A Japanese Wedding 日本の結婚式

On March 21st I attended my first ever Japanese wedding. I was feeling pretty good about the whole thing. I found a beautiful dress (on sale!) that the shop attendant approved as wedding appropriate; your dress should cover your shoulders, cleavage, be a decent length, and not white. I found a cheap necklace while travelling in Thailand that matched the earrings I wanted to wear. Plus, in an incredibly rare example of forethought, I asked my parents to bring stockings for me when they visited at Christmas time, because there is no way I would be able to find a pair of stockings that fit me here. How organised am I! Or so I thought.
321日に日本に来てはじめての結婚式に出席した。出席する前、すごく楽しみだった。ブティックの店員に結婚式に着ていけるドレスを聞いた。スタイル、長さ、色等、いろんなルールがあって難しかった。タイに旅行した時、付けたいピアスに合うネックレスも見つけた。そして、私にはめずらしく両親がクリスマスに日本に来た時、日本で絶対に買えない外国人サイズのストッキングをもってきてほしいと頼んだ。この事前準備、すごいでしょ!と思ったが…。

The nervousness started to creep in on the Wednesday before the wedding, when I went to the hairdresser for a trim. I told him about the wedding and asked what he thought I should do with my hair. I had initially planned to leave it down, controlling the natural wave just slightly with two simple braids on the sides. However, the hairdresser told me that because my hair touches my shoulders now, I should probably wear it up, and it should be neat. No natural wave. He suggested straightening it. He straightened it for me after cutting it, however, since he had just blow dried it and the humidity was out of control that day, it was a mess. He said because of the awkward length it would be hard to get it to sit right. His final words, “Well, do your best.” Just. Perfect.
結婚式の前日の水曜日に美容室に行った時、緊張感が高まった。結婚式に行くと説明してヘアアレンジのおススメはないですかと聞いた。その時まで考えていたアレンジは前髪をちょっと編むだけのシンプルなアレンジで行こうと思ったけど、美容師が髪の毛がもう肩につく長さだから、アップアレンジの方を勧めると言った。一番大事なのはきちっとした印象のアレンジと言った。自然なウェーブはアウト。ストレートの方がいい。髪を切って試しにストレートにしてくれたけど、ドライヤーを使ったし、その日の湿度が高かったから、うまくいかなかった。微妙な長さだから、うまくいかないかもしれないけど、頑張ってと彼の最後の激励の言葉。嘘でしょう!?

I became even more nervous the following day. It is customary in Japan to give money to the bride and groom, but I was unsure of the appropriate amount to give, so I messaged one of my friends who was also attending the wedding and asked how much he was giving (in a round-about indirect kind of way). He reminded me that the money has to be newly printed notes, which you have to go to the bank to get. I remember reading about that somewhere, probably in a Japanese textbook, but had completely forgotten about it. I was also yet to purchase the special wedding gift money envelope and had no idea what it looked like. I started to freak out a little. What else had I forgotten about? I went online and read a few “dos and don’ts of a Japanese wedding” blogs, and sought advice from my co-worker. The blogs really did not make me feel any better. One of the writers said she was called up to give an impromptu speak as the ‘token foreigner’. Another said that enclosed heels are a must as strappy shoes are not appropriate. I have only one pair of heels and they are not enclosed! Queue unreasonable panic! Thank goodness my co-worker is a super down to earth amazing person, who told me to stop worrying cause these days weddings are much more relaxed than they used to be. She drew me a little picture of the envelope I needed to buy and covered for me while I snuck out to the bank which is only open during work hours, of course! And with that, I was ready, or as ready as I would ever be.
次の日はもっと緊張が高まった。結婚式のお祝いはいくらするのがいいのか分からなくて一緒に行く友達と相談した。それで、新札が必要とのアドバイスをもらった。日本語の教科書かどこかで読んだことがあるけど、すっかり忘れていた。それに、まだご祝儀袋を買ってなくてどんなものがいいのかわからなかった。他になにか忘れたことはないかなぁとちょっと心配になってきた。ネットで日本の結婚式についてのブログをいくつか読んだけど、かえってもっと心配になった。ある外国人が突然スピーチを頼まれた話を読んだ。また、ミュールはダメと書いてあるブログも見つけた。私はハイヒールが1足しかなくて、しかもサンダルの形だ。どうしよう!同僚はおおらかな人で、最近の結婚式はそんなに厳しくないから大丈夫と言ってくれた。必要な祝儀袋の絵も描いてくれた。仕事中だけど、私がカバーするから、銀行に行っていいと言ってくれた。それで、前日の準備が終わった!
The envelop and it's instruction manual. Talk about complicated!

I had to practice writing my name a few times.

