Are Japanese couples spending more or less on their weddings during the current recession? For the answer the J-media have unsurprisingly turned to their corporate overlords, but this time it looks like they have been given mixed signals:
- Back in April, some of you might have seen news suggesting Japanese couples are going for more “bare bones” wedding arrangements. Specifically, the story profiles Nagano-based The Y’s (it’s a pun) is offering “photo-only” and other no-frills wedding packages for bargain prices starting at 50,000 yen. The story notes that the first such service originated in Kyoto in 1997 and now about a dozen companies nationwide administer more than 4,500 weddings (0.62% of the 723,113 weddings that took place in 2008).
- More recently, Recruit-affiliated wedding information site Zexy has released its Marriage Trend Survey 2008 (PDF). The headline figure? While the total amount spent on weddings dropped slightly from 2007, the cost of each individual wedding has gone up. The biggest reason survey participants noted as to why they held a ceremony and afterparty was to express thanks to the people in their lives.
So does that mean the recession pushes people to spend more or less (or the same) on their weddings? J-Cast seems to think data like this reflect Japan’s growing economic disparity. The key to explaining this disparity, they argue, lies in whether a couple’s parents helped pay for the wedding. Recruit’s data shows that 78% of couples did have parental support, so perhaps the other 22% had no choice but to settle for less.
I have no data to back me up (not the first time), but I suspect that weddings can be somewhat recession-resilient. Though weddings can be expensive, if you invite enough people they will bring more than enough ご祝儀 (cash gifts) to make up for the cost. Some couples even profit from the exchange (though that means they will have to attend many of the guests’ own weddings later on).
Obviously, that could still mean the poorer sections of society have to settle for less, for a lot of reasons. Without parental support, a young couple is unlikely to have the cash that’s needed up front to make deposits or pay bills ahead of time. Also, poorer couples have poorer friends, limiting the amount of financial support they can ask for. And at any rate there is a recent trend of a rising number of shotgun marriages (estimates range from 26.8%-40% of new marriages), which can make it socially difficult to hold a big celebration due to the shame involved.