Japanese Wedding Reception Basics

Get inspired with these Eastern customs.

All About Hue

Using the bride's uchikake (or red kimono), as a base color, incorporate other “lucky” shades. One popular combo: red and white. Get this look for your reception by arranging red napkins folded into origami shapes next to white wedding china.

Make an Entrance

The first entrance is usually made by the bride, the groom, and the nakodo couple. In arranged marriages, the nakodo is the “matchmaker” or “go-between,” but your nakodo can be friends who introduced you and your spouse or even just a couple with whom you’re both close. The idea is to affirm that you will have a stable marriage because a couple outside of your family supports it.

Free Speech

After the bride and groom are announced, family, friends, colleagues, teachers -- really, whoever wants to stand up and wish you well -- give speeches. The Japanese custom is to tell a moralistic tale or sing the praises of the significance of marriage, but today the speeches are more likely to be heartfelt blessings (or funny, slightly embarrassing stories) from your friends and family members.

A Cake Fake

Just like in Western weddings, the bride and groom will make the first cut in their wedding cake together. However, in Japanese weddings, a wax or plastic cake will often stand in for show. There will even be a slot for the couple to insert a knife, and some designs will emit a puff of smoke when they are “cut.” Don’t worry about missing out on sweets, though -- guests will still be served sheet cake.

Light It Up

Add a candle service to your wedding reception. In this ritual, the bride and groom light a candle at their parents’ dinner table, then walk around the room and light more candles to be placed at the guests' tables. When they have circled the room, the couple returns to their own table and light what is called the Memorial Candle, usually made up of a bunch of candles arranged in a heart shape.

Full Bloom

At the end of the night, a flower presentation ceremony -- when newlyweds acknowledge their parents by presenting them with gifts -- is standard. Some couples give bouquets, say a toast, or offer a private thank-you letter. If you go the traditional route, do a bit of research about hanakotoba, the Japanese “language of flowers.” In hanakotoba, different flowers have different meanings, so you might consider giving your parents bluebells to show gratitude, daffodils for respect, or zinnias for loyalty.

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