Assembly line nuptials no longer cut it

Couples increasingly look for personalized, themed wedding receptions

by Shinichi Tokuda

Kyodo News

People planning to tie the knot are increasingly looking to hold wedding receptions that reflect their personal tastes, instead of following conventional patterns that don’t have much character.

The norms of a usual celebration begin with the newlyweds entering the reception hall and taking center stage in seats sandwiched by a matchmaking couple.

A go-between then makes introductory remarks about the couple, followed by congratulatory speeches by guests. Toasts are proposed and the feast lasts for more than two hours. The menu, too, is conventional.

However, a growing number of young couples want to hold unique receptions that will remain in their memories forever.

So-called house weddings are gaining in popularity. It is becoming common for couples to book receptions at European-styled country houses, in the city.

One such venue is Partire Tokyo Bay Wedding Village, managed by Ravis Inc. of Koto Ward, a pioneer of the house wedding business.

Located along the bay in one of Tokyo’s new tourism spots, the village includes a small chapel and three stand-alone reception halls, called guest houses on a 10,000-sq.-meter site.

The venue is surrounded by a fence with an iron entry gate. A narrow lane centering on the church attempts to re-create a European street scene.

The drill is for a couple to reserve one of the guest houses for a day and be its owner, welcoming invited guests.

Receptions can include garden cocktail parties in another departure from conventional wedding ceremonies.

A house reception costs about 3.8 million yen, a little more than for a standard reception, but the business is growing, according to the firm.

Ravis President Katsumi Ishizaka said that the facilities enjoy a good reputation not only among young friends of married couples but also older guests, some of whom said they felt very much at ease.

House wedding receptions account for about 15 percent of all receptions, indicating their recent rise in popularity, according to a survey by the wedding reception industry.

Travel agents are also increasingly arranging packages that include marriage ceremonies abroad, airline tickets and hotel reservations for newlyweds and guests.

One such company, under the wing of JTB Corp., opened JTB Wedding Plaza Minami Aoyama in Minato Ward, Tokyo, in March.

Its cozy second-floor office faces a street lined with boutiques and a small counter and space for brides to try on wedding dresses.

Six specially selected wedding coordinators, who underwent yearlong training courses, are available by appointment and respond to the needs of customers.

Manager Hisashi Namiki said: “For instance, we listen to our customers who want to be married in a church on a hill along the seashore, where they can look out on the horizon. We’ll work out a concrete plan based on that image.”

Hawaii, Guam and Europe are their popular destinations.

The office also helps couples arrange combinations of dresses and jewelry, after-wedding dining with guests and then parties following their return home. Its customers are high income earners, including doctors and lawyers in their 30s.

It is geared to receive orders from 150 couples this fiscal year and 360 couples in fiscal 2008.