how much money to give at a Japanese wedding?

The recent wedding etiquette post “how to not make a fool of yourself at a Japanese wedding” brought about a lot of thoughts and experiences from fellow foreigners in Japan. Due to the slightly varying ideas regarding gift money, I decided to do a quick poll of Japanese folks on twitter to ask what they consider the norm. Interestingly enough, these responses also varied, but I pulled the consistencies from all the responses, both from Japanese and non-Japanese. One thing to keep in mind is that the gift money also covers the “meal fee” and gifts for the guests. Here are the results:

How much money should I give at a Japanese wedding?
- gifts may depend on size of wedding and location

- family gives the most, followed by friends, then co-workers

- friends give on average around 30,000 yen - couples: 50,000-60,000 yen

- family gives on average 50,000 yen

- co-workers give on average 20,000 – 30,000 yen

- the amount cannot be divisible by 2, as this is unlucky (though this is changing)

One person was nice enough to find and send along a Japanese site for wedding etiquette. This website illuminated most of the answers people gave me, so I thought to include a rough translation/summary for those of you who can’t read Japanese. You can also find the (Japanese) link here:

If you are a:

20,000 to 30,000 yen, is the standard, up to 50,000 if you are in your 30s/40s.
Traditionally, giving any amount in which the first number was divisible by 2, was considered unlucky and implied that the couple may divorce. More recently, this phenomenon is changing and more people take it to mean “pair.” Each couple is different – some will still believe the former, while others will be in the latter group, or won't care either way.

Couple (friends of the bride/groom)
Combine the amounts each of you would give individually. So if 20,000 yen, individually, than 40,000 yen. If 30,000 yen, than 60,000 yen. Although some people mentioned 50,000 yen is fine for couples.

20,000 – 30,000 yen is the standard, although it may depend on the couple, how well you know them, the size of their wedding, whether the wedding is in a large city or small town out in the sticks, or other factors. Also, your status compared to them influences how much you should give. Are you their boss? 3-50,000 yen. Similar level? 2-30,000 yen. Are they your boss? 2-30,000 yen. Some folks commented that 10,000 yen was the norm for co-workers at their wedding.

(The chart also has a line for customer/client, in which the average is 30,000 yen across the board).

Not sure how many of you are or will be family, but just for kicks – the younger you are, the less money expected of you. So if you’re upper 30’s and 40’s, be prepared to fork over the cash (up to 100,000 yen!). Cousins give less than siblings if in their 20’s, but give the same if 30’s and up.

Someone also mentioned that if there are particular circumstances such as low income, loss of job, serious illness, or something similar, which hinder the person or family's ability to give the "average" amount, this is perfectly understandable.

Now, for those of you completely new to Japan, and reading this just stresses you out, don’t worry. Your presence at a Japanese wedding is quite exotic and they’ll be just thrilled to have you there. At least if you try to get it right, they’ll appreciate the effort. I messed up royally and everyone still bowed to me incessantly the entire reception, thanking me repeatedly for coming. And, they let me win Bingo…

As I suggested in the previous post, just ask around if you are really worried about it – if you’re a co-worker, find out what other co-workers are giving (in a polite way of course, and make it sound like you really just have no idea and need their infinite wisdom).

Then, just relax! Enjoy yourself, and enjoy possibly being a source of entertainment for the entire crowd.

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Mr GT Chris said...

Thanks, that was educational. Those amounts are pretty scary aren't they? A co-worker mentioned to me that he managed to turn a profit on his wedding but I wonder if you can really call it a profit when you're basically extorting money from your family and friends.

Ashley said...

@Mr GT Chris,

Welcome! And thank you for bringing up the 2万 being unlucky - so I could look into all this!

LOL - yes it certainly seems that way doesn't it? Aside the meal and gifts though, which I can only assume take a huge chunk of it. Being recently married myself, I selfishly wish this was custom in the U.S... lol... (then again, giving that when all my friends get married around the same time and I can barely afford to make it to their weddings let alone get a gift...)

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