5 surprising differences between Singaporean (Chinese) and Japanese Weddings


Last Updated on 2016-05-19 , 1:43 pm

Japan has consistently been one of Singaporeans’ top travel destinations, illustrating our fascination with the Land of the Rising Sun. Many of us love Japan because we admire how the Japanese hold steadfast to their traditions even while absorbing Western influences. Western-style Japanese weddings best illustrate how the Japanese “borrows” Western customs, gives them a new twist and infuses them into their traditional practices. So how are Chinese weddings in Singapore different from such weddings in Japan? Let’s read on to find out!

1. Tea Ceremony vs Wedding Chapel Walk

On the morning of the wedding day, the Singaporean couple will typically perform a tea ceremony before their wedding reception, first at the bride’s home and then at the groom’s home. This ceremony involves them demonstrating respect by serving tea to both sets of parents. The parents will accept the tea graciously to show how they have accepted their son-in-law or daughter-in-law, and give a hongbao (red packet) to the couple as a blessing of good fortune.

In Japan, however, no such display of filial piety is required. Before their wedding reception, most Japanese couples will celebrate their union at a wedding chapel, never mind that Christians only make up of 1% of Japan’s population. Perhaps this is so because of the fantasy held by many women who long to be walked down the aisle at a gorgeous chapel, busking in the admiration of family and friends. The religious aspect of Christianity isn’t that important. In fact, it is often neglected as white men are hired to be priests, even if they are not ordained!

2. Chinese Cuisine vs Foreign Cuisine

At least part of the reason of organizing a wedding in Singapore is the need to satisfy the elders, so Chinese weddings will feature Chinese cuisine without exception because it is food that will whet the elders’ appetite and satisfy their palate. This is especially so, when the Chinese words for various foods have auspicious meanings and will bring good luck to the happy couple. For instance, lobster and chicken are called “dragon shrimp” and “phoenix” in Chinese—serving both of them together at a wedding banquet indicates that the male dragon and female phoenix are fused together as one.

Western-style Japanese weddings don’t serve up Japanese cuisine. Perhaps this is because Japanese people view foreign things as cool and fashionable. Serving foreign cuisine will evoke stylish vibes, which would be befitting of a momentous occasion like a wedding. As many Japanese people love Italian cuisine, wedding houses thoughtfully provide Italian-style dishes that not only look aesthetically pleasing but taste fantabulous.

3. Congratulatory Speeches

The workplace is a very integral part of a working Japanese’s life and many Japanese people don’t necessarily distinguish between “professional time” and “private time” as they gather together with their colleagues for drinking sessions after work. Such close ties can be witnessed at a Japanese wedding when not only a representative from the groom’s workplace, but also a staff member from the bride’s workplace, will be given the platform to deliver congratulatory speeches to the couple. What’s more, Japanese couples often have to think carefully about securing two speakers who are roughly equal in status. Getting one speaker who is obviously more senior than the other will result in a “power imbalance” between the groom’s and bride’s families, thus causing one family to lose face. This will not be desirable.


Neither the groom’s boss nor the bride’s superior has to give a speech at a Singaporean wedding. Period.

4. Kampai first, yum seng later

Noteworthy events are marked with ceremony in Japan, so it’s no wonder that someone will be tasked to give a toast at the beginning of the reception to express thanks to the guests for gracing the occasion and convey best wishes to the couple. This designated “cheers” leader will then shout out “Kampai! (Bottoms up!)”, upon which everyone clinks their glasses together and gets the party started. This chorus of “Kampai!” may come as a relief to some guests as they have been itching to drink but have no choice but to hold themselves in. (No one touches their champagne before the “Kampai!”)

Shouting cheers by way of a “Yum Seng” in a Singaporean wedding is more boisterous than its Japanese equivalent. In fact, immediate family members as well as close friends of the couple are often invited on stage first so that they can ‘rara’ the crowd to yell loud enough to bring the roof down. “Yum Seng” is then toasted three times, each time louder than the previous. Perhaps this is why “Yum Seng” is typically done towards the end of the reception so that the atmosphere is hyped up into a rousing finale.

5. Performance Items

Compared to Singapore, Japan is more of a group-oriented society. This is a fundamental tenet that is illustrated in how Japanese couples often want to organize their reception in the style of Kyōyūkon, or Shared Wedding. Conscious about making the reception less about themselves and more about their guests, Japanese couples often get their friends to put up dance and/or song items and encourage everyone else to join in the festivities.

Wedding guests in Singapore are luckier in the sense that they are not expected to perform in front of everyone else. On the contrary, with many Singaporean couples thoughtfully providing a photo booth corner these days, their guests can step away from the reception hall and ham it up for the camera with innovative props—away from the attention of others!

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