The day has finally come. You walk slowly down the aisle of a room that can best be described as a fantasy mixed with an adventure and a hint of Disney. As you approach the love of your life, the person you plan to spend all your life with, you snap back to reality and put the 1,200 yen wedding magazine down. Are you ready for this? Are you ready for this in Japan? Have you thought of everything? Don’t worry that’s why I’m here! Here are six things you might want to know in advance before marrying a Japanese national in Japan.
1. May I see your ID please? – Paperwork
If you are getting married in Japan, please make sure you have all your documentation in order. Get all your necessary paperwork done way in advance if you can. I recommend half a year if not longer. Check with your country’s embassy to see if there is anything you need to get notarized or shipped to you. One difficult thing for me to get was my birth certificate. Luckily, we were already planning to go to the States to visit my parents to the timing worked out perfectly. I also had to get a document from the U.S. Embassy say I was legally eligible to get married.
Also, keep in mind that you may be asked to translate any documents you take to your local city hall here in Japan. If you have trouble translating some of the names on the documents, for instance the doctor on your birth certificate, don’t worry too much. In a lot of cases an approximation will be good enough. You will also be asked to provide signatures of two witnesses. I know that it takes a while to get all of this stuff done but keep in mind that it is for your legal safety and will make life in Japan much more comfortable.
2. Just sign on the dotted line. – Marriage Registration
Once you have gotten all the documents you need from your home country and everything has been stamped and stamped again, you can now get married. Congratulations! This part took only about an hour or so. I did it before work. Compared to the ceremony this part is easier. That’s why so many people here will get legally married half a year or more before the ceremony.
3. The Devil’s in the Details – Planning Your Wedding
One thing that threw me for a loop when my wife and I were planning our wedding was all the small details. I’ve noticed that here in Japan when you go to a wedding planner everything is thought of, from the cake to the seating arrangement and even spoon sizes. Be prepared to spend months debating, and even fighting, over seemingly trivial things like which plates should go with which tables clothes. It can be stressful, but I can promise you the final product is well worth all the stress.
4. Your total comes to… – Price of Japanese Weddings
Okay, take a deep breath and don’t panic. Weddings are known to be insanely expensive. In Japan you see prices from 1.5 million yen to 3 Million yen. Thankfully here in Japan a good chunk of that will come back to you from your guests. Japan is really big on gift giving. Go to any convenient store or supermarket and you will see a myriad of envelopes for various occasions. There are ones for marriages, these tend to have red or gold bows, and there are ones for funerals, the ones with black bows. If you are giving money to a friend for their wedding, make sure not to get them confused! It is customary for guests to bring money as a gift. The amount can vary from person to person, but usually close friends will give about 20,000-30,000 yean and family can give 50,000 or more. For me, this cultural difference came in handy. I was so worried about prices, but thanks to so many lovely friends and family everything worked out. My advice is don’t be scared about the price tag. Remember, this is day is meant to start off the rest of you and your better half’s lives together, so why not start with a bang?
5. They are just as stressed as you are, if not more. – Dealing with Stress
I know you have a lot of stress. You must get a lot of paperwork done. You must go back and forth to the embassy or local government off and get stamp after stamp. You also are probably stressing out about talking to your better half’s family. Is my Japanese good enough? What if they don’t understand me? We have all asked ourselves these questions. However, always keep in mind that you are not the only one stressed. There have been many times where my wife was stressed about something and I didn’t know it. In Japan it’s still not so common for people to be upfront with their feelings. Your partner may be freaking out inside about the wedding, or if after the wedding money, so just keep that in mind and even if they don’t mention it see if there is anything stressing them and try to help.
6. Remember, the wedding is only the first step.
One thing to keep in mind prior to getting married is that the ceremony is only the first step. If you are an expat getting married in Japan can be scary at times. You must go through a lot of paper work, save up a lot of money, overcome even more language and cultural barriers and mentally get used to the idea of settling down with someone in a country that is not your “home” . However, keep in mind, the person standing next to you is your partner and will be with you every step of the way.
If any of you reading this are planning to or have just gotten married, from the bottom of my head I congratulate you all. Yes it will get tougher from here on out, for both the foreign spouse and native spouse, but that difficulty will undoubtedly strengthen you both. Good luck and welcome to the family.
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