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.
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).
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?