Before we start on the confusing but beautiful Shinto wedding rituals, there are some basic things you need to know. Shinto is one of the two big religions here in Japan. The concept of Shinto is Yaoyorozu, this literally means 8 million. In Japan the number 8 is used for big things, in this case 8 million means infinite. It shows that with Shinto you don’t believe in just one god. God is in everything that’s alive, so nature as well.

So, the wedding. When a couple decides to get married in a shrine, it means that there are rituals that need to be done. When walking up to the shrine there are the maidens of the shrine, followed by the couple and then close family follows. This part is called Sanshin, it’s kind of similar to walking down the aisle as we know it.
Then the people attending the wedding take place in the shrine. There is an order people have to sit in. The couple has to sit closest to god, the woman sitting on the left and the man on the right side of the god. The family of the couple is seated next to them. This part is called Haiden Chakuza. Then there is Shubatsu. This means the priest will purify the couple. In Shinto people are unconsciously committing sins in their daily life, and so the wedding can’t start without the couple being purified.
Then the couple, as well as the family, bows down to god. The priest will give an offering to the couple that they can hand over to the god so the couple is welcomed.

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  • The maidens walk the couple up to the Shrine in traditional kimonos.

Eventually the couple will make a sacred vow by drinking sacred sake. This is Sankon no gi, the woman drinks first, followed by the man. Then the maiden will dance to the gods and gain favour for the couple.
Then there is Shinzoku Sakazsuki no gi, this is to create a bond between both families. The families of the bride and groom all drink their glass of sacred sake. Then everybody bows down and the marriage is official.

As we were in the Hie Shrine we got to witness multiple Shinto marriages. We concluded that it’s not even comparable to weddings as we know them. There is no “first kiss”, no applause or personal vows. This is completely focused on the gods.

Since taking photos and videos is not-done in a Shrine, we recorded the music. The music was played by three munks. If you’re wondering what the clapping sound is inbetween, people continue their prayer to the gods. That means that they bow down twice, and then clap their hands twice.