I recently wrote about our friend Yoshimi who got married, and going to see her wedding photo shoot. She's having a reception in July, and we just got our invitation. Not only is the invitation really beautiful, it was an interesting chance to learn a little about invitation and reception etiquette.
The most traditional sort of wedding reception is a large party including family and employers where guests are expected to give money as a gift in a specific gift envelop. The bills should be new and crisp, and the typical amount is 30,000 yen (about $300). 20,000 yen is considered unlucky because it can easy be divided in half, and can symbolize the couple breaking up. 4 and 9 are also unlucky numbers because they can be pronounced the same way as the words for death and suffering, so 40,000 and 90,000 yen are never appropriate either. Even if you can't attend you are expected to give this gift, so let's hope you don't know a lot of people getting married around the same time! Being a student is generally the only exception that makes it alright for you to only give 10,000 yen, but if you're family you're expected to give 50,000 or more! Yikes! How do people afford these weddings?
Yoshimi explained that there is a new type of reception becoming more popular today. The bride and groom will have a small formal party with their families, and then a larger party with friends that family doesn't attend. Rather than giving cash in the envelopes the invitation will list the price of the event (per person, not per couple) which helps pay for the party. This is known as a "1.5 party," though I didn't completely understand where the name comes from. As you can see on our invitation the "contribution" is 12,000 yen/guest, which can be paid to a receptionist when arriving. In some cases there will be a higher price listed for men than women because it is assumed men will drink more. This probably feels a little abrupt if you're a Westerner, which is unusual because the Japanese are not normally so direct.
An RSVP postcard is included with the invitation that is already stamped and addressed to the host/hostess. Notice the stamp, because they're sold specifically for weddings. Now here is where the etiquette gets interesting. The address will say the return addressee's name in kanji and below that 行 (iki) which, in this case, basically means "To:" This is written in very humble form because they are giving themselves no title. As the recipient you should cross this out and write 様 (sama) which is the most formal way of writing Mr. or Mrs.
On the back, circle whether you will attend or not (oops, she accidentally translated them backwards for me.) Then fill in your name, address, and phone number. The card is written in the most formal language, so it is polite to cross out the ご in order to be more humble.
We're planning to attend, so in July I'll write all about what it was like.