Wedding traditions and customs vary greatly between cultures, ethnic groups, religions, countries, and social classes. In some countries, cultures and religions, the actual act of marriage begins during the wedding ceremony. In others, the legal act of marriage occurs at the time of signing a marriage license or other legal document.
Contemporary Japanese weddings are celebrated in a great variety of ways. Many contain traditional Japanese and Western elements side by side. Putting aside the Christian wedding or Buddhist matrimonial service for the time being, let us introduce to you how more often marriages are arranged and wedding ceremonies are performed under the Shinto system in Japan.
During the age of aristocracy, “Muko-iri” was the common marriage system in Japan. A bridegroom would nightly visit his bride at her home. Only after the birth of a child or the loss of his parents would be the bride be accepted as the wife in the man’s home.
After nightly visits of a man at the home of his aimed-at bride, he might be invited by her parents to a bedside and offered “Mochi” rice cakes. “Tokoro-Arawashi”, as the ceremony was called was the most important function in the ancient wedding among aristocrats.
With the rise of “Bushi” warriors, the system of women marrying into men’s families called “Yome-iri” was gradually adopted and widely accepted in the 14th century and on. Under the feudal system marriages were often used as political and diplomatic approaches to maintaining peace and unity among feudal lords.
Marriages came to be arranged by and for families and the role of “Nakodo” go-between became very important in Japan. Now this “Yome-iri” system is quite common in Japan and you can find the traditional procedure in the contemporary marriage.
Traditionally, the religious wedding ceremony is held in Shinto style at a shrine. Nowadays, this shrine may be located inside the hotel where the festivities take place. A Shinto priest conducts the ceremony, which is visited by only the close family members of the couple.
The “San-San-Kudo” is then performed by the bridegroom and bride. The bridegroom and bride proceed to the sanctuary to offer twigs of “Sakaki” sacred tree in worship to gods to end the main part of the wedding ceremony.
Drinks of “Sake” are then exchanged between members and close relatives of the both families to signify their union through the wedding. The Shinto wedding is accompanied by the traditional music and attended by “Miko” maidens who serves “Sake” in red and white dresses.
The scale and style of wedding receptions in Japan vary from one end to another, depending on budgets and other factors involved.
Big “Kanzashi” ornaments as worn by the bride in the hair, done in the old fashion, are hidden under the “Tsuno Kakushi” hood. It is meant to hide “Tsuno” or horns to show obedience. The “Uchikake” gown worn over the colorful wedding “Kimono” may be most gorgeous.
During the course of the reception the bride is led out to change her dress. The second wedding dress is different in design and color but is just as beautiful and elaborate as the first one. The “Tsuno Kakushi” and “Uchikake” are no longer worn to exhibit the bride in all she is. The bridal dresses are sometimes handed down in the family or made into “Futon” beddings or matresses later in life.
Red and white are a happy color combination in Japan, as abundantly used in a wedding. The soup may have ingredients in such color scheme and ice cream may be served in the same color combination.
At the very end of the party, the couple will make a speech to all the guests and thank everybody.