Japanese art and culture are so distinctive that a wedding party with this theme is just brimming with decorative possibilities. To appreciate each artful detail, this motif works best for a small yet elegant gathering—your engagement dinner perhaps, a get-together for the in-laws-to-be, or an intimate bridesmaids’ luncheon. The event can be held at home, in a cozy restaurant, in a function room of a clubhouse, or at a penthouse condo. Whatever the venue or occasion, though, the overall look is key! Decor elements that definitely say Japan are combined with personal touches, stylish color choices and textures, and an element of surprise.
Say “Welcome to Japan” with an Elegant Tablescape
The stylishly simple table setting allows guests to appreciate every charming detail—glazed earthenware bowls and sleek wooden chopsticks, an origami place card holder, a kimono-shaped table number, and cherry blossom arrangements wrapped in rice paper.
Our design for this theme channels a modern, almost zen-like ambiance. Yet it’s infused with the fresh, springtime feel of Japan’s cherry blossom (“sakura”) viewing season called “ohanami”. The perfect color scheme for this setting? A sophisticated blend of pink, gold, and ivory.
For a centerpiece grouping, we arranged sprigs of faux cherry blossoms in square glass vases covered with textured rice paper. In the center, we positioned three tall rectangular vases wrapped with sinamay cleverly folded to mimic an obi. Hint: In place of sinamay, you may also use fabric or handmade paper.
Creating a table number with a catchy design was key to making a striking look. A black cardboard cutout of a kimono was given a rich bronze-like finish, using textured craft glue overlaid with gold paint. The bright red table number is tucked into a stylized belt of corrugated board and gold cord. Hint: Instead of a kimono shape, a gold paper fan would make a great table number holder, too.
The place settings follow the same design approach. We used earthenware bowls glazed in brown tones, wooden chopsticks with rests, and table napkins in a rich copper and gold striped pattern. Then, for place card holders, we crafted mini origami cranes from gold paper to show guests their seats. Hint: You could vary the card holder shapes at each place setting by referring to its Japanese name.
Craft Your Own Party Invitations
The options for party invitations with a touch of Japan are just as intriguing. And they can be DIY, too!
Echoing our table number designs, you could decorate cardboard cutouts of kimonos or paper fans, and print the party details on the reverse. Or you could prepare simple squares of textured card stock and finish each with an obi-inspired “sleeve” made from beautifully patterned Japanese paper (available at specialty stationery or craft supply stores). A third option would be to mount the printed party info on flat rectangular cards lined with Japanese patterned paper, then fold each closed with an origami figure as a “seal.” Any of these invites will have your guests looking forward to the upcoming party for sure!
Package Beautiful Favors and Gifts
Wow your guests with Japanese-inspired packaging for your party favors—filled with edible treats, like traditional wagashi sweets, okashi crackers, or crystal candies. A pretty organza wrap provides an elegant finishing touch!
The Japanese are hard to beat when it comes to elegant packaging! Rise to the challenge with attractive presentation ideas like these for your wedding party favors. Here, we enclosed some traditional sweets, called wagashi, in a kimono-inspired box that we then bundled up in a pretty pink fabric wrap. Wagashi come in a wide variety of shapes and flavors that are often crafted according to the season and are best enjoyed with a nice cup of green tea. To present these favors, simply display them by each place setting with a personalized favor tag that says “arigato” (“thank you”). You may even want to try your hand at Japanese calligraphy by writing “arigato” in hiragana “ありがとう.” Hint: Use pretty, decorative Japanese origami paper called “washi.” They come in a multitude of colors and patterns.
Other edible filling ideas may include Japanese tea cakes made of red bean, specialty cookies and crackers (called okashi), and an assortment of crystal candies. Hint: Many of these items are available at Asian food markets and at Japanese groceries.Package these treats in woven favor boxes tied with gold cord or wrapped in organza fabric to suit your party motif.
If you prefer to give non-edible favors, other wonderful ideas would be pairs of chopsticks, mobiles of origami figures, paper fans, glazed condiment or sauce dishes, or ceramic tea or sake cups. You can create customized gift boxes for these by wrapping ones you already have with Japanese patterned paper—the lids apart from the bottoms. That way, your guests can reuse them at home as handy desktop containers.
Serve Beverages that are Tasteful and Unique
Present the party drinks with equal style. Serve pink champagne or saketinis in elegant flutes, paired with flower-shaped coasters and accented with dainty sprigs of cherry blossoms.
For a truly surprising spin on the drinks, serve guests a refreshing and exotic collection of Japanese cocktails. For example, you can try saketinis, cocktails consisting of sake mixed with various liqueurs, juices, or distilled spirits such as gin or vodka. Imbibe Magazine has some interesting saketini recipes that you may want to try. Plum wine is also a popular drink that is served in chilled cups or glasses. And when you’re ready to make a toast, raise your glasses and say “kampai” (meaning “cheers”).
As for non-alcoholic drinks, you can also offer refreshing iced green teas with a fruity infusion of orange, lychee, or yuzu. Iced matcha tea lattes are sure to be a crowd pleaser as well. Serve these drinks in chic and shapely glasses, together with lots of ice and pretty garnishes.
Set the Mood with Music and Entertainment
Keep the ambiance “in theme” with a range of music choices—from traditional Japanese vocal and instrumental pieces featuring Japanese flutes, harps, and Taiko drums, to recordings by contemporary artists such as Hiroshima or Keiko Matsui. For a more modern vibe, consider Japanese pop music from current artists such as Ken Hirai, Yuna Ito, or Utada Hikaru. Great sources for such recordings would be iTunes, Pandora.com, or Amazon.com. Japanese bookstores such as Kinokuniya also carry a wide selection of CDs, so be sure to visit them in your locale (if available).
For a final fun surprise—if your party guests are up to it—end the occasion on a high note with a karaoke contest! Have a stack of popular minus one CDs on hand, and give out special prizes for the best singers. Some great prize ideas? Unique Japanese gift items like a yukata (a cotton robe), a tea set, a bottle of sake, or an aromatherapy kit.