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In Japan, the act of getting married isn’t really all that exciting. I don’t mean that weddings here aren’t memorable affairs, as they’re packed with all the joy and emotion you’d expect (and sometimes the video game references and crazy cakes you wouldn’t). The ceremonies held at churches, shrines, and wedding halls in Japan don’t constitute a legal union, though.

The only way to be officially hitched is to turn in a marriage application, called a konintodoke, to your local ward office or city hall, where you and your beloved will be pronounced husband and wife with all the stirring pageantry that goes along with a clerk stamping his authorization on the paperwork. When my wife and I submitted ours, the clerk offhandedly told us “Otsukaresama,” more or less “Thanks for stopping by,” instead of “Congratulations.”

Thankfully, there’s now a way to add a little color to the otherwise bland proceedings, with a new line of artistic marriage applications that’re not only approved for official use across Japan, but also free!

For reference, here’s what a standard konintodoke looks like.

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Clear, efficient, and completely devoid of any distracting embellishments, this would be a perfectly fitting design for, say, a tax return, or maybe a bank loan application. For the starting line of a couple’s life together, though, it’s pretty lifeless.

That’s a criticism you can’t make here, though.

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That heart-filled marriage application comes from Konintodoke Seisakujo, or Design Konintodoke Shop. The online store opened on November 22, Japan’s unofficial “Happy Spouses Day”. The documents it provides, though, are completely official, and can be submitted at any of the government offices in Japan that authorize marriages.

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Of course they have cherry blossom patterns!

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▼ And plum blossoms, too

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The site has over 100 unique konintodoke to choose from, with looks ranging from playful and cute to understated and elegant. Of course, part of getting married means giving up your free-wheeling single lifestyle, and many brides and grooms-to-be adopt more conservative spending habits. Setting up a new household can be expensive, so is this really the time to be throwing money away on frivolities like fancy marriage applications?

Actually, Design Konintodoke Shop’s wares don’t have to cost you a single yen. All of the designs can be downloaded free of charge, then printed out at the legally accepted A3 size (297 X 420 millimeters, or 11.7 X 16.5 inches).

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Alternatively, you can have Design Konintodoke Shop do the printing and mail your order to you a week later. Ordinarily, 1,000 yen (US$8.70) gets you two A3 applications, plus an additional commemorative konintodoke in A4 size (210 X 297 millimeters, or 8.3 X 11.7 inches).

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▼ On this konintodoke, the bluebird of happiness is joined by the cardinal of…more happiness.

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To celebrate the shop’s opening, though, for a limited time the three-paper set’s price has been reduced to just 500 yen. So not only do you and your sweetheart get to make registering your marriage seem a little more special, you’ll also got an extra 500 yen for your future together.

▼ If you chose this design, we figure you can put the money towards sunblock on your tropical honeymoon.

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Related: Design Konintodoke Shop
Top image: Design Konintodoke Shop
Insert images: Rappoart K, Design Konintodoke Shop
[ Read in Japanese ]