we only just need to book a venue for our wedding reception in Japan. In Japan, wedding ceremonies can be traditional Japanese or Western Chapel style wedding followed by a formal reception than another informal wedding party. Just like most people, we also started our hunt with hotels, restaurants and wedding planners who have a long list of wedding venues for you to choose from.
Site viewing and signing of contract (March)
We finally decided to hold our reception at Hyatt Regency Hotel in Shinjuku since a hotel is a much more convenient choice for us since we have family and friends flying in for the event. In addition, this hotel gave us a pretty good deal over the other locations. YES, it cost you almost an arm and a leg to have a formal wedding in Japan, the couple is likely have to covers at least 25% of the whole bill or much more. For us, we also love the reception room that we were going to book. Sushi san held out the final contract signing till end March so that I can view the hotel before we signed on the dotted line for a reception of about 70 guests which in Japanese opinion is a big wedding. (When we say small wedding in Japan, it could be only 10-20 guests) Of course, it was from that day I came in touch with the professional way of handing stuff in Japan (which was also pretty red-taped and stifling in my opinion, anyway more on that later.)
There was 3 times slots for us to choose from: 12-230pm, 430pm – 7pm or 8 – 1030pm. We took the 430pm – 7pm slot since sun sets about 5pm during November so our guests would be able to enjoy the transition from sunset to night view.
Of course, you can reserve the wedding chapel in the hotel for your wedding ceremony too. Japanese ladies LOVE LOVE a chapel wedding but of course the chapel wedding has no legal binding since the “pastor” usually is some westerner who is moonlighting for a weekend job.
Of course, what less can you expect from Japan? PAPER and lots of reading! Once you signed on the dotted line, you are presented with this thick stack of files and papers detailing every aspect on what would be to come. Of course, all the brochures on wedding dress rental, wedding gifts, cakes, spa, photography and videography and anything that is related to trying to make more money from you. In Japan, the bridal dress rentals are tied up with your wedding venue, if you rent your dresses from the partner companies you would get a discount for renting their dress. However, if you want your own special dress or like me, bringing your own dress for the wedding. The hotel would charge you a dress charge (which is like making you pay for the commission that they would have lose if you had rented from their partners.) The dress charges are charged by per piece so in my case, I was charged for bringing in a wedding dress, evening gown and the groom’s suit since I was bringing my gowns from Singapore since I had worked out a deal with my bridal company.
Kimono Wedding photography (April)
We also did our Japanese traditional wear photoshoot in that weekend I was in Japan (on April’s Fools day no less). Very typical Japanese way of doing things, precise, professional and efficient. The whole photoshoot was done by 7pm and as you can see from the photos that they made sure that our hair, our kimono was in the right way, right posture whenever we change locations. Depending on your package, (we booked a pretty reasonable pricing photoshoot so no photo editing) we got the soft copies like right after our photoshoot with all exposures returned…..
Usually in Japan, the photography and bridal wear rental is done separately unlike in Singapore where you can get a full package for both bridal dresses and photography.
Ring Hunting (April)
Since I have penchant of platinum rings and Singapore is lacking pretty much in that area and much more expensive too for platinum (most of the rings in Singapore are white gold), we decided to get our rings in Japan. Japan has one of the biggest platinum ring market in the world, the reason is that the Japanese believe that their platinum rings is a symbol of a rare love that will last for eternity, much like the metal itself. The lead time for wedding bands was only 2 weeks versus a typical 2 months’ wait in Singapore. In terms of service atmosphere, it is quite similar to the jewelry shops in Singapore, so not much difference except the designs in Japan are more fancy compared to the more simple bands in Singapore.
9 hours of meeting in the hotel for Food Tasting and wedding details finalization (July)
Food tasting on my second trip to Japan last year to work on the final details for the wedding reception. First, we started with food tasting which is chargeable in Japan though we got a 20% discount for the food tasting. We also got to taste the sparkling wine, white wine and red wine which was to be served during dinner. Alcohol (of all forms) is free flow during the wedding reception, that is also one of the reason why dinner receptions are much more expensive.
