If you've ever walked through the famous Meiji Jingu Shrine in Tokyo, or the Kamigamo Shrine in Kyoto, you may have spotted a group of people wearing traditional kimono. The Shinto shrines in Japan are open to different ceremonies year round, one of them being weddings! Weddings or "kekkonshiki" (結婚式) in Japanese, range from western to traditional in approach. This article will give you a glimpse into the traditional version.
How They Dress: The Bride
For the traditional wedding, the bride and groom will wear a wedding kimono. There are three types of kimono for the bride: the shiromuku, uchikake, and the hiki-furisode. The shiromuku is all white and comes in a variety of textures, this will usually match perfectly with the groom's attire (more on that later). The uchikake or iro-uchikake is a separate kimono the bride changes into during the reception. And lastly, the hiki-furisode is a long sleeved kimono with a bridal train. The furisode also comes in a non-bridal version. The bride's outfit does not only consist of the kimono, but also the accessories that come with it. The wataboshi is a white hood that is only worn outside and only with the shiromuku. There is also the tsunokakushi, a traditional hair piece worn by the bride, inspired by the Edo Period. And lastly, the hakoseko is a small decorative bag that completes the outfit.
The Shiromuku — Photo by namograph
The Iro-uchikake — Photo by WEDDING AVENUE
The Furisode — Photo by Professional Photographer Nakao
How They Dress: The Groom
The groom will usually wear a black montsuki kimono. This formal kimono will usually have the groom's family crest embedded on it. It is similar to the western style suit, a formal attire worn for a variety of occassions.
The Montsuki — Photo by ginji creative works
The Ceremony: San-San-Kudo
A traditional Shinto wedding ceremony will start with the priest offering prayers to the gods, then purifying the couple. The couple will then partake in what is called "San-San-Kudo". In Japanese, San means "3" and Ku means "9", so when translated the phrase is "3 x 3 = 9". In the San-San-Kudo ceremony there are 3 cups of different sizes: small, medium and large. The couple will take 3 sips from each of the cups, named "sakazuiki" (ceremonial sake cups). Though there are many different interpretations for what the three cups symbolise, it is often believed that the number 3 is a lucky number for couples since the number cannot be divided in two. The tradition is quite old and many variations exist today.
Walking with the parents — Photo by namograph
San-San-Kudo — Photo by namograph
Families coming together — Photo by namograph
Reception: A Touch of Your Own Style
Though somewhat similar to western wedding receptions with cake cutting and speeches, there are some unique highlights to Japanese wedding receptions. Two such traditions are dress changes and candle ceremonies. The candle ceremony consists of the bride and groom visiting each table at the reception to greet their guests and light a candle. Though the candle ceremony is not done at every reception, there is usually some variant which allows the couple to visit each table. Some couples will take pictures, while others will pour a glass of beer for each guest.
Everyone celebrates in their own way— Photo by namograph