My wonderful neighbours gave me a lift to the event, which was held in the convention centre at Sea Gaia, Sheraton Hotel, the nicest hotel in Miyazaki. I arrived too early, so I did what any loner would do; I killed time taking selfies in the gorgeous powder room. After I had captured my hair and make-up efforts sufficiently, I ventured back out to wait for my friends. Once they arrived, they helped me sign in at the reception, which was divided into two tables, one for the bride and one for the groom. I handed over my card, said “congratulations”, and wrote my name and address on the registry. I heard the boys talking behind me about how you have to put a little effort into your handwriting for these kinds of things, because if it is messy, it leaves a bad impression. I took a breath, slowed down, and wrote as neatly as I could. When I was done, the receptionist handed me a wedding reception pamphlet. This is what we entertained ourselves with for the next half an hour. On one side of the pamphlet, there was a list of all the guests and their relation to the bride or groom. On the other side was the menu (a luxurious seven course meal!) and a profile of the bride and groom. The profile caught my attention instantly. It listed the bride and groom’s date of birth, blood type, first impression of each other, and what kind of family life they hope to build together. I liked it a lot, very informative! Someone please remind me to do that for my future wedding, although I will have to find out what my blood type is before then.
結婚式は宮崎で一番いいホテルのシーガイアであった。そこまで優しいご近所さんに送ってもらった。ちょっと早めに着いたので、連れがいない人がすること、時間潰しに化粧室で自撮りした。髪の毛とメイクの努力の成果を十分撮った後、受付に戻って友達を待った。友達が来て、新郎側と新婦側、2つに分かれた受付での手順を教えてくれた。お祝いを渡して、おめでとうと言って、そして、自分の名前と住所を書きました。こういう時は、悪い印象が残らないように字をきれいに書いた方がいいという後ろにいた友達の話が聞こえた。深呼吸をして、もうちょっとゆっくり書いた。最後に披露宴のパンフレットみたいなものをもらった。これは30分ぐらいのエンターテイメントになった。片側に席次表、反対側にメニューと新郎新婦のプロフィールが書いてあった。勉強になったし、気に入った。私が結婚する時も、こういうパンフレットを作りたい!まず、血液型を調べないとね。
Killing time in the powder room with my wedding appropriate hair and dress.

An announcement came over the loudspeaker to tell us the hall was ready, and we moved up to the fourth floor. The bride and groom and their parents were waiting at the door, having just finished the private family-only ceremony. My friend, the groom, was super pale and looked like he would collapse any second, but the show must go on. We filed into the hall in single file stopping in front of the wedding party to bow and say congratulations. I probably said congratulations about 10 times throughout the whole event; every time I talked to the bride, groom or their family. The hall was exquisite! I felt like I had stepped into an alternate world. It was like a ball room from back in the times when balls were a thing. There were huge chandeliers hanging from the ceiling which was three or four times higher than usual. The only thing that was missing was the dance floor! Unfortunately, Japanese weddings do not include a bridal waltz, however, we were more than entertained.
準備が終わったので、4階へ移動してくださいというアナウンスが流れた。新郎新婦とご両親は式がおわったところでホールの前で待っていた。新郎は倒れそうなほど顔色が悪かったけど、時間通りにthe show must go on! ホールに入る時、一列になって新郎新婦の前を通って挨拶をした。新郎新婦又はご家族の方と挨拶した時に、10回ぐらいおめでとうと言ったかもしれない。ホールはすごかった。別世界に行ったようだった。昔、ダンスが人気があった時代のダンスホールのようだった。普通より3,4倍の高さの天井から大きなシャンデリアが下がっていた。ないのは1つだけ、ダンスフロアがなかった。残念ながら、日本の結婚式ではブライダルワルツをしない。とは言え、エンターテイメントは十分あると思った。

