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American groom/Japanese bride--need good resources for advice

14 years ago

Our son will be marrying a Japanese woman in a traditional Japanese-style wedding. The wedding will be held at a shrine in Kobe.

In response to my earlier inquiry, several readers offered advice about hosting a post-wedding reception for them next time they visit us here in the US. Thanks!

Now it's time to focus on the wedding itself. Our son and his fiance spent a week with us recently. The main thing we accomplished during their visit was to change the date from December to March. Now my sister and brother-in-law can attend with us and perhaps even some of his American friends. We have some more information about the ceremony, but we still have many questions.

I found a lot of information online about traditional wedding customs, but most assume both families are Japanese. Other sites talk about Japanese marriages taking place in America; but I can't find much information for an American groom and his family when the wedding will be in Japan.

Does anyone know a good resource for getting pratical advice in this situation?

Here are just a few of the questions I need to ask:

1. What is expected of the groom's family financially? I've heard that the groom's family picks up more of the tab for weddings in Japan than is typical in the US, but I'm not sure exactly what to expect. I don't want to offend her family by doing too much or too little.

2. They will be married in a Shinto shrine. A brochure from the shrine shows a picture of priests leading a procession of several people. The bride and groom are in formal kimonos and it looks as though family members also are dressed in kimonos. Chiaki said my husband and I could dress as we liked. Her mother could arrange to rent kimonos for us or we could wear our own western dress. I'm not sure which would be more appropriate. Again, I don't want to offend by making the wrong choice.

3. They plan to hold the reception at a restaurant close to the shrine. She described a meal of several courses, so I imagine it will be quite expensive. I've been told that guests typically give large cash gifts (about $300), but then they expect to receive a gift in return from the couple. I gather that the cash from guests helps cover the cost of the expensive meal as well as the cost of the gift from the couple. I'm not sure how much, if anything, is left as a "real" gift to help the couple set up their new life together.

My son and his fiance want to get away from the traditional exchange of cash and gifts. They want to tell their guests "no gifts", but then they assume that the guests will pick up the tab for their own meals. This whole idea makes me very uncomfortable. I can't imagine asking guests to pay for the reception dinner, even if they are off the hook for a big cash gift. I don't know how they would communicate this change in tradition to their guests.

A few of his friends have said they might come from the US for the wedding. With the expense of the trip, I don't think they should be expected to give large cash gifts or buy their own reception meal. We would want to pick up the tab for the American guests and family members, but I don't think we can absorb the expense of covering the meal for all of their Japanese guests. Should we encourage them to stick with the traditional gift-giving customs or help them find a gracious way to handle it otherwise.

These are just some of my many questions. It would be very helpful to find a good resource for advice that is practical and sensitive to the two cultures.

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