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Eastern Japan venue to offer online weddings amid virus pandemic

A chapel with a Gothic-style altar is seen in Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture. (Mainichi)

MITO -- A wedding hall in this eastern Japan city is set to provide an online wedding ceremony service amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, allowing families and other attendants to celebrate the bride and groom from home.

The move comes amid a spate of cancellations or postponements of wedding ceremonies in Japan out of consideration for potential viral transmission risks among participants, which has led to a plunge in the revenue of the wedding industry.

In a bid to turn the tide, St. Graviss, a wedding venue in the city of Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, began soliciting applicants for online wedding ceremonies in mid-May. Ceremony "participants" can remotely watch the bride and groom enter the chapel in formal attire, exchange marriage vows and put on rings, among other scenes to be filmed and livestreamed by staff. Upon request, the ceremonies can be physically attended by religious figures and some relatives. The operator is also considering streaming the wedding reception, including the newlyweds cutting a wedding cake and the groom's address to well-wishers.

Among other plans under consideration is delivering banquet dishes to celebrants' homes in advance so that they can enjoy meals at the same time while watching the wedding ceremony unfold online, to create a more realistic feeling and a sense of unity. The details of each wedding plan can be adjusted after listening to couples' requests. The online weddings will be offered at a cheaper price than conventional services, according to the operator, though the price may vary depending on the content of each plan.

Prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus in Japan, St. Graviss used to host wedding ceremonies almost every weekend. However, after the spread of virus infections, the venue saw a string of cancellations and postponements of wedding rites, and since the end of March it has organized no weddings.

Following the lifting of the national government's state of emergency declaration for Ibaraki Prefecture and other areas, St. Graviss resumed venue tours for prospective customers in mid-May, but it has received no reservations for regular marriage ceremonies through June. The operator is also offering online consultations and meetings for potential users.

Chisa Yamaoka, manager of the venue, said, "We came up with the idea of online weddings as a solution for postponed or cancelled wedding ceremonies. We also propose holding ceremonies online and later having wedding receptions once the coronavirus crisis settles. We'd also like those who cannot defer their marriage ceremonies to consider using our services."

For more information, call St. Graviss at: 029-309-7161.

(Japanese original by Toru Morinaga, Mito Bureau)

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