• Shiori W

What should I prepare? Etiquette for Attending a Wedding in Japan #2

For the 2nd part, I’d like to talk about the gift money as one of etiquette for attending a wedding in Japan.

Goshugi (ご祝儀), Gift money

How much do people spend on wedding gifts in your country?

In Japan one’s relationship to the bride and groom determines how much money one is supposed to give. Friends and coworkers are usually expected to give 30,000 yen. Workplace superiors, siblings, aunts, and uncles are expected to give 50,000 yen. Seems quite expensive doesn't it? I understand the feeling, people in Japan also think it’s expensive sometimes, there’s even a phrase born from that thought “結婚式貧乏 (Kekkonshiki Binbou)” which basically means going broke from a wedding. Even for Japanese people, the cost of attending a wedding is thought to be a burden. In this way people gift money to the couple and can feel like they’re part of making the celebration happen.

There are different ways to tie the Mizuhiki (decorative Japanese cord) on the envelope depending on how much money one is gifting to the couple so choosing an envelope can be a little tough. Lately, envelopes with a large variety of designs have appeared and the amount of people choosing cute designs has increased. Still, it’s good to know about the basic etiquette for these envelopes. When choosing an envelope look for envelopes marked 婚礼用(for weddings) or結婚式 (wedding).

Be sure to use new bills for gift money.

  • Why do we need new bills?

There are various theories about why one needs to use new bills but suffice to say that not using new bills would be seen as rude. One well known theory behind giving new bills, is that new bills are needed to celebrate the bride and groom’s new start in life. Banks are closed on the weekend in Japan so a person will need to visit a bank on a weekday and speak to a teller for new bills. It’s very easy to do, just go in and ask a teller for new bills, saying you have a wedding you are attending.

Fukusa (handkerchief )

When handing in gift money at the reception desk of a wedding, the envelope should be wrapped in a fukusa or a handkerchief. In Japan gift money for any formal event is usually wrapped in a fukusa or handkerchief when being handed in.

If one doesn’t have a fukusa it is ok to use a handkerchief. The handkerchief shouldn’t have any pattern and it should be a warm color such as red, orange, pink, gold or purple for weddings. A cerebration should be wrapped in fukusa, or handkachief by handing at a reception, instead of bringing it as it is. In Japan, all of a wedding ceremony and funeral, or other ceremony events which one would be asked to bring a gift or celebration, it is a common manner to wrap it up by Fukusa or something like a furoshiki or hankachief.

If you don’t have a Fukusa, it is fine to use a hankacheif without a pattern. The colour should be a warm colour such as red, orange, pink, gold or purple for wedding.


How to wrap a cereblation by Fukusa or handkachief?How to use a fukusa or handkerchief to wrap gift money.


To people from overseas:

If you are invited to a wedding and don't want to attend due to the high cost, please let the inviter know by saying something like you tried to adjust your schedule but are unable to attend. In Japan the cost of attending a wedding is well known and it is generally accepted that good friends of the couple will go regardless of the cost. If a person does not wish to attend a wedding and is frank saying something like “Why is it so expensive? I don't want to pay so I won’t go!” it can cause a misunderstanding with the bride groom. I experienced this sort of misunderstanding when I had my wedding. I had invited a non-Japanese coworker, who I was friends with, to my wedding but she was surprised by the cost and refused very strongly saying “No way! That’s too much to pay! Sorry I won’t go!” She told me this directly, I felt like she was angry and surprised.

At the time I thought that I could really feel the difference in culture between me and her. I thought of this person not only as a coworker but also as a friend, she had told she thought the same. We often ate lunch together and talked outside of work but from her point of view the 30,000 yen was just way too exorbitant of a price to pay to attend a wedding. “Why must I pay so much to attend a wedding?” this is a question sometimes asked by people from other countries living in Japan. It’s a custom that may not be present in a person’s home country so a person may naturally feel like that.

Upon hearing this from my coworker friend, I felt a bit like our friendship was worth less than 30,000 yen to her.

(If I said this as a black joke there might be a bit of truth to it haha. But I’m sure that’s not the case)

It’s an interesting thing to think about. It could be the beginning of a misunderstanding. Money and relationships are both delicate matters that can be intertwined, so much so that there’s a phrase in Japanese 「お金の話は縁の切れ目」which means “Trouble about money ends relationships.” The person who sends an invitation to someone, does so thinking that they would like to celebrate the occasion with the invitee.

Gift money (ご祝儀) presented for celebrations has become a given in Japan so a person will feel hurt and troubled if the invitee makes a fuss and bluntly says to the inviter things like “The amount is too much, this isn’t normal!” It is a difference of culture and customs so there is not much the inviter can do. The inviter will also feel lonely if the invitee is unable to attend. If an invitee just cannot accept the cost and doesn't want to go, they should reject the invitation politely. To refuse politely you should say something like, “Thank you for the invitation. I’m happy you’ve invited me but I do not have any time that day so attending would be difficult.” Phrasing it in this way will help avoid any misunderstandings. You may think something like this is trivial or is an annoyance but please be considerate of the inviters feelings.

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