How much does a Shinto wedding cost?

The cost for a wedding can cause heart palpitations for the calm and bring the anxious to their knees.

Marrying in a country where wedding options are unfamiliar can be frustrating, baffling or fascinating.

Hitoshi and I were married in 2008 in Japan. The official marriage was at our local ward office.

Our public ceremony was a Shinto wedding at Tsukuba Jinja in Ibaraki Prefecture.

shrine bell

big bell at Mount Tsukuba Shrine (Credit: O.S.)

Stop! You got married when?

We got married a few years back but were surprised that costs have only increased a little. The biggest change has been the consumption tax increase from 5% to 8% in April 2014.

A note about currency exchange

Even though Japan declared negative interest rates this week and Canada’s currency is still swimming deep in the toilet, I’m going to keep things simple. At some point, JPY 100 was close to CAD $1 and that’s what I’m going to stick with (or thereabouts).

yen as the yen symbol

Yen!

The cheapest way to legally get married in Japan

In Japan, legal marriages are performed at city hall. But there is no dress, kiss or even a Justice of the Peace.

Instead, there was tons of paperwork before and on the big day, waiting, stamping documents, waiting, photocopying and waiting.

You’d think this left us batty but the woman who processed our application wore a typical housewife apron, consistently lost her pencil amongst the heap of paper spread over the counter, and dropped any sense of formality, calling Hitoshi by his first name.

The whole thing took about two hours but we spent two hours before crisscrossing Tokyo with stops at the Canadian Embassy and another ward office for forgotten paperwork.

The day finished with a handshake (no kissing at a Japanese government office!) and a trip to the top floor of the building to see the sunset before getting dinner at a local Chinese restaurant.

The biggest surprise was the cost. We paid a grand total of Y6,350 or about $65. This included:

  • Permission Slip (aka Marriage Affidavit) from the Canadian Embassy for me: Y5,500 (It’s less now.)
  • Family Domicile document from ward office for Hitoshi: Y450
  • Cost for marriage registration at ward office for us: Y0
  • Copy of marriage registration for our records: Y350
somewhere in Ibaraki, Japan

Japanese sunset

The Y1,000,000 Question

Hitoshi and I went far beyond city hall thrift. I wanted a ceremony and my family’s participation in me joining a new family.

After researching budgets, I was appalled to read that the average wedding in the US cost around $30,000. Weddings in Japan were the same or much more and haven’t changed much.

Hitoshi and I were determined to pay for our wedding and I thought we could do it for Y500,000 or $5,000.

We did as much as we could on our own while working full-time and living in two different cities. This included designing, printing and mailing our invites, finding accommodation, dinner tasting, and planning every step for our guests from the time they arrived before the wedding until the day after.

Despite our efforts, I finally admitted we needed help. We couldn’t have pulled everything off without our wedding planner that came with our shrine package and our families.

And let’s not forget buckets of cash. It was nuts how many little costs kept pushing the total up.

Were we successful in following our budget? Absolutely not!

From start to finish, our wedding cost at least Y1,000,000, which pushed us past $10,000.

lovey dovey bugs

I love you! I love you! I love you!

Package Plans

Before getting to the breakdown, an important cultural feature of Japan is the package.

Do you want to go snowboarding for a day? No problem! You can buy a package that includes a train ticket, lift ticket, and a meal.

Do you want to have a special dinner? Excellent! Treat you and your love to a package including a private room at a fancy restaurant, monogrammed napkins and champagne bottle, personalized dishes, and a music box serenade of Happy Birthday.

Do you want a Shinto wedding ceremony? Read on!

Tsukuba Shrine works in partnership with bridal studios in Tsuchiura to offer the basics for a Shinto wedding. These include the ceremony, kimonos for bride and groom including dressers, and hair and makeup for the bride. All fees are paid to the bridal studio.

sake ceremony at wedding

The shrine maiden pouring sake during our Shinto wedding ceremony. (Credit: K.S.)

What we paid the bridal studio

The grand total was just under Y400,000 or around $4,000. (In 2008, this was closer to $5,000.)

Y210,000 – includes the shrine fee of Y50,000 plus kimonos and dressers for Hitoshi and I plus hair and makeup for me.

Y10,500 – family crest for Hitoshi’s kimono

Y91,400 – one furisode rental for my sister including dressing fee, shoes and bag. This kimono is for unmarried women. It  is very fancy and has long sleeves.

Y75,600 – two tomesode rentals for my mom and a family friend including dressing fees. This kimono is for married women and is black with a pattern at the bottom and short sleeves. We bought shoes separately.

tomesode, Japan

kimono for married women

More costs related to the shrine and ceremony

Another Y152,000 (~$1,500) went to tips for dressers, the bus driver and a few others, a light meal and snacks for our guests at the shrine before the ceremony, sake for the ceremony, and the photographer.

The shrine was up a mountain so we rented taxis and a bus to get there, to the restaurant and then back to the city for everyone without a car.

And there’s always more!

The ceremony side of the Y1,000,000 came to Y552,000. What about the rest?

Our dinner cost Y206,000 including alcohol for a spectacular multicourse meal for 40 people. Our wedding planner found us a small Italian restaurant where we could rent the whole place.

