Around 6 months before the wedding, a bride starts choosing her dress or dresses for the wedding ceremony and the reception. And some brides start going to an aesthetic salon regularly to have beauty treatment. Then start discussing with the wedding planner how you want your wedding ceremony and the reception to be like. For example, choosing fabric colour, flowers (colours and what kinds of flowers you want), invitation cards from various patterns and so on.
Around 3 months before the wedding, bride and groom to be start sending invitations to their relatives, friends and co-workers. In Japan, usually we invite bosses at work for the wedding ceremony and reception and ask them to give us a speech and a toast. So, in total, a couple invites around 60 to 80 people on average, but most of them are relatives and bosses and co-workers. The wedding ceremony and the reception is more "official" things. So, we usually after party with friends only. This after party is called "Niji kai" (a second party). But often "sanji kai" (a third party) and "Yoji kai" (a fourth party) follows until early in the morning.
Around the same time, we start looking for welcome gifts (thank-you-for-coming gifts) for guests. Those gifts are given to the guest in the end of the wedding reception. We spend around 5,000 yen to 8,000 yen per guest on average. You may think you are going to bankrupt if you spend such amount of money for each guest, but don't worry! Guests bring you wedding gift, money. The average amount of money to give may vary depending on regions, but in my area, if
you are a friend of a bride or a groom, 30,000 yen. If you are relative, 50,000 yen or 100,000 yen. If you are a co-worker of a boss of a bride or a groom, 30,000 yen. For siblings, it depends on their family. And we have a custom to prepare new notes without folding lines. You can easily get new notes at any banks. Then, put notes into a fancy envelope like on the photo (left). In Australia, a couple make a wedding gift list and give it to guests, but in Japan, we don't have such custom. Sometimes, if you are very close friend of a bride or a groom, or if you do not attend the wedding ceremony and the reception, then you might give some gifts (not money in this case) to the couple.
You may notice, but when we give the wedding gift (money), we pick up odd numbers. And when we pick up welcome gifts to the guests, usually, we choose 3 or 5 items (again odd number). This is because we think even number is not good because it can be divided into to, which is associated with breaking up or divorce.
Well, then the guests will reply to your invitation at least 2 months before the wedding. Then, the couple need to decide who to be in which table. And the couple make a DVD to introduce guests backgrounds and history of the bride and the groom. Some couples ask professionals to make such introduction DVD. Also, the couple usually ask their friends to make a speech or do some funny things (see photo below) to have a good laugh.
Some couples take their wedding photos a month or a few weeks before the actual wedding ceremony and reception because on the wedding day, you don't have enough time to relax in front of the camera.