Many weddings take place in spring and fall in Japan. Most of them are held at hotels or ceremony halls where chapels and shrines are conveniently located within the facilities. A wedding may be Shinto, Christian, Buddhist, or non-religious styles. Couples choose the style of their ceremonies, and it doesn't necessarily match with one's religion. Non-Christian couples often have their weddings at chapels in Japan.
Traditional wedding ceremonies are Shinto-style and are held at shrines. Brides wear traditional white kimono called shiromuku, and grooms wear montsuki (black formal kimono), haori (kimono jacket), and hakama (kimono pants).
It's common that only family members and close relatives of couples attend Shinto-style ceremonies. A ceremony includes sake drinking rituals, exchanging wedding rings, and more. There are neither bridesmaids nor a best man. Traditionally an older married couple called nakoudo (matchmaker) attends a wedding ceremony, but this tradition isn't often observed in recent years.
After wedding ceremonies, reception parties called "kekkon hiroen" are held. The style and scale of receptions vary depending on the regions. Typically, relatives, friends, co-workers, and neighbors are invited to wedding receptions. People usually dress formally to attend a wedding. Female guests wear dresses, suits, or kimono.
Male guests commonly wear black formal suits.
When you receive an invitation card to a wedding reception, you need to return the enclosed response card and let them know if you can attend or not. If you are attending a Japanese wedding reception, you are expected to bring cash for a gift. The amount depends on your relationship with the couple and the region, unless fixed amount is indicated on the invitation card.
It is recommended to ask someone who is attending the same wedding. It's said that the average is 30,000 yen for a friend's wedding. It's important that the cash is enclosed in a special envelope called shugi-bukuro, and your name is written on the front. It's polite to use new bills with no creasing. When you go to the party, hand the envelope to the person at the reception desk and sign your name in the guestbook.
During a wedding reception, the married couple sits on a stage, enjoying the guests' speeches and performances. Many people sing congratulating songs for the couple. It's typical for the couple to cut a wedding cake and to walk around the reception room, lighting the candles and greeting guests. A full course meal is often served. It's common for the bride and groom to change costumes a couple of times. Colorful wedding kimono worn by brides are called iro-uchikake.
Wedding souvenirs are called hikidemono in Japanese. They are often tablewares, sweets, interiors, and so on. In recent years, gift catalogs from which guests can choose gifts are popular for hikidemono.