A Japanese wedding is a beautifully simple ceremony, which relies heavily on carefully carried out traditions. Only family members of the bride and groom can attend. It is usually held in a Shinto temple and performed by a Shinto priest. Because of the climate in Japan, most weddings occur in spring or autumn. Also, particular days of the year are considered lucky for anniversaries, and so many couples choose to marry on one of those days.
During a traditional wedding, Japanese brides must be painted white from head to toe as a symbol of purity. The Japanese wedding dress consists of a long white kimono called shiro-maku. Japanese brides also wear their hair in an elaborate traditional style decorated with combs and other accessories. During the Japanese ceremony a hood covers the Japanese brides head to signify that she will be a serene and patient wife.
Japanese brides also carry traditional accessories much like the "something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue" of the American wedding. They carry a small, sack-like purse, known as hakoseko, and a delicate sheathed dagger, called a kaiken.
The groom's ensemble is much simpler. He wears black pleated pants, and a short black kimono, emblazoned with his family seal.
The traditional Japanese ceremony consists of three parts. First, the couple is purified by the Shinto priest. Then, the bride and groom recite the traditional vows. Finally, Japanese brides and grooms perform a ceremony known as san-san-kudo, or three times three, during which they drink nine cups of sake, a wine. Their families also drink sake to symbolize the unity of both the couple and the two families. During the ceremony the two families do not face the couple being married, instead they face each other, as though the families are being married along with couple.
After the wedding, Japanese brides put on a more colorful kimono for the wedding reception. This second kimono is usually red, because red is a lucky color in Japan. It is always heavily embroidered with colorful scenes from nature. The sleeves are long and flowing. Never again will the bride wear such sleeves, or such a richly patterned gown, since only young, unmarried women are allowed to wear them. For this reason, the Japanese wedding dress is often rented rather than bought.
The wedding reception is a more open affair. Friends, co-workers, and more distant relatives are all allowed to attend. They often give monetary gifts in decorative envelopes to help the couple pay for their wedding. Games, songs, food, and speeches provide entertainment during the reception. Some time during the reception, Japanese brides may change again, this time, into a western-style gown.
Especially among the young couples, the Japanese ceremony is starting to take on more Western elements, such as the exchange of rings, and the traditional wedding is beginning to be replaced by a melding of cultures that mirrors the diversity of the young couples of Japan.