A Tale of Two Weddings: Comparison of Western and Japanese Weddings

Editors Note:

So a while back, I was speaking with a  friend of mine about the wedding industry and various things that could be done to help SEO and what have you. We were discussing blog postings, and really just writing in general. During the conversation, I began to think of and idea. That Idea was that over time, I wanted to compare and contrast various types of weddings. With that said, I have decided to start  series that I will post specific compare and contrast blogs over the next few months, and maybe longer (of course they will be spaced out) that will describe Western style weddings vs other around the world.

With that said, I contacted my best friend Tim. I have known this guy for over 20 years. We lived in the same neighborhood growing up, same high schools, a lot of the same thing. Out of us and all of our friends we were the most "creative" of the bunch so the amount of things we have in common is very vast. Although, he did catch more of the travel bug and nomad mentality more then I did.   

Tim had lived in Japan for a little under 3 years, also traveling through out Asia-he is very versed in the culture and what goes on.  Tim has had the privilege of contributing to various publications and blogs in the Tokyo community. Being a DJ/Music producer and creating his own music promotion he gained a lot of notoriety. On top of this, he has also started a growing and successful night life photography blogs ( that focuses on various after hours establishments and "cultural norms" in Tokyo through the evening. One that is a good source for people who are complete unfamiliar with Tokyo and what goes on. 

Below, you will find an article that he has written for us here at The Photo Collective in regard to Western weddings Vs. Japanese.


If given the choice, would you rather have a Japanese wedding or a Western wedding?

Not sure? Good. It’s a trick question.

 “Japanese weddings” are not what you might think. Your mind may gravitate towards kimonos, cherry blossoms, and temples, but surprisingly, this form of union has gradually been on the decline as the influence of Western culture and globalization has grown.


Traditional weddings of Japanese past were Shinto ceremonies; Shintoism being the indigenous religion of Japan. However, since the 1980s, Shinto traditional weddings have had began to decline in popularity. According to the New York Times less than 25% of marriages take place in these types of ceremonies. 

So what gives? What’s the other 75%? 

Quite surprisingly, it’s none other than what many of us are well accustomed to: the Western Wedding.

Western Style Japanese Weddings (About 75% of new weddings and counting)

Despite less than 2% of the population identifying as Christian, the majority of Japanese weddings take place in a traditional chapel setting. The pastor or priest may be more for show than actual effect, but it still takes place in a church (or a place that looks like a church). 

The flow of the ceremony mirrors that of a traditional Protestant ceremony. One of the few differences being that the groom bows to the bride's father; and the bride’s father bows in return. 

The service itself even includes a mixture of English and Japanese. And after an exhange of vows (seiyaku) and rings; the traditional wedding kiss.

Outside of the Japanese language, and the absence of religious connotations, you may feel surprisingly at home in a Western style Japanese wedding. 

Traditional Shinto Japanese Weddings (About 25% of weddings)

3. Spaztakular on Flickr

What was once the staple of Japanese union is no longer. However, some families and couples still elect to partake in this beautiful, and culturally unique, form of union in Japan. This is the type of wedding most people think of when they hear “Japanese wedding,” as it’s specific to the culture.

Unlike Western style weddings, there is no “fake” pastor and the service is entirely in Japanese. The groom wears a hakama (a pleated pant-like garment) with a black kimono jacket as opposed to a tuxedo. The bride wears a white and embroidered silk kimono (called a shiromuku) with long sleeves, as opposed to a Western wedding gown.

Instead of a wedding kiss, sake (traditional Japanese rice wine) is exchanged. Blessings are bestowed on the sake and the final sips culminate with the recognition of marriage.

Photo Credit: Michael Hawkings

4. Michael Hawkings from Pinterest

Like the Western style Japanese ceremonies, gifts of money are also standard affairs for these ceremonies. However, one can also contribute more traditional Japanese gifts and get a few culture know-how points. Popular gifts at these ceremonies are konbu (a type of seaweed), white hemp (representing old age), and an ornate folding fan (source: The Knot

So what makes a “Japanese” wedding?

While the ceremonies may differ, what ties them together, outside of the common language, is the exchange of gifts. The standard for all guests (and family), regardless of the ceremony, is to give money to the bride and groom (as the couple pays for the wedding). An individual is expected to give at least 300 USD Families should give 500 USD - 1000 USD. One would need to choose the weddings they attend wisely!

Both types of ceremonies have after parties as well, much like the Western counterparts, with a final afterparty culminating at a bar. After all the gifts, and the after parties, you may find yourself a bit low on cash. Especially if you’re the one getting married. But it’s all in good fun, and is always intended to happen just once in a lifetime.

So which style of Japanese wedding would you like to attend? A traditional Shinto wedding or a Western style one?