Today the Penpal and I went to her friend’s wedding in Yokohama. This was my first wedding in Japan.
When I was originally invited to the wedding (as the Penpal’s +1), I was hoping that I would get to see a traditional wedding at a shrine. I was expecting fancy kimonos, serious faces, and sake. When I asked for information, I learned that the wedding was going to be “Western style”, which turned out to be very interesting in it’s own way.
I have been to several weddings in Canada. A typical Canadian wedding involves a ceremony at a church or wedding hall, followed by wedding pictures, dinner, speeches, and then a few hours of drinking and dancing. Depending on how long the newlyweds plan for pictures, the whole experience can take up a whole afternoon and evening.
We showed up at a wedding chapel near Shin-Yokohama station. The chapel was designed to look like a church, complete with pews and crosses. A gaijin in priest robes officiated the ceremony in Japanese, and made several mentions of Jesus. I asked the Penpal if her friends were Christian. She said no. Apparently I was the only person who thought it was strange to see Christian symbols and hear Jesus mentioned during a non-Christian wedding ceremony. I also started having my suspicions that the “priest” was simply an English teacher moonlighting.
Even though I was a bit distracted by the fake Christian wedding ceremony, it was still beautiful and the full chapel enjoyed every minute of it.
After the service, we moved into a nearby reception hall. With the expected Japanese efficiency and punctuality, dinner started exactly when it was supposed to. The bride and groom arrived on a musical cue wearing different clothes than they had just been wearing for the ceremony. Unlike weddings that I was used to from Canada, speeches occurred while everyone was eating. The usual people made wedding speeches – the bride and groom, best man, maid of honour, and parents. We also got to hear from the bride and groom’s work supervisors. In Canada its not common to invite your boss to your wedding unless you are friends. In Japan it is usual.
The reception ended only a few hours after it started, exactly on time as all of the guests filed out through a reception line. Everyone received gifts from the bride and groom on the way out. The reception was done by 10:30, and we were all back at the hotel by 11:00. There was no dancing.
I hung out in a hotel room with The Penpal and her friends. I tried to convince them that it was a wedding night and we should go out and have fun, but everyone else was ready for bed.
The Western Style wedding was an interesting experience, and nothing at all like what I was expecting. It was a carefully choreographed and organized, and started and finished exactly when it was supposed to. Even though I didn’t get to see a traditional wedding, I still learned a lot about modern Japanese culture, and had a lot of fun at the same time. Thanks to the bride and groom for inviting me to share your special day!