Two nights in a basic room at a hotel in Tsukuba City with a negotiated discount cost us Y34,000.

Our homemade wedding invites cost about Y10,000 due to me making Y8,000 in ink mistakes.

Thank you gifts, postage for international guests and guests who couldn’t come, cookies and maple syrup for wedding treat bags, gag gifts at dinner, and mini photo albums and other dinner decorations and place cards came to Y60,000.

wedding rings from Japan

our rings

 

Any money regrets?

We should have paid for the hotel for our international guests. I realized after I was being cheap and am still embarrassed.

Our photographer was a Y56,000 (let’s round up to $600) disappointment. Out of the hundreds of photos he took, approximately four were okay. The collective skills of our guests saved the day with fabulous posed and casual shots.

after Shinto wedding ceremony

after our Shinto ceremony, Mount Tsukuba

What’s next?

What big mistakes did we make during the ceremony? What was the protocol for dealing with cash gifts? Why didn’t we have a dance after dinner? We’ll share this and much more in our next wedding installment.

Have you planned your own wedding? Did you have a multicultural celebration? How did things go?

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13 thoughts on “How much does a Shinto wedding cost?

  1. How fabulous! Never surprising that the ‘little’ things add up!

    Don’t even get me started on great big fat Indian weddings!! Families go into massive debt to marry off their daughters. Why there is such a preference for ‘boys’ and female infanticide is to avoid the cost of weddings!!

    In my case, wedding #1 was at our cost, simple Arya Samaj daytime ceremony with snacks then High Court… where prisoners were trotted out in chains while we trooped in to see the magistrate. Let’s just say – cheap! And totally non-traditional.

    Followed a year later to the day in Canada with an anniversary celebration with family & friends taking over an entire restaurant, slide show of the Indian wedding, stories, wine toasts and more! Not so cheap but brilliant fun and much needed.

    And now 20+ years later, stay tuned for wedding #2… likely to be even more non-traditional and not expected any time soon. 🙂

    • Eeeee! How wonderful there’s going to be a wedding number 2!!!

      I loved hearing about your first set of celebrations, especially the prisoners in chains! I had to read that a few times. 😀

      I’ve heard about the insane amount of money that is spent to marry off a daughter but don’t have an appreciation of the details, other than thining it seems so grossly unfair (mmm… perhaps unfair is too light) in so many ways…

  2. Brrrr, thinking about the cost of a wedding gives me the shivers! But I think 10000 USD is still ok. The average in Spain is 18000 USD for a wedding with 100 guests. Not sure about China… but I hope it is cheaper, haha.

    • I agree! Weddings are a giant money monster. $18K US for a wedding with 100 guests sounds pretty good! Is there a typical wedding in Spain? I’m very curious! I’ve heard that weddings in China can be closer to a circus?? One of my friends (from HK) always complained about the party games!

      • Hahaha YES, party games and loud MCs seem to be very popular now.
        I haven’t been to a wedding in Spain in a long time, but usually they are all similar: first, the ceremony in the church or city hall, then banquet in a restaurant and later drinks and dance.

  3. So wonderful low tax there! Weddings can be crazily expensive and I think our wedding in Finland ended up with around 6000 euros three years ago. But I must say that it was a very small wedding with only 50 people. We basically organised everything ourselves so we were able to safe much money

    • Yes! Isn’t it? I can’t remember the tax rate in Finland and I was in Germany far too long ago. I don’t mind paying taxes as long as I get something in return. The tax rates vary all over the place in Canada. Alberta still has no provincial tax and I think it’s the only province/territory without one. The federal tax (General Sales Tax) used to be 7% but now it’s 5%. The rules are so wacky I assume everything is taxed and then get surprised when something isn’t.

      Good job on your wedding budget! One of the reasons we kept our wedding so small was the budget. Were you still pulling details together at the last minute with your wedding? That’s the one thing I learned with trying to do everything ourselves…. if I were to do it again, I would have let someone else take care of stuff, at least on the day. By the time dinner came, I was so exhausted I realized after I barely visited with any of our guests!

      • In Finland the VAT is 24% and on Germany 19%, so it is pretty much higher than you are used to :p
        We were still planning till the last second, especially because one guest couldn’t come (still not talking to him three years after the wedding) and needed to invite some spouse of another guest…

        • Yup. I remember the prices in Finland for groceries not seeming too crazy until I moved back to Canada. I hadn’t really shopped regularly before that and there was a definite difference! That and a lot of fruit from Africa… I thought that was really cool.

          We also had a no show guest. He didn’t even tell us he wasn’t coming! I don’t think any words have been exchanged either. So awkward all around! Glad to hear you could find another guest! Oh… is it common for a guest to bring a date or another guest with them in Germay and Finland? This was a big surprise for me in Japan. If person A is invited in Japan, only person A comes to the wedding. In Canada, if person A is invited, there is almost always the assumption that this person will bring someone with them to the wedding, even if they don’t know the people getting married.

          • I don’t know how others are doing it but we wrote on the invitations to tell beforehand whether they bring their partner. When inviting we had already an about overview who all has a partner so we could make some estimations

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