22.5% of food left uneaten at Japanese wedding parties

That’s a whole course! Maybe for my wedding party I should volunteer 1/5 of my wedding meals to get sent to North Korea.

Other stats from this Shukan Toyo Keizai article:

Average cost of a wedding: more than 3 million yen (US$25,000) in 2006. The cost of weddings has been rising since 2003, when the Japanese economy started turning around. (Source: wedding planning site Zexy.net)

Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries (MAFF) researched how much food is left uneated at wedding parties (披露宴 routinely make up 3/4 of the cost of an entire wedding) by surveying 40 wedding halls nationwide. The figure of 22.5% (19.2% when you exclude drinks) is light-years away from the amount of food left uneaten at home (1.1% according to a 2005 survey) or in restaurants (3.1% as of 2006). And it’s a high percentage even compared to food at regular banquet-style parties (宴会) that offer alcohol, 15.2% of which goes to waste.

Perhaps that has something to do with the sheer amount of food served at wedding parties, which is averages an enormous 2230g — almost four times the average 600g served at cafeterias and restaurants. That means people who simply can’t finish more than what they usually eat in an entire day are wasting an entire meal’s worth of food, or 500g.

Why so much food? The STK conjectures that since people want to give their guests the best possible service, it’s either become a tradition or people are trying to be ostentatious by offering more food than necessary. But as someone planning a wedding party myself, I think the most obvious explanation is that the event halls need to justify charging 10,000 yen per plate plus open bar charges.

20 thoughts on “22.5% of food left uneaten at Japanese wedding parties”

  1. Just have your wedding at Bikkuri Donkey and let your guests pay for their own meals. You might even get yours thrown in if you are lucky!

  2. I absolutely deplore the conspicuous consumption at Japanese weddings. I realize that it is the “custom” to do these horrendous hotel weddings, but that “custom” is not that old. I wish that more people were more skeptical about their media consumption overall.

  3. My wife still complains that she didn’t get a chance to eat any of her wedding cake due to too many dress changes and other carry ons!

    Oh, and I leave most of my food anyway as the vege option is unheard of. Our wedding place even charged me extra for my veggie food…

  4. As much as I love Japan, I can’t help but feel that Japanese weddings are a form of collective masochism, kind of like group tours where you’re forced to spend your valuable vacation time listening to some dork babble into the microphone at the front of the bus as if [s]he’s actually entertaining

  5. I am wondering how much of that 22.5% is reused, uneaten the next time, and then reused again. Is there one course that no one touches? I’m reminded of a restaurant in my hometown that used to reuse their mixed vegetable side because few people ever ate it.

  6. The average cost of a wedding probably has been rising – albeit most of the data comes from wedding planners who have an interest in talking their own book. In the spirit of kakusa shakai, though, it is very possible that the extra spending is almost all on higher-end weddings with little or no increase for lower income families. That would make the mean spend less useful as a guide to general trends.

    One factor behind the higher food wastage might be the wide range of age groups represented compared with another kind of party. Granny probably won’t eat as much as the groom’s mates but gets the same portion. At one wedding venue I attended recently, there really wasn’t time to eat everything since each party was being ushered through on a tight timetable. It didn’t help that we were eating a full course dinner at 11:00am. Add to that the number of people at a wedding who have speeches to make or responsibility to make sure things go smoothly and you probably have a fair number whose appetites are less healthy than usual.

    Still, that’s a lot of food being served up.

  7. That’s the hard thing about averages isn’t it?

    My own wedding is coming in way way below that average, just to give one example. The amount of uneaten food might come in around the numbers cited though.

  8. I polished off all of my food at my Japanese wedding. My wife left about 22.5% of her food and I ate that too….

  9. I definitely cleaned my plate at the Japanese wedding I was at recently. And I think Adam and Joe (who were also there) probably finished theirs as well.

    I’ve noticed there are two brand new absolutely massive and disgustingly “fancy” wedding halls in Kyoto just within the past year-one built on either side of Kamogawa, although several blocks apart in the north/south direction. One of them, which is right on the riverbank north of Pontocho, has hung an absolutely massive banner down below street level towards the river, which is easily the single biggest and most distracting banner/sign along the entire length of the river. Hopefully this is one of the behaviors banned by those new regulations they’ve been talking about here…

  10. Any wedding I have been to I have done my best to tilt that average as well. Especially with the money you are paying (even as a guest), you want to get several days’ worth of calories in you. Mind you, I never really thought there was a LOT of food. Rather the reverse, and I’ve been to several.

    Mulboyne may be on track – everyone is too busy making speeches and doing silly presentations to eat….

  11. Well, we weren’t exactly at a Japanese wedding… just a wedding being held in Japan. The usual script was not being followed.

    Roy, you gotta post one of our group photos!

  12. That’s the only wedding I’ve been to all year myself.

    Actually, it’s only the second wedding I’ve been to in Japan, and the first was a Buddhist style wedding held in Nanzenji, which is pretty unusual.

  13. 3 million? No way. At least, not as an average. When I did my wedding ‘research’ in early 2005, only Okura, New Otani, Park Hyatt and Grand Hyatt easily topped the 3 million mark. Others would with options, but most places rang in about half a million to a million less than that. And many young couples go for much, much cheaper stuff (I know one that got away with about 800,000 yen). I wonder if that’s supposed to be the average hotel wedding cost?

    Bear in mind, 2 changes of clothes for the bride can run 500,000 yen at the top places.

  14. Well, that’s Zexy talking — that could just be the average of what their customers spend, while the rest of the public is much more frugal.

  15. I certainly didn’t get to finish all the food that was presented at the last wedding I was at, however that could be for many reasons other than large portions. 😉

  16. Ken won’t say it, but his wedding was at one of the swankier places in town and most, if not all, stops were pulled. If he didn’t spend 3 million, someone would have to go out of their way to do so. I dropped a bit shy of 2 million on mine and think that was a bit of prison love.

    I noticed one thing about weddings in Japan, and that’s that the entire process has very little to do with the people getting married. Especially if you’re a Western man, you’re not going to leave the process thinking the to-do and price tag were worth it. That said, a wedding in Japan is a living, breathing creature that will be what it will be – beyond the control of you or the missus – just ride along and try to get as many drinks in as you can.

    At my own wedding, the part I liked best was when, sitting in the dressing room, having a beer with the two newly united families after the party, as my wife got changed, the headwaiter called me into the next room, where my wife and I were served all the food we hadn’t been able to touch during the reception itself.

    Then we got to rush over to the nijikai, where I got to miss out on a bunch of food again.

  17. Well, that’s Zexy talking—that could just be the average of what their customers spend, while the rest of the public is much more frugal.

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