A friend if mine is getting married. Except she was married last year really, but the ceremony is next month. It’s one of the Japan things that you have to be registered by city hall before you actually have the ceremony, and it’s not uncommon to wait for a year after, which defeats the purpose of the marriage ceremony. It’s like joining the army, and signing all your paper work and taking an oath of service well after finishing basic training and into your unit. This is how it works. 1) get married and provide the necessary paperwork to a clerk. It’s like doing your taxes and viola, your married. No oath or ceremony at all… Next! 2) Find out what style you want, which religion or combo thereof are you interested in. Christian weddings are popular and there is a big businesses of faux-churches to have them at. 3) arrange a banquet hall. These are elaborate, state dinner like affairs with a host of supporting cast that make announcements, and act as servants (they do significantly more than just bartend and wait). During that time, the bride and groom go on a little fashion show. The last wedding I went to they changed into 4 different outfits. The poor girl had to endure endless photos with the same smile on her face for hours. Her husband gave up after 5 minutes. The food is an elaborate course meal and is usually froo froo food and they have an uber cake cutting. After all that, everyone gets a little thank you gift before they go home. Understandably the costs are astronomical and here comes the next part of the tradition. Who pays for it. Drumroll please…. The guests! That’s right, the guests have to pay a non divisible amount of the equivalent to 100$ bills. The lowest gift at about 3 10,000 yen bill notes (300usd). If you bring a spouse or S.O. courtesy dictates that you add 20,000 yen to it for a total of 50,000 yen. It wouldn’t be double, because 6 10,000 yen notes is divisible, hence inviting divorce. My wife and I were married in Japan but had the ceremony in the US. We got lucky because the Lutheran minister at my parents church was fine with it. Many churches tell you to basically “fuck off” if your not a member of that denomination. I am not particularly religious and neither is my wife so we were fortunate. We had a small DIY marriage, which was hard on my wife since everything is not taken care of. She also had a difficult time understanding a registry and yes, we have to actually pay for a reception. If you told Americans they would have to drop $300 each… That would be a pretty vacant ceremony.
You can’t just slip the new couple the cash either. You have to buy a special envelope with a particular kind of knot that would make Popeye the sailor boyscout cry in the shower.
My friend’s wedding comes at a bad time. Late November, in the middle of Christmas shopping season (they only celebrate Christmas in the most superficial ways here so that isn’t a consideration, and I am not so vain to think her wedding revolves around my schedule.)