When we were done with lunch, we were ushered back to the bridal gallery to start our bridal meeting which lasted for 7 hours where we met our coordinator, reception coordinator, coordinator with the beauty and make up, coordinator for the AV, coordinator for the floral pieces and coordinator for the wedding gifts…..Yup, there seems to be a in charge for every thing and we have to meet, make self introduction, discuss, anything that is not on their “menu”, they have to excuse themselves to check with their superiors and get back to you which they would apologize for taking the time to check etc……At that point of time, I was really going to tear my hair out since I only worked with ONE person for our Singapore reception and almost EVERYTHING was settled via email/calls which make our face to face meet ups efficient.
Everything from the Japan wedding looked so fine and pretty in my personal opinion, this was another class above our Singapore wedding but of course, everything came with a price. I would say, almost everything was chargeable. Like a diamondate napkin clasp was another extra charge of 200JPY, a ribbon round the guests chair was another extra 100JPY. Thur, I stuck to the basics so my table settings choices was settled like really fast with our reception coordinator.
Next would be the floral pieces, where we chose lilies with yellow mini orchids (to represent Singapore) since we felt bright colors would make things purk up in the cold Autumn weather. Originally I wanted to make my own bridal bouquet for the wedding but our dear groom put a foot down saying that I had rejected “too many add-ons” and it won’t look too nice over all. Thus I reluctantly agreed to pay for THE bouquet, why did I say reluctantly? This was because the charge was……..about 30,000JPY for that stalk of flowers which I would only hold for 4 hours? Darn, I fully understand why everything looks so pretty in Japan wedding, cos you have to pay for every single thing. Of course, they have to make it a high standard right? As a typical Singaporean, of course I would choose the prettiest bouquet that that caught my eye but hey, those pretty things are not part of my basic charge for the bouquet (what? 30,000JPY is just a basic charge?!!!!) The hydrangeas and white roses mix would come at a cost of an additional 15,000JPY……Hrmph! No way for me…..I have so much more to say about these additional costs in the whole Japan wedding planning but I think I should not get too personal since we do know that Japanese do place a high importance for important events in their life.
**After thought, we were asked if we wanted to add the same flowers as per our table settings on our wedding cake knife at a additional cost….Noooo….. **
Thus, I asked which are the flowers within my basic charge and chose the so typical red rose bouquet in the end. Though I have to admit, the roses used was the better quality roses and the make up of the bouquet was very good and dense. The flowers still looked super fresh even after the whole night out. (As compared to my Singapore bouquet which wilted by evening)
Next, was the selection of the wedding cards which was a range of Japanese traditional style (they use black and red!) and westernised ones. For printing, we have to pay for the wedding cards, printing of the name cards (yes, in Japan every seat comes with a name card), menu cards (every guest, have a menu card) and everything was chargeable too.
We spent much time in discussion with our AV coordinator as we had to decide on the music which you can have different songs for every step of the wedding like march in, cake cutting, toasting, speeches etc. (of course, AV used that day was chargeable)
Wedding cake can be real or fake, even for the fake wedding cake (charged), it would be creamed to look like a real cake for you to cut through. Japanese couples have the habit to feed each other with the wedding after the first cut like the western weddings but since we got a fake cake, we would skip that then 😛 Of course, we would be presented with the brochures if we wanted to book a wedding cake and the sweets to distribute to our guests when we bade good bye.
Next would be the discussion with the wedding gifts where in Japan the wedding guests would return home with a bag of wedding gifts as an appreciation from the newly weds for their kind wishes and times to attend the wedding. Usually, about 3 gifts would be inside the wedding gift bag (ps: the paper bag used was also charged, hahahaha, by time you should get the idea, EVERYTHING was charged). Recently, a wedding catalog of a certain prepaid amount has replaced one of the gifts in the wedding gift bag as that the guests can choose what they liked.
Our Japanese guests would get a catalog which they can mail what they liked, Japanese sweets and TWG Singapore breakfast tea (which we hauled 55 wrapped boxes of it from Singapore back to Japan)
The only additional charged event for our wedding reception, candle service where the newly weds would go around the guests tables to light up the candles and finally lighting the Memorial candle in the front of the hall.
