Getting Legally Married in Japan

A few days before our Japanese wedding reception, Mr. G and I went to city hall to get legally married. According to the US embassy’s web page:

If you wish to marry in Japan, you will do so according to Japanese law. Marriage in Japan consists of a civil marriage registration by the couple at a Japanese municipal government office. Only this civil registration constitutes a legal marriage in Japan. Ceremonies performed by religious or fraternal bodies in Japan, while perhaps more meaningful for you, are not legal marriages.”

…which basically means you have to get legally married at city hall.

I’m going to tell you right now, getting married at the city hall in our town in Japan was absolutely the most unromantic thing ever. I think getting my passport renewed was more romantic.

Mr. G and I went to city hall quite a few days before our actual wedding reception because we live in a very small town and figured the staff would not be used to processing paperwork that involved a foreigner. (We were right—more about that later.) We also noticed a slight hiccup in our paperwork that might prolong the processing of the paperwork. The marriage affidavit (a piece of paperwork needed to get married in Japan) had my father’s full middle name written out (i.e., Dad Steve Gondola), while on my birth certificate, my father’s middle name is abbreviated with just a letter (i.e., Dad S. Gondola). Anyone who has ever dealt with Japanese banks, post offices, or government offices knows that something as small as this can stop any paperwork you want from being done in its tracks. Japanese rules and regulations can be extremely detailed and everything has to be just right or it just won’t happen. Exceptions are rarely made, and if an exception is granted it usually involves a lot of time and paperwork. I was genuinely worried that this tiny discrepancy would stop us from getting married.

We headed to the city hall around 11:00 AM. We took a number, waited to be called, handed in our paperwork, and were told to wait. So we waited, and waited, and waited.


We played around with our iPad while we waited.

I got a bad feeling in my stomach that my father’s “S” was going to actually be a problem. About 15 minutes later our clerked walked over to us. “Oh no!” I thought.”He’s going to tell us we can’t get married.” But the clerk just asked if we would like to file ourselves as a single entity after our marriage or as two separate people. I immediately said as two separate people. Filing as a single entity means our incomes would be combined and both our taxes and insurance fees would go up. (I’m not a hundred percent sure, but this system seems to penalize working married women.) He walked away and I breathed a sigh of relief. Then we waited some more.


More playing around with the iPad. I was able to loosen up after we spoke to the clerk.

After another 30 minutes our number was called. We went to the desk and the clerk told us “We’ve finished processing your paperwork.” He bowed and started to look through some other papers. Huh? That’s it?! Getting married was not only unromantic, but anti- climactic.

I spoke up after a few seconds and asked if we could get a marriage certificate (I needed one for changing my name on my passport). The clerk looked surprised that I even wanted one. He directed us to the desk where we could apply. A few minutes later we had our marriage certificate and took a few photos afterward in front of the city hall.


We’re officially married!

All in all it was pretty straightforward process until I got a phone call from the city hall later that night about my father’s name. “What does ”˜junior’ mean? Is that his first name or last name?” My father is actually Dad Steve Gondola, Jr. Traditionally, there are no middle names or suffixes in Japan, so inputting my father’s name into a form that only had room for a first and a last name must have been difficult for the city clerk. After a bit of discussion we decided we should put it as his first name. Thankfully this wasn’t a major problem, so Mr. G and I were officially married!

Did anyone have an extremely unromantic time of getting married at a city hall? Did anyone have trouble getting their paperwork filed?


Mrs. Gondola

Wedding Date:
December 1969
Back In Bling!
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  1. bracelet Member
    Mrs. Bracelet 279 posts, Helper bee @ 10:18 am

    Germany also requires a civil union regardless of any other ceremonies… but it was definitely a civil ceremony – at a nice state-owned venue, a little speech by the clerk and guests. Followed by a luncheon.

  2. Member
    dancingriss 305 posts, Helper bee @ 11:39 am

    I don’t know for sure about tax brackets in Japan, but in the US the phrase “marriage penalty” is generally associated with women who earn close to or more than their husband’s. As the tax brackets go up the percentages go up, so you end up being taxed for more as a unit than as two individuals. However, if one of the partners does not work then it’s as if one salary is counting for two people so you end up in lower tax bracket (percentage wise) than if you were alone. Hope that makes sense.

