Each month, Global Thinking features a “Cultural Connections” guest post written and curated by a member of the Department of International Languages and Cultures (ILC). This month’s post provides an inside look at TA Aori Rodriguez’s wedding, which combined elements of Japanese, Mexican, and American wedding traditions for a truly international celebration!
Recently, our Japanese teaching assistant, Aori Inoue, became Aori Rodriguez. Aori married her long-time boyfriend officially on October 26th, 2014 in small wedding ceremony that was an amazing collage of cultures. While Aori is from Japan, Arturo, her new husband, is originally from Mexico, and the United States has become their home. This wedding was an intersection of all three cultures.
Many of Aori’s and Arturo’s wedding activities represented the merging of Japanese, Mexican, and American wedding culture. During the wedding ceremony, the couple each presented their country’s flag, in addition to playing games from their respective countries. Such activities included a common Japanese quiz game about the bride and groom, a Mexican line dance, and many Mexican wedding games. They also created new versions of old traditions. Single ladies were able to catch bouquet, while men tried to catch an afro wig! Aori said that she really wanted all guests to have an enjoyable time.
One Japanese tradition that was displayed at their wedding was the presentation of bride and groom dolls. Several Asian cultures also observe this tradition of having the couple represented by dolls. Aori’s wedding had both a kokeshi and a rabbit couple doll. Kokeshi are Japanese wooden peg dolls which are carved and painted in simple patterns; they are also often given to married couples. One of Aori’s friends from Japan sent her a wedding gift of a hand-carved kokeshi. More special to Aori was a rabbit couple doll that she and her grandmother crafted together. The bride rabbit wore a kimono, while the groom had traditional Mexican wedding clothes. The dolls were rabbits to represent the pet bunny that Aori and Arturo have together.
Although Aori and Arturo included many traditions into their wedding from their respective cultures, some were left out. They decided not to practice the Japanese tradition in which the guests are required to bring money to attend the wedding. It usually costs between $300-$1000 depending on your relationship to the bride and groom. The American and Mexican tradition of a wedding registry was also an idea that they opposed, as they were happy to just have their friends and family. Although they did not register, many guests brought them gifts anyway. In addition they disliked the tradition of having a maid of honor and best man, as they felt it mean to rank their friends. Japan does not have this kind of tradition, instead they group guests at tables based on how well they know the bride and groom, such as guests from university, work colleagues, etc. In Mexican and American weddings, the garter game is played in which the bride sits in a chair and the groom is blind folded. He then proceeds to try to remove the garter with his mouth, which is not something the couple was comfortable with.
As Aori and Arturo have family and friends across the globe, they will be taking their wedding to multiple locations. This will give Aori the opportunity to practice another Japanese tradition: multiple wedding dresses. In Japan brides wear at least two different kimonos and two to four different colored dresses in addition to the main white wedding dress. For each of her weddings, Aori has had a different dress and she plans to continue this trend with her future weddings. So, although Arturo was reluctant to buy so many dresses, this is a tradition which Aori is really excited for.
By traveling to be with their friends and family, Aori and Arturo will be able to have their Japanese ceremony at the Shinto shrine in Kobe where Aori was baptized as a baby. There are many rituals in a Japanese wedding. For example, the couple takes nine sips of sake (three sips from three cups) in order to become husband and wife. The reason why it should be three is that it cannot be divided in two, just as the couple cannot. The major Japanese wedding superstition is the concept of a lucky or unlucky day for events. The date on Aori’s marriage license is October 26th, which is considered the luckiest and most ideal day of marriage. Different levels of luck are assigned to days as indicated on the Japanese Rokuyou calendars and it varies each year. There are also many words and gifts that are unacceptable for a Japanese wedding as they symbolize the separation of a couple. Bad luck items include things to cut with and breakable items, such as kitchen knives and mirrors respectively. These items and words remind people of cutting the connection between two people or breaking the relationship. Therefore, in a Japanese wedding they do not say “cutting the wedding cake,” but rather, “placing the samurai sword into the cake.”
Aori and Arturo’s wedding was a wonderful celebration of not only their time together, but also the union of many different cultures. The International Languages and Cultures would like to wish Aori and Arturo a long and happy marriage. We hope that they continue to take the best from the culture that they are in and combine them in a way that is best for them.