Traditional Japanese Shinto Wedding at Heian Jingu Shrine during Cherry Blossom Season
by Jim Caldwell
Modern Japanese wedding ceremonies mostly take place as one of two types: the traditional Shinto ceremony or a modern Western Christian style service. It has become more acceptable to even combine the elements of both these into one service.
A traditional Shinto wedding is held at a shrine and generally only attended by close family members. Shinto priest performs the ceremony, as the couple is purified and drinks sake as a wish for a peaceful and obedient partnership. The husband will read the words of this commitment. The ceremony closes with an offering to the Shinto gods, or kami.
The wearing of white, like in Western weddings, is highly symbolic. By painting the bride pure white, from head to toe, she declares to the kami her maiden status. There is also the choice between two types of head coverings: the watabōshi, of white hood; and the tsunokakushi, serves to hide the bride’s “horns of jealousy”. By wearing watabōshi, the bride hides her face from all except the groom. The ritual of wearing a covering symbolically represents the bride’s intent to become a gentle and obedient wife. After the ceremony the bride will change another kimono, the more colorful uchikake.
While becoming less important in modern Japan, weddings fall into two types: prearranged (or miai) and unarranged (or ren’ai) where the couple meets and makes the decision on their own.
It is becoming more common for the younger Japanese to have their guests contribute to the cost of the wedding ceremony by the guests paying an attendance fee.