Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Japanese Weddings - A Change Is Coming

Last Saturday saw me and my hats all packed up, moved down town and set up at our little stall in Sapporo's Chikadori once more for the "Made in Jibun" market.


I have now done quite a few craft/art fairs in Japan and think of them purely as marketing as my hats are usually much more expensive than the other things on sale and people in Japan don't really do cocktail hats, not this time however.  I think a change is a coming.

Not only did I sell more hats than expected but peoples attitudes toward my little toppers seemed to have shifted.  Usually people come to my stall and say "Oh they are all so pretty but not for me", or "Only the Empress wears hats in Japan, people would laugh if I wore one".  This time however after the "what are they?" and "Oh like the Empress" comments, I was hearing; "I could wear one to ... wedding" or "wow that really suits you, you should get it". Not only did this lift my spirits and make me think that I wasn't banging my head against a brick wall but it made me think that Japanese weddings were in for a remodel.

This was confirmed later that day when a random wedding supplement fell out of my 'what's on in Sapporo' magazine.  For those of you who have never experienced a modern Japanese wedding you are in for a surprise.  When we in the West think of Japanese weddings we tend to think of images like these:

Ah and how wrong we are.  Since moving to Japan I have realised that traditional weddings like the ones above are a very rare species.  In Japan to be legally married you have to go to the City Office, take a number, sign a piece of paper and a few weeks later they send you a document saying you are married.  No dress, no ceremony, no witnesses, no rings, no vows.  Due to the rubbishness of this most people opt to have a wedding 'ceremony' at a later date.  Enter the horrible world of Hollywood weddings gone terribly, terribly wrong.

Every city in Japan is now littered with plastic wedding chapels where couples can go to have a 'Western style' wedding complete with fake foreign priest (shout out to Martin, Niigata's finest fake priest), hymns  a virgin road (really that is what they call the church aisle), and throwing of the bouquet.  The whole ceremony and after party lasts a whopping 2 hours before everyone is chucked out and the next wedding starts.  During this time there will be a 7 course meal, funny dances by the grooms friends, speeches and on average the bride will change dresses three times.  Oh the dresses.  I don't think one foreign visitor has left Japan without a picture of the wedding dresses which adorn the windows of said plastic churches and resemble the aftermath of a cat fight between Little Bow Peep and the toilet roll cover doll in your Gran's house.

However after having a little peruse through the afore mentioned wedding supplement I think the days of the tutti fruity, frill dresses are numbered as it seems Japan is moving away from the big fat gypsy wedding look and jumping on the vintage wedding scene that is ravaging European and American weddings. Not only are the dresses different but for the first time ever I saw pictures of Bridesmaids at the plastic chapel.  The lack of bridesmaids and grooms men at Japanese weddings has always confused me a little as the Japanese tend to make friends in high school and stick with those people forever.  In a country where only a generation ago arranged marriages were the norm your friends were often the only people in your life you had any choice over and possibly the only people you actually liked.  Thus having them as bridesmaids would seem natural.  Not so apparently but I think that may be about to change and I am hoping when bridesmaids and vintage collide hats will abound.

I must admit that until recently the thought of Bridesmaids and hats conjured up images like this

but, done well, having hats on your bridesmaids can look awesome!

even the fashion fiends over at Gossip girl think so

And this isn't just a fashion trend for the girls, grooms men in hats are just as rocking.

So here's hoping this summer brings the death of the neon puff ball dress and the dawn of the hat in Japanese weddings.  


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