Monday, April 03, 2006

The wedding reception; or, how I got roped into being a wedding singer.

Post-ceremony, the wedding guests were herded to the reception. It was held in the same wedding castle on a hill. Japanese wedding receptions are funded by the guests, and can be very expensive. The tab for the reception this weekend was 13,000 yen (over $130 CDN). For that price, you get plenty to drink and eat, and at this particular western-style wedding reception, genuine gaijin entertainment. The food was western-style as well, with a grand total of eight courses (plus wedding cake). The high price of admittance allows the bride and groom to buy thank you gifts for all of the guests. There were also prizes during the course of the reception – including and iPod shuffle. That was the prize for correctly guessing the colour of the bride’s cocktail dress. Yes, the bride does a costume change during the reception, just to keep things interesting.

I brought along a gift of my own. I’ve been making pysanky, so I brought one that I had just finished. I’m making a bunch for friends and co-workers who are moving on to new jobs, but I figured a pysanky would be a unique gift for a newly married Japanese couple.

It was a very nice reception, and we were seated at what we dubbed the “exotic women” table. It was Jeshie and myself, and a number of the bride’s girlfriends from school who were all from Tokyo and Sapporo. I was the oldest unmarried girl at the wedding.

Yes, the single men and women were seated separately. In a culture where nudity is acceptable, mixing of the sexes at a wedding reception is not done. There wasn’t a band or any dancing either.

However, just after the “meat” course was served, Jeshie and I were brought forward to provide the genuine gaijin entertainment. Jeshie had requested that we not perform until people had at least a few drinks in them, ourselves included. I fear it wasn’t enough. Our first selection, “Moon River” wasn’t too bad. The upbeat Beatles number was a mess though. It was one of the longest 5 minutes of karaoke in my entire life. I’m glad it was a relatively young wedding with lots of kids – there was a swarm of small adorable children who migrated up to the front with us, distracting the crowd from the horror of our singing.

Japanese culture being what it is, everyone was very polite and told us what good singers we were. The bride and groom seemed genuinely happy with our performance and I guess that’s what counts. I hope though, that this doesn’t lead to any future wedding singer gigs. Between the dressing, the singing and the cost of attending, I don’t think it’s something I’ll be looking into as a future career.

The post-reception ni-ji kai

We figured we might as well go to the ni-ji kai as well. Who knows when we’d get invited to another wedding ni-ji kai?

It was one of the worst enkais I have been to. I must be too used to going to enkais with old men who don’t care what other people think of them. And who are already married. Again, the seating was separated by sex. It took a surprisingly long time for people to relax and open up. Again, we sat at the “exotic women” table. It took until after the bingo (a favorite enkai game)for people to start mingling and talking more freely.

The san-ji kai was either non-existent, or Japanese wedding receptions are where you are supposed to find a future spouse. We asked one of the girls at our table about what people would do for the ni-ji kai, and were informed that the san-ji kai was for couples. Jeshie and I took each other out for a san-ji kai, where in the Japanese tradition, forgot our shame with excessive alcohol before catching a train home.


Granville Is. Go Go's said...

Wedding singer, I love it!! I hope you were wearing velour.

anyram said...

Nope -- vintage tafetta. It kept ripping apart during the day...

Kelle said...

I'm getting married in Japan in August. I haven't even thought about a reception. Do people play games at the reception? What is that after party thing?

anyram said...

Hello Kelle -
Thanks for commenting, and congratulations on your upcoming marriage!

That particular wedding was a pretty grand affair. Even so, it was basically like a standard enkai, but with more immediate family. The actual reception lasted 2-3 hours (enough time for everyone to eat, and for the parents of the couple to go around the room, pour drinks and thank the guests). It was definitely not what comes to mind when I think of a typical western wedding (no dance floor, no clinking glasses to get the couple to kiss, etc.). It was basically the Japanese interpretation of a western wedding.

The after-party seemed to be specifically for the younger, single (non-married) component of the guests. We played a few games there (notably bingo), so again it was like an enkai. And afterwards, it seemed to be time for everyone to ­pair off.

Non-Japanese couples that I know who got married in Japan ended up having a dinner party with their friends to celebrate, but no real reception. Most of them had wedding ceremonies and receptions after leaving Japan (most were in Japan on short-term contracts) so they could celebrate with family and friends at home.

I suppose it depends what your situation is. A Japanese wedding reception is an expensive affair I'm sure, even if the guests do pay for the reception.

Either way, good luck!