RD 1

While some couples in Japan opt for traditional Japanese-style wedding ceremonies, most choose to get married in the Western fashion. The nuptials are usually held in a secular wedding hall, but much of the décor and pageantry from Christian ceremonies carries over, such as statues of angels, readings from the Bible, and singing choirs.

Fittingly, most Japanese brides wear a wedding dress for their special day. One key difference, though, is that in Japan hardly anybody buys their dress.

At first, this seems kind of counterintuitive. Japan isn’t exactly known for thriftiness when it comes to fashion, as evidenced by the many women you’ll see with Louis Vuitton purses, not to mention the elementary school kids with 50,000-yen (US$490) backpacks.

Nevertheless, when it comes time to choose a wardrobe for the big day, the vast majority of Japanese women select something from a bank of rental dresses maintained by whichever wedding hall they’re having their ceremony at. Even more surprising is that these rental dresses don’t always come cheap. Prices vary depending on the exact design and material, but dresses that tack an extra 150,000 yen ($1,450) onto the bill aren’t unheard of.

RD 3

To people raised in cultures where buying a dress is the norm, this may seem to be the worst of both worlds. Hopefully, your wedding will be a once-in-a-lifetime event. All else equal, buying a dress seems more appropriate for such a special occasion, especially since the rental doesn’t seem particularly cheap.

Actually, though, there’re some pretty significant savings to be had by renting, precisely because that’s the route most people choose to take. Some budget wedding halls have a small selection of rental dresses included in the base cost of their most moderately-priced packages, and even when they don’t, the fact that so few Japanese brides choose to buy means there really isn’t much of a consumer wedding dress industry in Japan, and much of what is available is high-priced. In the past few years, wedding dress fairs where outfits can be purchased for 80,000 yen or less have seen a bump in their popularity, but they’re still the exception rather than the rule.

RD 2

As a matter of fact, some Japanese women we spoke to said that the very reason they want to rent their wedding dress is because of how important the ceremony is. Obviously, if we’re talking about the exact same item, it’s cheaper to rent than it is to buy. Just as there are companies that rent high-end sports cars to drivers who could never afford to buy one, choosing to rent a wedding dress gives the bride access to designers and quality far beyond what she could purchase at that price point.

Sure, she’ll have to give it back at the end of the day, but if everything goes according to plan, she won’t be wearing it again anyway.

Top image: Atelier Luce
Insert images: Wedding no Are Kore, Atelier Luce
[ Read in Japanese ]