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Shinto Weddings at Meiji Shrine

Meiji Shrine gets a lot of visitors.  There are people who go there to pray, many tourists wanting to see the what the place is all about, people going there to get married and other people to see those marriages.  The marriages there are in the Shinto style and can be easily watched and photographed. Well, the ceremony itself is private so you won’t be able to view those, but you can photograph the wedding processions.

A wedding ceremony has just finished and the couple are now about to proceed across the courtyard on their way out

For the greatest chance to see a wedding procession during your visit, you should look online for a calendar that show rokyuo (i.e. days that are either good or bad fortune).The best one is tai-an (大安)..  If you can be there on one that one, especially if it is on a weekend, you’ll have a very good chance of seeing one.  Actually, there are also several other types of days like ones that are bad luck, or only lucky before or after certain times, so most couples plan their wedding days according to the calendar.  But having said that, many shrines, will offer discounts on the unlucky days to keep business coming in, so don’t be surprised to see a wedding on butsumetsu, the unluckiest of unlucky days.  Even on a weekday it is not unknown to see a wedding at the shrine.

The wedding processions, are very solemn.  Whenever I’ve been there, they are led by two priests, two miko (the shrine maidens), followed by the couple who are under a red umbrella, several attendants who look after the bride, and finally the family and friends.  You’ll see these entering the courtyard of the shrine, just in front of the main hall and then once the ceremonies are finished, you’ll see them again as they leave.  When they appear visitors to the shrine line the route and start taking pictures. It is quite a spectacle.

One thing to remember that is quite important to remember is that when you are photographing a marriage procession is that it very easy to get lost in the moment and forget where you are actually standing.  By this I mean it’s very important to keep out of the way. Don’t creep forward trying to get that perfect picture as you might block the procession. I’ve been caught out myself several times because I go so focused on just taking pictures I didn’t realise that the wedding party was passing very close to me.  Luckily though, there is staff in the courtyard whose job it is to announce the comings and goings of parades, and will give you a polite warning if you get to close.

There are many shrines around Tokyo that offer wedding ceremonies, but Meiji shrine offers you the best opportunity to see one.  I highly recommend it. You can see the shrine’s website here.