My husband and I (both Americans) got married in Japan. We wanted to have our wedding in Japan originally, though costs, the guest list, travel, honeymoon and time all played into our decision-making process. U.S.? Japan? Eventually, (after months of intense wedding planning from abroad), we realized plane tickets to the U.S. were far too expensive for us at that time. We chose Japan.
My husband’s family has connections to pastors and churches in Japan, which made it easy for us find a free venue. Our guest list reduced dramatically, cutting various costs and stress – (don’t have to worry about inviting second Aunt Edna or those “friends” who actually aren’t). No more bridesmaid drama. No more worrying about pleasing everyone. In all truth, the stress in my life reduced ten-fold. (I never understood why wedding planning is so stressful anyway. Isn’t it supposed to be a “happy” time?)
Breaking the news to our families was tough, as they weren’t able to attend, but the amount of money we were saving was a much smarter move in the long run. I know, I know, isn’t family more important than money? Well, of course! -But is charging up credit cards and spending money we didn’t have a "better" option? We told everyone we’d have a reception later that year when we visited over the winter holidays (and those tickets were a steal…).
So, is a wedding in Japan any more affordable than traveling abroad? I’m here to tell you I’ve done it, and without further ado, my suggestions for
1. The dress. You could go find a fancy, white/pink/rainbow-colored, ruffly, Disney princess-type dress... And spend your entire life savings. Or try a kimono, but those will run you even higher (unless you rent one). Thrift stores have kimonos, but don’t be surprised if they don’t fit or a Japanese woman tells you it’s too small on you. A yukata might work better (and so much cheaper). Or, a simple, white, knee-length, empire waist cotton dress like mine, for $60 US. No? There’s always stitched-together garbage bags, which I nearly resorted to after my many hours of agonizing dress shopping.
2. Flowers. Perhaps you go with one of those fantasy-like venues (see left - the guy in the background is the "lord of the castle") and forfeit your children’s college education in one go – the décor, at least, will be taken care of. The amount of flowers used may vary (unless you decide to murder a field of them by sprinkling petals all over every walkable surface, sending the old folks to the hospital and creating a mushy, dead petal mess – romantic). Why not hang up pictures of flowers? Or have your students fold origami decorations as a class assignment and use those instead? I forewent the flowers.
3. Cake. Perhaps you have a pastry chef friend, so you’re set. Or maybe an in with Costco. Ah, you don’t like cake? Me neither, so we skipped the cake. Before you accuse me of stiffing our guests, someone decided to bring a Costco cake and then left half of it behind because everyone ate minuscule pieces.
5. The meal. Tell them to eat beforehand. Or just say you’re having a potluck. Bring a dish or two; that helps soften the blow that they aren’t getting a completely free meal. (Though one could argue that wedding meals aren’t technically free in Japan.)
6. The venue. What’s your favorite place in Japan? Go there, no matter where it is! Have more than twenty/thirty guests? Stage a flash mob. Tell them all to dress casually, arrive early and act cool, until your “ceremony” starts. Worried you’ll get in trouble? Simply break into song and dance Glee-style so everyone else pulls out their cameras and leaves you with the most memorable wedding experience ever, which will then make you a YouTube phenomenon and probably famous in Japan. *Keep in mind this may be more difficult to facilitate if it rains and you are outdoors.
Our twenty-person wedding party went to a large grassy park in the greater Tokyo area, where we gathered in a circle on a small hill for our ceremony. It was free, and no one said anything or stopped us. Surprisingly, we didn’t even get many stares.
7. The rings. Nothing says love lasts forever better than a metal that endures through everything – titanium. Cheap (around $200 U.S.) and lightweight, this is an excellent option. (Not to sound judgy here, but don’t forget to look for conflict-free diamonds). Not sure your love will last forever? How about a hemp-woven ring?
8. Groom’s outfit. Do I really need to answer this? I’d be surprised you live in Japan without one decent button up shirt and some slacks. If not, well, there’s always Uniqlo.
9. Gifts/favors. Get a few packs of omiyage from somewhere other than your wedding location. Or, enlist your students again to make something. Nothing like free labor.
Ultimately, your wedding should reflect you and your partner – in this case a simple, strange, cheap (but meaningful) ceremony reflected us well. The money you spend on your wedding doesn’t make it more or less special, you determine that yourselves.
How about you? What are your savvy, money-saving wedding tips? Or perhaps you completely disagree with me and feel that a wedding isn't a wedding without spending at least 2,000,000 yen. Why so? For those who have gotten married in Japan, what was your wedding like?