We found our assigned seats, guided by the pamphlet and place cards, and took a seat. After a short while the celebrant came over the speaker and asked us to look at the back of our place cards. On the back we found hand-written personalized messages from the bride and groom. What a lovely touch! It was evident that they had really put a lot of thought into this.  The bride and groom entered to applause and took their place on the stage. They remained standing for what seemed like quite a long time. The groom gave a short welcome speech which was very formal. This was followed by speeches from each of their bosses. The groom’s boss went first, and began his speech with “at my wedding the first speech went on for thirty minutes, but don’t worry I won’t talk for that long.” He still managed to speak for about 10-15 minutes, far too long for an opening speech in my opinion, but it was interesting enough. At the end of his speech he apologized that the groom would probably have to work late at his job in the coming years, but that this is not the company’s fault. Instead, he said, it is evidence of his excellence as an employee. Japanese work culture is something that I find really hard to understand and get used to, and I was surprised to hear the groom’s boss apologizing at his wedding. However, the next speech from the bride’s boss also included an apology. He apologized that her job requires her to work weekends which are the only days the groom has off, so the newlyweds may not be able to spend a lot of time together. Perhaps it is customary in Japan for bosses to apologise in wedding speeches. It was a little odd for me.
パンフレットとカードを見ながら、席を見つけて、座った。しばらくしてアナウンサーがカードの後ろを見てくださいと言った。後ろに手書きで個々へのメッセージが書いてあった。いいアイデアだね!新郎新婦がすごく頑張ったことがよくわかった。拍手で迎えられた新郎新婦が入場して、ステージに上がった。新郎新婦は長い時間立っていた。新郎が正式な挨拶をして、次に二人の上司がスピーチをした。新郎の上司がまず、「私の結婚式で最初のスピーチは30分ぐらい続いて辛かった。でも、私はそんな長く話さないから、ご安心ください」と言ったけど、結局15分ぐらい話した。長かったけど、面白かった。スピーチの最後に新郎はおそらく遅くまで働かないといけないけど、それは会社のせいじゃなくて、むしろ新郎が優秀なことの証拠だと謝った。私は日本の仕事に関する文化の中でまだ慣れないところがある。そして、このシチュエーションで上司が謝ることにちょっとびっくりした。しかし、新婦の仕事が土日にも働くこともあるから夫婦が一緒に過ごせる時間が少ないかもしれないと次の上司も謝った。結婚式で上司が謝るというのは当然のことかもしれないけど、私にはちょっと不思議なこと。
The wedding pamphlet and my place card. Such a great idea!

I can’t remember the exact order of events, but this initial “welcome ceremony” also had the celebrant introduce the bride and groom; their school history, work history, sports, hobbies and personality traits. There was also a home-video that ended with an adorable two-shot of the happy couple holding a sign saying “Thank you for coming”. Between the reception pamphlet, the celebrant’s introductions and the boss’ speeches, I had already learned so much about the bride and groom, and we were still only 30 minutes into the ceremony! Next up was the toast, which was preceded by a traditional Japanese ceremony called kagami biraki, in which the lid of a sake barrel is broken open with a small wooden hammer. My friends informed me later that this is not common at weddings these days, but since the groom’s family has a connection to a sake brewery in his hometown of Toyama, sake was specially made and sent to Miyazaki for the wedding. It was a delicious sweet sake, served in little wooden boxes. I still haven’t figured out the best way to drink from these little boxes. Are you supposed to drink from the corner or from one of the sides? Either way, the risk of spilling it down your front seems high. Another cultural hurdle, thanks Japan.
順番はよく覚えてないけど、この最初の開会式みたいな間、司会が新郎新婦の紹介もした。学歴、仕事、好きなスポーツ、趣味、性格等を紹介した。そして、新郎が作った二人のホームビデオが上映された。そのビデオのラストシーンで二人がThank you for comingと書いてある紙を持っていた。パンフレットや紹介や上司のスピーチ等、わずか30分の間に新郎新婦のことを結構学んだ。次は鏡開きと乾杯だった。最近の結婚式では鏡開きをするのが珍しいと後で友達から聞いたけど、新郎は地元の富山県での日本酒の造り酒屋と何かの関係があるから、結婚式のために特別な日本酒が富山県から送られてきた。甘くて美味しかった。酒枡から飲んだけど、枡の飲み方がまだわからない。こぼすリスクが高そう。もう一つの文化の違いのハードルだね。
Toyama sake served in a wooden box. 

At this point the food and alcohol was served, and the bride exited the room for her first outfit change. My friends and I went up to say congratulations to the groom (again), and get a photo together. The colour had returned to his face a little by this stage, thank goodness. When we returned to our seats, the bride’s parents came to our table to thank us for coming and pour us more alcohol. I scored an invite to their house! The groom exited the room to escort the bride back into the room. She had changed into a white western-style wedding dress which was stunning to say the least. The groom had also changed into a metallic grey suit. I think it was around about this point in time when I began to suspect that I was in some kind of Hollywood movie. The bride and groom were the celebrities on the red-carpet, followed by spotlights everywhere they went. Everything was perfectly planned and executed. The whole thing was amazing!
その時、食べ物とお酒が出てきて、新婦は第一回目のお色直しのために、一時会場を出た。友達と一緒に新郎のところに行って写真を撮った。顔色が少しよくなってよかった。席に戻った瞬間、新婦のご両親が私たちのテーブルに来て、ビールを注いでくれました。そして、家に招待してくれました!新婦と一緒に会場に入るため、新郎も出た。新婦のドレスは洋風のゴージャスな白いドレスだった。新郎もきらきらなグレーのスーツに着替えた。その時、この披露宴はハリウッド映画の1つかもしれないと思い始めた。新郎と新婦はどこに行ってもスポットライトが追いついてるセレブだった。すべてが計画通りに進行した。本当にすごかった!
The food and alcohol was exquisite!