Of course, there was a sales talk to convince the bride (me) to consider booking to conserve my bouquet in eternity by making it into a flat flower arrangement or into a 3D monument where they will preserve the flowers with some special chemicals. Cost? 20,000 JPY 🙂
Actual Wedding Reception (Nov)
The preparation for the couple started at 1pm especially it would take some time for the beauticians to work their magic on the bride which I firmly agree that their make up techniques were really good and the make up came out really natural and flawless. The beauty salon would get the gowns from us the night before and had it laid out in the the changing room, all the newly weds would make their change and make up in the beauty salon.
After we were ready, we would ushered to the first waiting room where we would make the formal introduction of both sides of our personal families. In Japan, some relatives may live far away and you won’t get the chance to meet them and this would be the chance for you to make the introduction. The whole atmosphere was very formal and Sushi san spoke in very formal Japanese and he did all the translation for me as I made my introduction in English (of course). In the room, Sakura tea was also served as this was a good symbolism. After the formal relative introduction, all the family members would be invited to the photo studio for our formal photoshoot which was deemed as quite an important event in a wedding as this symbolized the start of our future together with our families. Thus, the whole photo shoot experience was extremely professional, where they would walked across the room with a mirror for everyone to check their appearance before we snap the all important photo. Most of the time, no one would smile in such photo with a serious look. However, this was so unlike the both of us that we requested everyone to smile and shocked most of our Japanese senior relatives.
Sometimes, the couple would mingle with their guests in the main waiting room before the reception starts at 430pm. We decided to keep away to spend some times to take a break and make our great entrance laters, in the meanwhile we also had to go through some of the motions needed after we enter the reception hall.
Cake cutting event in a highlight in a Japanese reception where they would dim the light and spotlight the newly weds and most of the guests would come forward and take photos. Definitely a different experience.
After the cake cutting, we would have our first speech by one of the guests. In Japan, the wedding receptions is filled with speeches mainly from their superiors or seniors from work or school life and close friends. We had a toast after the second speech. Of course, after each speech we have to stand up and bow……to make our thanks to our speech givers.
Unlike the usual Singapore wedding dinner where we make our rounds to each table for a table shoot, the guests would come on the main stage to take photos with the newly weds. The newly weds would be sitted on the main stage like the center of attraction. 😛
After making the second change of dress, we did the candle service. After the wedding reception, the memorial candle was packed nicely and brought to our room with a message inside to remind us to light this candle every year on our anniversary to remind us of our vows.
For some couples, only relatives and close friends are invited to the wedding reception since it is more formal and pricey. Then they would book another venue to have a wedding party (or 二次会, second wedding party) where they would hold a more casual style wedding reception, see link for one wedding party I attended. For us, we felt that it was a hassle to book another location and actually we had invited most of our family and friends to the wedding reception so we booked a smaller function room with drinks and tapas for our wedding guests who would like to stay on after the wedding reception. Most of our guests actually did continue to stay with us and we ended up wrapping up the wedding around 11pm. The wedding after party was more fun and relaxed where most continue to drink and took the chance to catch up with friends. We even introduced “yum sheng” to our guests and that got things even more high where different parts of the function room was echoing with “yum sheng”
In Japan, you place your gift money in a shūgi-bukuro (祝儀袋) and the cash gift usually new bank notes should always be a odd number as this would mean that the couple cannot be divided. On average, the cash gift is about 30,000JPY for 1 person and 50,000JPY for couples invited. Family members may give a little more. Overall, throwing a wedding and attending a wedding is an expensive event. Of course, it was so much faster to count the money that night compared to our Singapore ang pow where we receive notes from all denominations. 😛
For some of our invitees who were not able to attend our wedding reception, besides sending in the post card stating their attendance. They would have these congratulatory telegrams sent to the hotel which they would pass to us after the wedding reception. This was totally a Japanese culture.
Marriage Notification (March 2013)
Unlike in Singapore, you have to be married by the day you throw your traditional wedding reception. In Japan, you can do it before or after your wedding reception. The marriage notification is really just a piece of paper work as compared to our marriage registration in Singapore where we would have a big celebration. Since we registered for our marriage in Singapore, we only finally submitted the marriage notification in Japan after I moved in Japan in March this year. Basically, we just filled up the form, presented our translated copy of marriage certificate along with our personal information. The city office would check and if nothing goes wrong, the way you know you are married in Japan is when you first go to the counter to do your identification checks they would address us by our last names and once everything is in check, they would say “Congrats, Mr and Mrs S”. Hehe, just paper work lah…..