First, if you're looking for ways to dontate to help Japan through the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disasters, here are some links. I know the Red Cross is really popular, but if you want to do something different:
Peace Winds Japan
Good Neighbors International
Google's Relief Page (links to Japanese Red Cross)
I haven't researched those organizations yet, so let me know if you get to it first.
Here's a repost of my article on Japanese Wedding Customs
First, what is Shinto?
Shinto is a general term for the activities of the Japanese people to worship all the deities of heaven and earth, and its origin is as old as the history of the Japanese.
Shinto is characterized by the worship of nature, ancestors, polytheism, and animism, with a strong focus on ritual purity, involving honoring and celebrating the existence of Kami (spirits). Shinto is a religion in where practice (actions) and ritual are of the utmost importance rather than words.
A couple enters the shrine
When a Japanese couple gets engaged, the man may give his fiancee an engagement ring, but the couple also exchanges nine lucky objects to symbolize their happiness:
Awabi (abalone): for good wishes
Kinpo-zutsumi: a ceremonial amount of money
Katsuabushi (dried bonito) and surume (dried cuttlefish): preserved foods that symbolize lasting quality
Yanagidaru: cash specifically for purchasing sake (rice wine)
Suehiro: a fan as a symbol of happiness
Konbu: kelp to ensure fertility and a healthy family
Tomoshiraga: linen thread to signify strong ties in married life
Mokuroku: a list of the lucky objects
The bride and groom are dressed in white and black silk
Traditional Shinto Style Ceremony:
The Shinto ceremony takes place at a shrine, performed before a Shinto sanctuary and conducted by a Shinto priest. Many hotels and restaurants are equipped with a special room with miniature Shinto shrines located inside where the couple can perform their marriage vows to the 'Kamisama' (god). The ceremony first begins by purifying the couple. After the purification and vows are performed the bride and groom exchange cups of sake (rice wine) in the 'san-san-kudo' (three-times-three) ceremony as part of their wedding vows that symbolizes not only the union of two people, but also the uniting of two families. To close the ceremony, symbolic offerings of small tree twigs called sakaki are given to the 'Kamisama'
Most guests wear Western attire
All photo credits go to Patrick Leong from China. Xie xie!