Friday, February 11, 2005

Weddings Japanese style

Right this very minute, I should be dressed in my finest party duds and celebrating a friend's wedding. I had planned to go to the party--to what would have been my first almost all-Japanese social event. In fact, I had bought a cute little black velvet jacket for the occasion and had figured out what else I would wear with it. My only worry was that I didn't have a warm dressy coat to wear for these bone-chilling, windy evenings.

Then last Monday I casually mentioned to another friend that I was going to a wedding party Friday night. Her eyebrows shot up and she said, "So, you're paying 30,000 yen ($300)?" For a moment, I wondered if I had heard her correctly. Thirty-thousand yen? Granted, I'm decimal-point-impaired, and I've had difficulty sometimes figuring the exchange rate in my head. When I first heard about the party, in my mind I was thinking 3,000 yen ($30), which I thought was fine, even though I've never experienced having to pay to attend a wedding party. In the United States, weddings aren't done that way--at least as far as I know.

When I realized I would have to pay so much money to go to a party for a person I barely knew, I decided that I should reconsider my acceptance, but it wasn't easy. What should I say? Should I tell the truth--that I couldn't afford to pay 30,000 yen--or make up some other excuse? In the end, I decided that I could decline without having to make up a story or give the exact reason. I simply said, "I'm so sorry, but I won't be able to attend your wedding party after all." I didn't elaborate or dig a hole.

While I was extremely honored to have been invited to an almost entirely Japanese party, and looked forward to an opportunity to "see Japan from the inside," I was enormously disappointed that I couldn't attend.

Since Monday, I've discovered that wedding parties have more than one purpose. While they're meant to be a celebration of the wedding, they're also a means for paying for the wedding. As each guest pays the equivalent of $300 to $500, they're helping to defray the costs of the actual wedding. From what I understand, gifts are usually modest because of the high cost of attending the party.

So, while I'm sitting at home in my jammies, there's a wonderful party taking place right this minute that's celebrating the union of a man and a woman in matrimony, and I wish I could be there.

But most of all, I wish Mayuko and her husband a long and joyful life together.

1 comment:

happyandblue2 said...

How strange a custom and incredibly expensive...