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From home ceremonies to livestreams, Japan wedding venues evolve due to pandemic

KKR Hotel Kanazawa offers equipment for guests to take group photos by themselves. (Photo courtesy of KKR Hotel Kanazawa)

KANAZAWA -- Hotels and other wedding venues in the central Japan region of Hokuriku are evolving to adapt to the coronavirus as many couples have postponed their big celebration due to the pandemic.

    Numerous couples that had planned wedding ceremonies have been affected by the spread of COVID-19. According to a survey by Japan's popular wedding magazine Zexy, some 80% of ceremonies that had been planned in the Hokuriku region for April and May last year, when a nationwide state of emergency was issued, were forced to be put off.

    The survey was conducted on 43 wedding venues in three prefectures in the Hokuriku region. While the number of ceremonies postponed or canceled has been decreasing since last summer, the venues are offering creative wedding plans such as livestreaming ceremonies for those who cannot attend, according to Zexy's publisher Recruit Marketing Partners Co., based in Tokyo's Shinagawa Ward.

    Taisuke Akasaka, 29, and his wife Tsugumi, 29, of Tsubata, Ishikawa Prefecture, decided on their wedding date in autumn 2019. But as the coronavirus spread around the world, the couple wavered between holding the ceremony as planned and calling it off, while considering cancellation fees.

    At their ceremony eventually held at KKR Hotel Kanazawa in the city of Kanazawa in November 2020, thorough measures were taken to prevent infections. In addition to having guests disinfect their hands multiple times, participants also put name cards enclosed with the invitations into a box at the venue, instead of having them sign a guest book at the wedding registration table, so that guests could avoid coming into contact with each other as much as possible. The actual number of guests was reduced by half, including family members and friends, from the initially planned 100 to almost only those who live in the prefecture. Though the format for the ceremony was different from what initially planned, the couple said they were satisfied, saying that there was a time when they almost gave up in desperation, but they are really happy to have held the ceremony.

    Guests at the wedding ceremony of Taisuke and Tsugumi Akasaka are seen taking measures to prevent coronavirus infections such as wearing masks. (Photo courtesy of the Akasakas)

    The hotel has strengthened coronavirus countermeasures after it was hugely affected by cancellations and postponements of all 15 wedding ceremonies that had been planned for April and May 2020 and other factors. It has since expanded the size of reception halls and installed signs urging guests to refrain from pouring drinks for people at other tables. The hotel has also prepared equipment for newlyweds and guests to take group photos by themselves and is urging people to use the devices, instead of having hotel staff take photos with guests' cameras and smartphones.

    Meanwhile, the eloquent Japanese-style restaurant Shogetsu in the city of Toyama has created a "home wedding" plan, which is basically the same as a ceremony at the restaurant but held at the newlyweds' home. The restaurant's representative says there is no difference between the ceremonies held at their venue and at home. "We'd like to help those who have almost given up amid the coronavirus pandemic to hold wedding ceremonies," they commented.

    Yasuhiro Tatsushima, bridal manager at KKR Hotel Kanazawa, pointed out that the purpose and essence of ceremonies never change throughout the ages. He said, "We can offer all sorts of options. We hope people come to us anytime for consultations so that we can inspire them."

    (Japanese original by Chinatsu Ide, Hokuriku General Bureau)

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