  3. Guest Icon Guest
    Katie M, Guest @ 11:44 am

    I wish that the US followed these rules. It drives me nuts that there is no apparent separation of church & state.

  4. camel Member
    camel 703 posts, Busy bee @ 12:54 pm

    Ugh, Japanese bureaucracy is the WORST. I once had to reapply for some paperwork at the bank because one of my documents had my name in all capital letters and the bank wouldn’t process my information until it looked EXACTLY like the original document.

  5. Member
    bridesmomma 476 posts, Helper bee @ 1:24 pm

    Your iPad photos are hilarious!

  6. mspony Member
    mspony 9265 posts, Buzzing Beekeeper @ 2:50 pm

    I’m glad you didn’t have any major hurdles, although it does sound rather anti-climactic!

  7. msfilly Member
    Mrs. Filly 827 posts, Busy bee @ 2:56 pm

    Sounds like Japanese bureaucracy has a lot in common with the Massachusetts RMV … UGH. Glad your paperwork worked out on the first try!

  8. Guest Icon Guest
    Kara, Guest @ 8:44 pm

    I loved reading about this. So interesting…I have been in Kyoto a few times, but you definitely have the scoop on it! I know it might be a forward of me, but I would love to ask you some more stuff about Japan and your adventures there! Feel free to contact me via the blog I work for :) Also, would love to talk more about your wedding!

  9. Member
    coquette 45 posts, Newbee @ 12:09 am

    Get married at city hall in Florida isn’t any better than what you got. Do you? Do you? Ok.. . so plain and boring. . .and the certificate is nothing fancy. . regular sheet of paper. when I asked about the the pretty certificate, the clerk’s response was that the state doesn’t have the money for it. OMG!!

  10. gondola Member
    gondola 1046 posts, Bumble bee @ 2:21 am

    @Mrs. Bracelet: I remember reading about it. It sounds so much nicer than Japan’s system. You know you can even go to the city hall when its closed to get married? You just drop the paper work off in a night mail box. It’s a bit unromantic.
    @dancingriss: It does! I thought it was just a Japan thing. I guess it’s the same in the states.
    @Katie M: Yeah, as a government, religion isnt often a factor.
    @Mrs. Camel: I so know your pain. I think I had to fill out the same document at a bank five times because I made a mistake and instead of crossing out the mistake they would make me write the entire thing over again.
    @bridesmomma: haha! Thanks!
    @Miss Filly: I was so lucky! Good luck to you!
    @Coquette: what? No money for a pretty marriage certificate?! That’s just sad!

  11. Member
    daniellekira 573 posts, Busy bee @ 1:51 pm

    This is good to know for my friends who are getting married next year in England. Must check out the situation before we plan on going there.

  12. Member
    Mrs. Rubber Stamps 821 posts, Busy bee @ 4:49 pm

    I’m so glad everything worked out with the paperwork!

  13. Guest Icon Guest
    Kathy, Guest @ 7:01 am

    My husband and I got married at city hall in Fussa, Tokyo. Most unromantic thin ever. We filled out the tedious paperwork, waited, and got handed a receipt after payment when we asked for a marriage certificate. No congratulations, nothing. The funny thing is the marriage certificate has the Fussa character cartoon on it and stars so it looks pretty silly haha

  14. gondola Member
    gondola 1046 posts, Bumble bee @ 5:08 am

    @Kathy: Aaah, Japan and it’s cuteness. My marriage certificate was quite plain. I can’t believe they didn’t even say congrats!

  15. Guest Icon Guest
    Kathy, Guest @ 5:45 am

    Well we didn’t exactly get a congrats. But when he handed us the certificate we just kind of stared blankly and asked “that’s it?” and then the kind man replied “yes, you’re married now”. Not what we were expecting at all haha. Now if only I could find a dress here that isn’t a giant cupcake or ridiculously overpriced. I loved looking through your posts. You both look so happy and beautiful. Congratulations :)

  16. gondola Member
    gondola 1046 posts, Bumble bee @ 3:22 am

    @Kathy: Thank you so much!

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