Wedding services catering to all needs, including ‘shotgun’ nuptials

by Asako Takaguchi

Kyodo

A wedding is a major event in life but many couples are unable to hold marriage ceremonies for economic and other reasons.

To help such couples make their wish come true, a variety of new types of wedding services are becoming available.

Minnano Wedding Co., a Tokyo-based company operating websites where people can exchange information about wedding ceremonies, opened a site in January mainly for couples marrying during brides’ pregnancies.

The “Maternity Wedding” service offers wedding plans based on estimated delivery dates, including a ceremony with no banquet to ease the burden on pregnant brides, a wide lineup of wedding dresses for them and use of wedding halls with nursery facilities.

Last November, Minnano Wedding also set up an office in Tokyo’s Ginza shopping district, staffed with experts on “shotgun weddings” giving face-to-face advice to visitors.

Based on data from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the company found that marriages due to pregnancy accounted for about 20 percent of all marriages in 2009 and 60 percent of those involving couples aged 20 to 24.

Many such couples avoided wedding ceremonies due largely to time-consuming preparations amid limited time before childbirth.

Couples should not give up on ceremonies as there are various wedding services, including special meals for pregnant brides, said Ryuta Kosuge, a spokesman for the company.

Mation Inc. began low-cost services in 2009, setting the minimum required cost at ¥168,000 and covering other costs with gift money from guests.

More than 8,000 couples have married through Mation’s “Smart Wedding” service to date.

While a survey by the Zexy Wedding Magazine found that wedding ceremonies and banquets cost an average of ¥3.43 million in fiscal 2011, the average cost of services by Mation was ¥2 million, although a simple comparison should be avoided due to different kinds of services involved.

Inexpensive wedding services by Mation are possible as the firm does not operate wedding facilities on its own but has tied up with some 300 well-known wedding halls and restaurants across Japan, which accept ceremonies and banquets arranged by the Tokyo-based company in order to raise their facility operating rates.

The health ministry estimates that some 669,000 couples married in 2012, down nearly 40 percent from the peak in 1972, amid the falling birthrate.

Now that the market for wedding services has reached a ceiling and will likely keep shrinking, a wider variety of services will be made available, making it more important than before for couples to compare them and find the best mix in terms of costs and programs.