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Dreaming June Bride – Only on Your Own Terms

2018.06.29

Getting married in June, and being called a June Bride, is an imported idea, yet a dream for some Japanese young women.  It usually comes with the image of yourself in a pure white wedding dress, with a groom – who, however, remains a lot of time still faceless.

It is a day to celebrate, the most significant turning point in peoples’ lives.  But the traditional view of the wedding ceremony is becoming redundant in the 21st century.

Dream Wedding Ceremony – Copying Royal Weddings

Japanese people always have celebrated wedding days within families and local communities, nothing too grand.  In the Sengoku era (15th and 16th century), when brides married into the family of an enemy or of an allied for a strategic reason, it was necessary to display wealth and the strength of the newly formed family tie to surrounding enemies.  Lower ranked samurai did conduct a small ceremonial event, often in the presence of their bosses, purely to celebrate a little happiness in the harsh environment.

The modern wedding ceremony was defined only in the late 19th century, by the wedding of Japan’s Royal family in a Shinto Shrine. The pomp and circumstance outlined their newly restored position as rulers, and whatever they did was seen and followed by citizens. This was the beginning of the wedding industry.

Change in the Taste of Ceremonial Practices

The Shinto style ceremony dominated the wedding market for a long time.  Young couples in Kimonos went to a local shrine, and the families often gathered at the bride’s house to celebrate the happy union. 

But after the rapid economic growth in the 1970s, young people lived away from home, often in company-provided dormitories.  It became increasingly complicated and expensive to arrange family gatherings, usually involving travelling and hiring venues. And as the time spent in companies – dormitories included – got longer, it was hard not inviting colleagues and bosses. 

The rules and protocols of wedding ceremonies became more rigid and manual bound. Guest seating plans, who should give the speeches, how much gift money to give, what kind of banquet is appropriate, what to wear, and so on:  The list goes on. Japan’s big Wedding Market, comprised of venues providers, planners, dressmakers, catering and flower companies, exploited young couples trying to meet everyone’s expectation by conjuring up tick boxes to impress.  They created a variety of “traditions” and “stories” for the customers to follow, to satisfy their feeling of duty to honour the best possible party for parents.

They successfully provided a feel-good factor for all people involved, until recently.

Away from It All or Taking Back Control

These heavy promotions eventually disillusioned young customers. Wedding ceremonies have become the finishing line of a short distance race, rather than the starting point of the long-haul life journey.

Combined with soaring costs, a shortage of venues, and the social burden of asking the boss to make a speech, young people started to excuse themselves to get away from it all, leading to the rise of overseas weddings. Some went for replicating the wedding of Diana and Charles, within their means, but more opted for sunny places, such as Okinawa and Hawaii, combining the occasion with their honeymoon, just inviting close family members. It was a much cheaper option compared to the typical cost of the ceremony of over 3 million yen (30,000 dollars).

The wedding industry played a part in shaping this new trend.  But in the 21st century, the whole market is in decline, not only due to the shrinking population but also because of financial worries and changes in society.

The rise in marriages without parties is significant in recent decades.  The wedding industry has to fight again to keep themselves relevant.

 Wedding Venues on Offence, Again

Hotels and wedding venues need to fight for survival the hardest due to the fixed costs.  They are making changes to interiors, giving more freedom to couples to tailor decorations to their taste and to smaller budgets. The rise in the average age of marrying couples is also a contributing factor, as older couples are more used to negotiations, and are not so easily pressured into following advice from suppliers.

Venues open their spaces during weekdays to supplement the reduced income from the weddings on weekends.  Some are open as ladies only co-working places, others as family picnic lunch venue. It gives opportunities to attract younger generations, in one case as young as primary school kids, to picture that happy moment to come in the future.

The industry is adapting to the new market environment and starting to promote the idea of having a ceremony at all. The process of selling the service has to come earlier, and for a more extended period, not just when the customers decided to get married. 

Nowadays, marketing for the most significant life event starts by sowing seeds at an early stage, helping the idea to grow together with the potential customers, listening to their needs with great care.

 

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