Japanese Wedding Traditions from S.J. Pajonas Author of Released

Posted by Katie L. Carroll on January 29, 2014 in Books, Guest, S.J. Pajonas |

I’m super thrilled to have S.J. Pajonas and her Nogiku Series back on the blog. She is celebrating her the release of book #2 Released (see my 5-star Goodreads review here) and sharing a bit about Japanese weddings and offering a giveaway. Welcome, S.J.!

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Whenever I sit down to write another book in the Nogiku Series, I first think hard about what new and interesting Japanese traditions I want to highlight in that book. For REMOVED, I introduced a lot of Japanese language and culture but made sure to touch on a few bigger events: New Year’s Eve, swordfighting, Japanese food and the izakaya phenomenon, a geisha party, and then a taiko drumming concert. It was a hard one to beat!

So when RELEASED came before me, I was pleased that one main event would stand out: a wedding! Now, I’ve been a Japanophile for as long as I can remember and when my husband and I got married, I incorporated a few Japanese traditions into our ceremony. Let’s look at a few of the more obvious Japanese wedding traditions and then I’ll touch on the traditions of attending a wedding.

The dress, the umbrella, and the cups

A traditional Japanese wedding kimono is called a shiromuku (“Shiro” meaning white and “muku” meaning purity) and it is one beast of a kimono. I actually own one. I bought it before we got married because I thought it might be fun to get married in one, but I tried it on once and decided against it. They are very heavy, made of silk and usually woven in intricate patterns across the back. Mine has a heron and bamboo woven into it. The hem is unusual as well. It’s stuffed and padded, rounded so that the fabric weighs straight when worn.

In the photo above, you’ll notice that everything the bride is wearing is white. This is also a tradition symbolizing her purity and her willingness to be dyed the colors of her groom. The wedding hood she wears is the wataboshi and is usually only worn during the ceremony.

The red umbrella is very symbolic of Japanese weddings. The color red in Japan means life and wards off evils and the umbrella itself keeps the bride dry if it happens to be raining. It’s quite large and usually carried by man who follows the bride in a wedding procession.

The tradition of san-san-kudo was a component of my own wedding ceremony. I describe it in RELEASED as:

“One of the temple maidens lays out three cups of different sizes: small, medium, and large. I’m familiar with this ritual called san-san-kudo, three-three-nine times. The tradition is the bride and groom each take three sips from each of the three cups, going from smaller to larger cup, until each has consumed nine sips of rice wine. Nine is a lucky number for couples because it cannot be divided equally in two, and the number three is also lucky because it’s prime. So three, three times, is three times as lucky.”

So the interesting thing about san-san-kudo is that the number 9 itself is considered an unlucky number in Japan. It’s pronunciation, ku, sounds like the word for “torture” or “agony” and it is often omitted from places like hospitals. All Nippon Airways does not use the number either. But in the case of this ceremony, since it’s three times three, it’s different.

Writing a wedding ceremony

I have never been to a Japanese Shinto wedding so, writing about one, I wondered what they were like. I’m so thankful for YouTube! I watched several before I sat down to write the wedding in the book. Here’s a playlist of several videos you might be interested in. (The first one in this list was so beautiful it made me cry. Make sure you have tissues.)


Attending a Japanese wedding

I don’t go into much detail in RELEASED about what guests are expected to do at a Japanese wedding because the event is very dramatic for Sanaa, my heroine, all on its own. But here are a few things to remember if you’re ever invited to one.

  • A wedding gift is usually cash and sometimes the invites will come with a suggested Yen amount to be gifted depending on how well you know the bride or groom. The gift should be given in one-man bills (equal to about $100) and should be an odd number so they cannot be split evenly between the couple. There is a special white envelope tied in red that should be used and the fancier the envelope the better. Most stationery stores in Japan have them.

  • Dress nicely! Japanese weddings are not dressed-down affairs. It’s not black-tie, but it’s close. If you’re a woman, wear a nice dress (not black), get your hair done, etc. Men, please wear a nice suit. Ties are a must. If in doubt, dress conservatively.

  • There are usually several after-ceremony parties unlike Western ceremonies. The first one you attend is the main one, then there may be several after that organized by the friends and/or family. You are usually required to pay to attend them (which covers drinks, food, the venue, etc). Be sure to have plenty of cash on hand.

  • Please do not be late! Arrive early for everything.

  • You may be asked to give a speech. Yes. It seems most people at a Japanese wedding are expected to say something nice to the bride and groom. A short, congratulatory statement will do.

Still interested?

If you’d like to learn more about Japanese weddings, read this article on GoJapan.About.com.

Flickr has an abundance of Japanese wedding photos you may enjoy. Here are a few below.