As the food kept coming we were constantly entertained. A surprise video message from the groom’s grandparents who couldn’t make the long journey, speeches from the best friends, a surprise video from the groom’s futsal team, the cutting of the cake, baby photo slide shows, and a lucky draw with prizes including Toyama Sake and Miyazaki Beef. I did not win. The bride changed her dress once more, this time to a beautiful blue western-style dress, and the couple walked around to all the tables one by one to take photos.  By this stage the guys at my table were fairly tipsy and decided that in order to liven up the photo they would all put their neckties around their heads in the classic “drunk salary man” style. After the photo, they returned the neckties to their initial perfection, of course. Finally, desert was served and the wedding started to wind down a little. The bride tearfully read a thank you letter to her parents, who had moved to the small stage at the back of the room. The couple then joined their parents at the back for a final thank you speech from the bride’s father, and proceeded outside. It was at this point that I confirmed my suspicions that we were in a movie, as the final credits, a video thanking all those who had helped plan and execute the wedding, rolled on screen. We exited the hall, gift bags in hand, and joined the single file queue outside to receive more gifts and congratulate the wedding party on a beautiful wedding.
料理が次々にきてエンターテインメントも続いていた。富山県にいる新郎の祖父母からのサプライズビデオメッセージ、親友のスピーチ、新郎のフットサルチームからのビデオ、ケーキ、子供の頃の写真スライドショー、そして、宮崎牛と富山県日本酒のくじ引きだった。勝てなくて残念だったけど、面白かった。新婦はもう一回お色直しをした。今回は洋風のブルーのドレスだった。各テーブルを回ってゲストと一緒に写真を撮った。私たちのテーブルでは私以外はみんな男の人だった。写真を面白くするため、酔っ払ってるサラリーマンスタイルでネクタイを頭に付けたり花も付けたりした。写真を撮った後、もちろん、ネクタイを元に戻した。やがてデザートが出てきて、終わりに近づいた。新婦は泣きながら、ホールの後ろに移動したご両親に向かってお礼の手紙を読んだ。そして、カップルはご両親のところに行った。新婦のお父さんが最後のお礼のスピーチをして、退場した。最後に映画のクレジットのように関係者へのお礼のビデオが流れて、これはやはり、ハリウッド映画に違いないと思った。引き出物をもらい、おめでとうと言うため、もう一回一列になって、退場した。
The cake.

When summarizing the wedding the first word that comes to mind is sasuga. Let me preface my translation of this word with a cultural tidbit. I have never seen a more gorgeous, meticulously planned and elegantly executed wedding. This level of excellence and perfection is something that Japan is known for. The word sasuga means “as one would expect”. In most cases it is used to express that something has lived up to your expectations and you are impressed by it. This wedding was everything I would have expected from a Japanese wedding, and some. It was a wonderful, memorable event, and I am eternally grateful to my friends for sharing their special day with me. I wish them all the best for their new life together.
この結婚式は一言で言うと、「流石」という言葉が思い浮かぶ。なぜかを説明する前に、少し日本の文化について説明したいと思う。今までこんなにゴージャスで、細かく計画してあり、完璧に行われた結婚式を見たことがない。日本はこの完璧さと優秀さで知られている。流石は「as one would expect」という意味もある。だいたいの場合では、「期待通りで、感動した」と表す言葉だ。この結婚式は私の日本の結婚式への期待を超えた素敵なイベントだった。誘ってくれた友達に感謝している。お幸せに!

My gift, by the way, I am yet to decide on. It is customary for the bride and groom to give gifts to all their guests to thank them for coming. When I unwrapped the package in my gift bag, I found a photo album filled with pictures of all the gifts I could choose from. After I make my decision, I simply have to fill in the back of a postcard, send it away, and wait for my present to arrive. I’m thinking about the food, but I might be persuaded by one of the “experiences.” There is even horse riding! sasuga Japan!

因みにギフトはまだ決めてない。日本では新郎新婦が出席した人みんなに贈り物をする習慣がある。私がもらったものは選べるギフトの写真が入った“アルバム”だった。 決めたら、はがきに書いて送って、待つだけ。今のところ、食品がいいと思っているけど、体験ギフトも面白そう。乗馬体験もある!流石日本!
The album of gifts that I can choose from freely. What to choose....

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