Trends in Japan

Cheaper, Simpler Overseas Weddings Lure Japanese Couples

APRIL 25, 1996

A growing number of couples are not only honeymooning abroad but holding their wedding outside Japan too. Foreign venues are trendy but cost less and free couples of the formalities that characterize Japanese affairs. Travel industry executives see the trend as a paramount business opportunity, and many confidently predict that 10% of all Japanese weddings will take place abroad by the year 2000.

Japanese Wedding Rites
Most Japanese wedding ceremonies and receptions are held in hotels or special halls. In general only the bride and bridegroom, close relatives, and the couple that serves as go-between attend the ceremony, which is commonly Shinto but sometimes Buddhist or Christian in style.

Following this, the people at the ceremony, along with other relatives, friends, and associates of the bride and bridegroom, gather in a banquet hall for the reception to toast the couple and hear speeches by principal guests over a meal.

Planning the wedding ceremony and reception is no easy task, because a host of time-honored customs must be observed. Decisions on the guest list, seating arrangements, and order of the speeches can be grueling. To make matters worse, the whole affair usually costs millions of yen. According to a survey conducted by one major bank, couples today spend an average of 3.3 million yen (31,132 dollars at 106 yen to the dollar) on the wedding and 900,000 yen (8,491 dollars) on the honeymoon. Of course, few have this sort of money, and the parents often have to foot the bill.

Overseas weddings provide the perfect solution for people who want to avoid irksome formalities and not spend a fortune to marry. They also offer an option for those who want something more than a prescriptive ceremony and reception in a hotel or wedding hall.

Great Business Expectations
The travel industry has been quick to pick up on this trend. A large number of agencies have set up special counters for overseas weddings and are extending their hours to include Sundays and holidays. Flashy advertisements have appeared on television and in newspapers and magazines.

Industry officials say that a wedding in Hawaii runs to between 600,000 yen (5,660 dollars) and 800,000 yen (7,547 dollars) a couple, including airfare and the cost of the ceremony and reception, and one in Guam or Saipan to just a few hundred thousand yen. Airfare and accommodations for guests, meanwhile, come to about 200,000 yen (1,887 dollars) a person in the case of Hawaii and 100,000 yen (943 dollars) for Guam or Saipan. Since the average number of guests at overseas weddings is seven, the total cost for a Hawaiian venue, for example, is less than 2 million yen (18,868 dollars).

One travel agency estimates that the number of Japanese couples holding their wedding overseas will rise from 30,000 in 1995 to 35,000 in 1996. In the coming years about 8 million people belonging to the second postwar baby boom generation will come of marriageable age. Given their interest in and experiences of traveling in foreign countries, many will certainly seize the chance to get married abroad and it may not be long before the number of these couples reaches more than a hundred thousand.

Trends in Japan

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