More photos or video tagged with Japanese wedding on Flickr

And I have also put together this Pinterest board on Japanese Weddings. Enjoy!

(All images in this post are used under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en)

Removed (Nogikuremoved series #1)
By SJ Pajonas
Genre: Science Fiction Romance, Post-apocalyptic
Age category: New Adult
Release Date: September 11, 2013

Duty knows no family. Love has no price. Secrets can cost you everything. Twenty-year-old Sanaa Griffin, a sweet and smart half-Japanese girl, is about to get more than she bargained for when she wishes for love and excitement on New Year’s Eve 3103. Mark Sakai, who knows more about her than any stranger should, thinks Sanaa is the perfect person to spy on the heads of the three biggest Japanese clan leaders in Nishikyo. He wants her to gather enough evidence to keep them from going to war when they land on Earth’s colonization planet, Yusei. Nishikyo, built by the Japanese 300 years ago to house the rest of mankind, is failing and everyone is preparing to leave. Sakai has known Sanaa’s family all her life but she knows nothing of him! And despite all the time they spend together, he keeps his distance from her. Then one day, he brings her to Jiro, his nephew, to learn sword fighting, and it changes her life irrevocably. Between falling in love with Jiro and the information she is gathering on the clans, Sanaa realizes Sakai is holding back secrets about her family and her deceased parents, secrets as to why she was chosen for this job, and learning the truth puts her and all of Nishikyo in danger.

You can find Removed on Goodreads
Want to view some inspirational images for Removed, visit the Removed inspirational Pinterest board

You can buy Removed here:
Amazon (Paperback)
Amazon (Kindle)
Barnes & Noble

releasedReleased (Nogiku series #2)
by SJ Pajonas

Genre: Science Fiction Romance, Post-apocalyptic
Age category: New Adult
Release Date: December 17, 2013

**Contains spoilers for those who have not read REMOVED (Book 1) Left in the desert to recuperate from her injuries, Sanaa Itami paces the floors and contemplates her mistakes. She trusted too easily, and now people she loved are dead, killed at the hands of men coming to assassinate her. Sanaa feels beaten, but life awaits her at home. While Nishikyo recovers from the earthquake, negotiations for Sanaa’s eventual rule on Yusei continue. New allies must be made, new friendships brokered, new skills acquired — at all costs. Life at the top of the chain is complicated and lonely, though. With relations in Sakai clan rocky and uncertain, Sanaa must learn to trust others again more than she’s willing. Who amongst the clans is left holding a grudge? And will the new family Sanaa has found with Jiro support or betray her? From Nishikyo to Yusei, RELEASED, Book TWO of the Nogiku Series, is the second book in a captivating New Adult post-apocalyptic romance series that harnesses the cultures and traditions of Japan and sweeps them into the future between Earth and a faraway land.

You can find Released on Goodreads

You can buy Released here:
Barnes & Noble

sj pajonasAbout the Author:
S. J. Pajonas loves all things Asian and has been in love with Japan for as long as she can remember. Writing about Asia and Japan came naturally after studying the culture and language for over fifteen years. She studied film and screenwriting first and eventually segued into fiction once she was no longer working a full-time job.

Released is S. J. Pajonas’s second work, book two of four in the Nogiku Series. The first book in the series, Removed, is described as “a wonderful story” with “engaging characters, seamless world building, and an action packed plot.” It’s an “up-til-3am-because-I-read-it-in-one-sitting book.” She also writes contemporary romance and her upcoming first book in the Love in the Digital Age series will be published in 2014.

S. J. lives with her husband and two children just outside of New York City. She loves reading, writing, film, J- and K-dramas, knitting, and astrology. Her favorite author is Haruki Murakami and favorite book is The Wind-up Bird Chronicle.

You can find and contact her here:

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  • Katie, thanks so much for being a part of my tour! I really enjoyed putting this post together. There’s something so beautiful and ancient about traditional Japanese weddings. I really hope to attend one someday!

  • Kai says:

    How fascinating! Thanks for sharing your knowledge of Japanese weddings with us. I’m intrigued how it fits into your book.

    • Hi, Kai! I can tell you without being spoilery that there is a beautiful Japanese wedding in the book. The futuristic world is highly populated by Japanese people and is steeped in their culture. It’s a wonderful blend of old and new.

  • Loren says:

    I’ve been intrigued in cultural norms and practices long before I had to study different cultures extensively in graduate school, so I read this with my eyes glued to the screen (really, I was leaning in!).

    I find it so interesting that the bride’s dress is white, just as wedding gowns in the Western world are.

  • Thanks for stopping by, ladies! Japanese wedding traditions are a lot of fun. Definitely watch the videos if you get a chance. That first one brought on tears 🙂

  • Thanks for sharing your knowledge of Japanese weddings with us.

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