In America, when one thinks of a wedding dress, their mind tends to race toward the princess gown with the flowing train and several layers of chiffon and poof. Beads and sequins adorning the American bride, she is usually incredibly uncomfortable in the “dress of her dreams”, but it is tradition.
In Japan, the fortunate bride feels comfortable and looks lovely in a simple white kimono for the actual wedding ceremony, in addition to her entire body being painted white. She then changes into a kimono of bright and celebratory colors for the reception. The kimono for the ceremony is pure and demure, and once the ceremony is over, elaborate and breathtaking brocade adorn the dress for the celebration.
The white Japanese wedding dress that is worn during the ceremony is called the shiro-maku. There is another version of this dress called the shito-maku which is a longer dress that must be held up while walking. Both dresses are always made of white silk. The bride wears what is called a tsuno-kakushiover upon her head, much like the American bride wears the traditional veil. In Japan the wearing of this head piece is a symbol of her willingness to enter into marriage and submit to her role as a wife. The words tsuno-kakushiover literally translates into “hide horns”
The Japanese wedding dress does not resemble the Western world’s ideal wedding dress at all. If anything you may see an American bride looking more like a Japanese bride right before her wedding, wearing a silk robe, as she prepares to be slid into the many layers of fabric and buttoned and sucked into a gown that will make her feel like a queen but in utter discomfort. Many an American bride has been heard saying “I can’t wait to get this thing OFF!” (on the subject of her wedding gown). Thousands of dollars are spent, and then she gets the gown dry-cleaned and it goes in a box in a closet somewhere, possibly to be worn again by an ancestor but more than likely not (since Americans are so fickle about fashion as well). In Japan, the bride is comfortable with no extreme adornments or beading and no elaborate patterns. Simple white is her attire in her beautiful Japanese gown.
Once the ceremony is complete, the bride places a brightly colored Japanese wedding dress over the top of her white one, symbolizing celebration, as she moves on to her reception.