I just went to a friend’s wedding. Since he is American and the bride is Japanese it wasn’t completely standard Japanese wedding ceremony. However it had most of elements of it. Here is the list of things you need to know before going to wedding.
1. You’ve probably received gorgeous invitation envelope that includes the reply card.
When you reply don’t forget to cross out the self-neglecting character 行 from after person name and replace it with respectful 様 -sama. The closest match in English would probably be Esq.
2. You not suppose to bring gifts to a Japanese wedding. An envelope with money however will perfectly do the job.
3. You can get special wedding envelope in any stationary shop or even 24hours convenience store.
You will immediately recognize the rack with flashy envelops decorated with colorful paper clips and wire-made ribbons. There is smaller envelope inside where you insert money.
But be careful! They usually keep both wedding 寿 kotobuki and funeral envelopes in the same place. Ironically funeral envelopes look even more dazzling then wedding ones. Of course if you read kanji you don’t need to worry!
4. Always put crispy new 10.000 yen notes in the smaller envelope face-up and never face-down.
You can exchange used bills into new bills in any Japanese bank.
5. Amount of money you put into envelope depends on various factors including your age and relationships with newlywed, but it never should be 40.000 yen. Four 四 is a bad luck number since it pronounced as shi which is same pronunciation as death 死, even two kanji are completely different.
Sometimes the amount is pre-decided and then the number will be written in the invitation. Don’t forget that your donation will be put towards covering the wedding ceremony cost which is most of cases simply outrageous. We talking about 30.000 – 100.000$ dollars spent (or wasted?) in one day.
6. After putting money into smaller inner envelope and wraping it up, watch out for couple of things. First, tips of the ribbon should always look UP. Second the tip of wrapping paper should also look UP. UP direction in this context means happiness, while DOWN quite logically means misfortune.
7. Write your name vertically on the 寿 kotobuki stripe. You should try not to use standard ball pen. Use “magic” inks instead to give it appearance of calligraphy.
8. And remember that regardless of all rigid rules and ceremonies friend’s wedding and especially nijikai 二次会 or the follow-up party still can be lot of fun!