You can’t put a price on love, but Japan does put a price on how much you should give a newlywed couple.

Japan doesn’t have wedding gift registries. That’s because the expectation is that when guests come to celebrate the newlywed couple, they’ll give cash instead of, say, a toaster or coffeemaker. On the one hand, this saves you the trouble of having to go shopping if you get invited to a wedding. However, the rules of etiquette are pretty clear on how much you’re supposed to give: 30,000 yen (roughly US$200).

That might not seem too steep for a close friend or relative, but 30,000 is the expectation regardless of your relationship to the bride and groom. Moderately friendly coworker? 30,000 yen. Old college classmate you’ve sort of drifted apart from? 30,000 yen. Oh, and that’s 30,000 yen per person in your party; if you’re attending the wedding as a couple, you and your significant other are each supposed to give that much.

Those factors muddy the waters as to whether or not 30,000 yen is too much, so to get a better feel for attendees’ opinions, Rexit, an online wedding planning portal, conducted an Internet survey, collecting responses from 361 men and women, 38.7 percent of whom were between the ages of 20 and 29. When those 20-somethings were asked “Do you think 30,000 yen is expensive for a wedding gift?”, 64.3 percent said “Yes, that’s expensive.”

With the current weak value of the yen versus foreign currencies, 30,000 yen may not sound like all that much when converted into U.S. dollars. However, to illustrate that 30,000 yen is nothing to sneeze at for those getting paid in yen, 2023 statistics from Japan’s national tax agency shows that the average income in Japan for people aged 20 to 24 is 2,730,000 yen, and for those 25 to 29 it’s 3,890,000. What’s more, when the 20-to-29-year-old respondents in the survey were asked how much of their income they put into savings, 73 percent said they save 30,000 yen or less monthly.

Savings per month
● No savings: 19 percent
● Under 5,000 yen: 15 percent
● 5,000-10,000 yen: 18 percent
● 10,000-30,000 yen: 21 percent
● 30,000-50,000 yen: 10 percent
● 50,000-70,000 yen: 7 percent
● Over 70,000 yen: 10 percent

The financial strain can be especially tough for young Japanese people if they have a series of friends or other social acquaintances all getting married in their 20s, especially if they’re clustered around the same time in fall and spring, the popular wedding seasons.

There are a few silver linings to all this. One is that, in keeping with traditional Japanese gift-giving customs, the bride and groom will often give some sort of “in-return gift” to their guests, such as fancy confectionaries, hand towels, or tableware, as a token of their appreciation. Another is that partially due to the expected 30,000 yen, Japanese spouses-to-be are often a little more selective with their wedding guest list. It’s understood that the invitation comes bundled with a financial burden, so you’re unlikely to get invited to, say, your second cousin’s daughter’s wedding three prefectures over. And last, there’s no social stigma about showing up to a wedding dateless in Japan, so you’re unlikely to get roped into going along to a wedding for your significant other’s acquaintance who you’ve got no personal connection to, since they can just go by themselves.

Still, even with all that, 30,000 yen feels like a lot to the 20-somethings who responded to the survey, so it’s likely that even though they’re being sincere when they tell the bride and groom “Congratulations!”, deep down inside they’re probably also thinking “Man, this is costing a lot.”

Source: PR Times
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Pakutaso
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