Japanese Wedding Traditions and Customs

For the Japanese, a wedding serves as more than just the union of two individuals. Japanese weddings also represent a union of two families, and they are usually celebrated in one of the following three ways:

  • Shinto
  • Christian
  • Buddhist

It is important to note that the wedding ceremony need not portray the bride and groom’s own religious preferences. More often than not, it is merely a matter of personal choice. Of the three types, the most traditional Japanese wedding type is the Shinto-wedding style. 

Shinto is the native faith of the Japanese people and is one of the major religions practiced in the country. A Shinto style wedding closely follows Indigenous Japanese marriage customs and is a rather intimate affair. It is usually held in a Japanese shrine and is officiated by a Shinto priest. 

If you’ve never attended a traditional Japanese wedding in Shinto style, then here’s what you can expect to see.

Traditional Japanese Wedding Attire | Shiro-Muku

In most traditional Shinto-style Japanese weddings, a bride wears a traditional Japanese wedding dress. This is a pure white kimono, Shiro-muku, that represents the bride’s purity and the fact that she will soon take on the colors of her husband’s family. 

Even though the kimono is white, it often has intricate details and is elaborately designed by kimono professionals. An embroidered wide belt known as the Obi is wrapped around the bride’s waist. At times, the bride tucks a traditional Japanese fan and a dagger into her Obi as well. 

The bride may later change into a more colorful kimono, iro-uchikake, for the reception. 

A traditional Japanese groom in a Shinto wedding ceremony will wear an elegant kimono with muted colors. A Japanese groom’s kimono is adorned with five family crests that are woven from the finest silk. These family crests are worn on the lining and on the Haori coat. 

An Obi made from brocade is tied around the groom’s waist into which he tucks his traditional Japanese fan. The groom also wears white two-toed tabi socks and traditional zori sandals.  

Palace Visit

Since Shinto weddings are quite intimate and are often attended only by close family and friends, they take place in a traditional Shinto shrine. The admission of the wedding party into the shrine for the wedding is known as the Palace visit. Additional guests are not allowed to enter the private wedding ceremony. 


After the wedding party and the couple have been seated, the wedding ceremony begins with a purification ritual. In this ceremony, the priest exorcises the couple of evil spirits and blesses them.

Recitation of Shinto Prayers

During the Japanese wedding ceremony, prayers are recited by the Shinto priest as per Japanese marriage customs. This is done as an appeal to the gods to bless the couple with strength and harmony.


The term San-San-Ku-Do roughly translates to Three-Three-Nine and Do, and means deliverance from all flaws. San-San-Ku-Do is the name given to a traditional Japanese wedding ceremony where the bride and groom drink sake three times, each from three different nuptial cups, called the Sakazuki

This ritual is one of the most popular and important Japanese marriage customs in the Japanese wedding ceremony. At times, it is even incorporated into other wedding styles as well. In San-San-Ku-Do, the first “three” sips taken represent the three couples. The following “three” represents hatred, ignorance, and passion. The final “three” represents freedom from all these flaws. This ritual also symbolizes the vows taken by the couple as they exchange cups after each sip. 

The Offering of A Sacred Sakaki Branch

A leafy branch from the sacred Sakaki tree is offered to the gods by the couple during the wedding. The Sakaki tree has been revered in the Japanese culture since ancient times and is an essential part of numerous essential ceremonies. 


If you have been invited to a traditional Japanese wedding, you must take a wedding gift along with you. In a traditional Japanese wedding ceremony, wedding gifts are given in the form of cash placed in an envelope. Although there is no set limit for how much or how little you should give, most guests give the couple around $350, which is about 30,000 yen. 

The Reception

Once the intimate Shinto wedding ceremony is over, couples often host a lively and fun wedding reception where more guests are invited. The food served at the reception also has symbolic importance. Couples often serve items such as red rice, sea bream, and shrimp for good luck! Moreover, most wedding receptions have traditional sushi as well. 

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