Toddlers and Japanese Weddings

Now onto the reason for our travels: to attend a wedding. To recap, we headed to Okinawa for a family wedding. You can read more of the background here.

My dates for the wedding, Miss Red and CH

A few family members were in the wedding and needed to get to the hotel earlier to get outfitted into kimonos and have their hair done. It took hours, and according to them, was very difficult to eat and breathe.

The back of a kimono.

For the wedding itself there was an emcee and a translator. Pretty much everything was said in Japanese first, followed by the English translation. The wedding was amazing – it started with a beautiful dance of the bride and groom, in traditional Okinawan clothing, and his wife’s sisters, along to Okinawan music. It was quite something.

In traditional clothing, with marriage certificate

My own wedding was a low-key affair. CH and I paid for a majority of it, so cost was a huge factor and it was bare bones: no flowers, no favors, no open bar, etc. What was also another fun contrast was attending Megan’s wedding the weekend we were back, whacked out of our brains by jet lag. Her awesome party, at the local VFW, was so fun in the Madison East-side way and was a perfect welcome home.

The lovely couple, after outfit change

What followed was really quite fun. Every culture has it’s unique elements of celebration, and this was no different. While there wasn’t a DJ coaxing people onto a dance floor, the bride’s friends and a few co-workers performed to a pop song, dancing and lip synching. Family members danced, again in traditional Okinawan dress, to music, inviting the new family members up. People gave speeches.

Performance by friends and co-workers

The food was also great. Large platters of sushi, sashimi, Western food and everything in between was placed on large lazy Susan’s in the center of the table.

You’ll have to excuse the poor quality of the photos. The room was crowded, I have a simple point and shoot, and at some point during the ceremony, Miss Red, who was acting out the worse she ever has in her life, turned into this:

Asleep in my lap

Out cold, impervious to the speeches and applause, she slept on my lap for a majority of the ceremony and reception. We weren’t able to attend the party directly afterward and headed back to the hotel, where she did wake up and we took her to the pool.

But my favorite part of the wedding? When the families read letters to one another. It didn’t matter that we couldn’t understand Japanese and needed to wait for the English translation. We could tell from the emotion what was being conveyed. And that’s what a wedding is about.

Sharing letters

Some interesting tidbits:

  • The ceremony and reception were just that. Ceremonial. There, people get married at a court house and it’s a low-key affair, with really office people as witnesses. So the bride and groom had been married in December, but weren’t considered “married” until the ceremony. It was at that point that they started wearing wedding rings.
  • Another neat part considered traditional was the combining of the waters. In the past couples would bring water from their own villages, combine them, then drink from the same cup.
  • Part of the receiving line was signing in and handing money envelopes. We had a card from the states, so that stood out. You also sign your name, and since we can’t write Kanji, they kindly turned the page sideways for us to write in English.
  • At the end of the reception, the bride and groom stood and posed for photos with people.
  • During the ceremony the emcee would announce when it was a good time to take photos. People would flood the areas and do just that.

Next up? How we navigated Japanese.

– MD

p.s. Have these posts been helpful? Are there any questions I can answer? Are you patiently waiting for me to go back to musings and less recounting?

    • Catri Casey
    • May 12th, 2011

    I have a picture almost identical to that of Eilidh fast asleep at your wedding! She was pooped from the night before and jet lag since you had an earlier wedding and just collapsed. BTW I did not see your wedding a bare bones it was lovely.

    • firstsmilesandtears
    • May 12th, 2011

    Thanks, Catri! I remember Eilidh at our wedding, with those big eyes and the pretty dress:)

  1. I’m loving the tales of your trip! Please carry on! My brother lives in Tokyo and we all went out to his wedding, nearly ten years ago now. This brings back great memories! x

    • firstsmilesandtears
    • May 12th, 2011

    Thanks, Lindsey! Knowing that we could do it makes me hungry for another trip to Japan – and this time to visit Tokyo and Kyoto. And Miss Red would only be older and able to do more!


    • Karen (Grandma)
    • May 13th, 2011

    I agree with Catri–your wedding is not to be called bare boned. It was beautiful and meaningful and very much YOURS. I also would guess getting married first and then having many months to plan the ceremony makes some difference. Just met with a landscaper who happened to mention she took her son, now 10, to Japan when he was 5. He is wanting to go again soon, complaining he doesn’t remember much from the first trip. So even if Cora eventually forgets this trip, she’ll have the travel bug!

    • firstsmilesandtears
    • May 13th, 2011

    Thanks, Karen!

  1. November 17th, 2011
  2. November 1st, 2012

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