If you’re planning to serve alcohol at your wedding, you might consider expanding your drink menu beyond basic wine, beer, and spirits. For a rich and distinctive alcoholic beverage, try incorporating sake into your big day. Learn some common wedding sake traditions in Japan, the origins and symbols of this unique drink, and different ways you can include sake on your own wedding day.
Sake Traditions in Japan
Many cultures have special practices when it comes to serving and drinking alcohol. In Ecuador, for instance, it’s common for friends to share sips from a communal bottle of beer. In Fiji, there’s a practice for drinking kava in which a circle of friends passes around a shared cup.
In the same respect, the Japanese have their own traditions when consuming alcohol — particularly with sake, an alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice. This drink usually has a pale lemon hue, high alcohol content, relatively sweet flavor, and mild fruity notes. There are several types of sake, including:
- Tokubetsu Junmai
- Junmai Ginjo
- Junmai Daiginjo
- Tokubetsu Honjozo
While sake can be traced back to China over 4,000 years ago, Japan is ultimately credited for the drink’s popularity, legacy and traditions. Sake has been a symbol of the country’s vibrant culture and history for centuries. Its elaborate brewing process has been passed through generations, and now this drink is available worldwide. It’s a popular celebratory beverage for birthdays, weddings, reunions, parties, and other gatherings.
Of course, the Japanese have many traditions surrounding exchanging and enjoying sake. For instance:
- It’s considered impolite to pour your own glass of sake.
- Use both hands to pour and drink sake.
- You may only start drinking once everyone has a full cup.
- The more formal the occasion — like a wedding — the more formal drinking etiquette should be.
Here are some traditional Japanese practices for sake served at weddings.
The sake-sharing ceremony, or san-san-kudo, is one of the earliest Japanese wedding ceremony traditions, dating back to the 1600s. San-san-kudo translates to “three three nine times.”
This practice starts with three cups of sake stacked on top of each other. The bride and groom take three sips from each cup for a total of nine sips, hence the name san-san-kudo.
This tradition serves as a bond formation between the bride and groom. In other words, they’re symbolically exchanging their marriage vows. In some cases, the couple’s parents will also partake in this tradition, taking three sips from each cup as well. This symbolizes the strengthening of new family ties.
As this practice demonstrates, the Japanese view sake as a medium that brings people together, representing unity, friendship, respect, and love. This is why sake is so significant to Japanese wedding practices.
Kagamibiraki, which translates to “opening the sacred cask,” is another important Japanese wedding tradition. This step typically takes place at the beginning of the reception. During this practice, a wooden hammer or mallet is used to break open the lid of a traditional sake cask. The round wooden lid represents kagami, a metaphysical mirror in Japanese, and the act of breaking it open symbolizes “breaking open good fortune.” The sake inside the cask is then distributed among guests.
Originally, the sake from the cask was distributed in large wooden cups (masu) for guests to share. However, as sake brewing techniques evolved, these wooden masus were replaced with individual lacquerware, ceramic cups, or sakazuki/ochoco.
If you’ve ever visited a Japanese restaurant, you may have seen this type of sake cask displayed in the storefront or sake served in the small glass sitting inside of the wooden masu. Also, you would see many restaurants would serve sake in ochoko cups and tokkuri carafes which the set of etiquette rules discussed earlier, like holding the cup with both hands and refraining from pouring your own sake.
In addition to weddings, this Kagamibiraki tradition is also performed as an opening for housewarmings, sporting events, new company opening days, and other significant events that call for celebration.
Arrange Your Own Kagamibiraki Ceremony
You can arrange your own Kagamibiraki ceremony with Takara Sake USA Inc. Please contact us at email@example.com, we can assist you to customize your special day. Service to customize your wooden masu cup with in-print is also available upon request.
Making Sake Part of Your Wedding Day
Now that we’ve discussed some unique sake wedding traditions in Japan, learn how you can make sake part of your own special day with these suggestions.
Why Should You Serve Sake at Your Wedding?
Serving sake at a wedding is a great way to add a touch of cultural variety to your special day. Expanding beyond wine and beer and opting for sake provides a unique drinking experience for your guests. Additionally, you can include sake at your wedding reception in multiple ways, so get creative with it!
Ways to Serve Sake at a Wedding
Looking for specific ways to make sake a part of your special day? Here are three ideas to consider:
- Use it for the toast: While champagne is usually the go-to drink for wedding toasts, you can always swap this out with your choice of sake instead. Choose our sparkling sake MIO if you want to keep that bubbly experience. Serving sake makes for both a unique and delicious wedding toast you’re sure to remember!
- Add it to your wedding menu: With several flavors, sweetness levels, and varieties to enjoy, sake is an excellent addition to your wedding bar or menu. Try choosing a type based on sake food pairing recommendations to complement your menu. For example, a dry Junmai sake tends to pair well with grilled fish, marinated salmon, lobster salad, sashimi, or yakitori.
- Make it into a wedding favor: In Japan, some common wedding favors for guests are folding fans, his and hers chopsticks with rice bowls, and a set of sake cups. For a unique and practical gift, consider handing out some sake-inspired favors to guests after the wedding, such as a set of sake masu or ochoko paired with small bottles of sake.
Whether you plan to toast with sake, add it to your menu or use it for wedding favors, it’s important to purchase your sake from a quality and reliable brand. At Takara Sake, you can count on us for authentic, delicious sake products and exceptional customer service to help make your special day even more memorable.
Order Your Wedding Sake From Takara Sake USA
After learning about sake wedding ceremony practices in Japan, we hope you’re inspired to integrate this drink into your own wedding reception. Adding more than one sake variety to your menu is a great way to accommodate multiple taste preferences. Fortunately, we have an extensive variety to choose from at Takara Sake. From classic sake to sweet fruit flavors to imported varieties, we’ll have something to enhance your beverage menu. Browse our products and order your wedding sake today!
For any questions regarding our products or choosing sake for your wedding, please reach out to us at any time.