Japanese wedding receptions start with two speeches: a speech from either the bride or groom’s boss and then a toast from a friend or coworker which officially starts the wedding reception. Having a boss say a speech at your wedding is very indicative of Japanese “company culture.” Traditionally, your whole life revolves around your job and the company you work for. In Japan, more than asking, “What do you do?” people ask, “What company do you work for?”
We decided that Mr. G’s boss should say the boss’s speech since his company is more traditional than mine. Mr. G had been to about five weddings that year, and his boss had done the boss’s speech at all of them. Mr. G told me that he usually just congratulates the couple, asks the wife to be understanding of the long hours the husband may have to work, and then wishes them the best.
Mr. G’s boss came up to the podium, and Mr. G and I sat there expecting a nice one-minute speech. Oh, were we ever wrong. Mr. G’s boss started the speech with congratulating us and then jumped into a five-minute overview of Mr.G’s company’s earnings. Phrases like “This quarter we were up 35%” and “In that month our sector filled orders of over 200 million yen.” I looked over at Mr. G with a subtle “What’s going on?!” look on my face. Mr. G shrugged. We heard more about how well Mr. G’s company was doing, and then he ended it with the typical best wishes to the couple. He bowed and left the podium, and everyone clapped. I looked over at our guests sitting at the tables nearest to us and many had puzzled expressions on their faces.
Can you see the confused look on our faces? / Photography by Teppei Kawakami
Later on I asked Mr. G about the speech, and it turns out that his boss was trying to impress Mr. G’s father, a former superior at the company where Mr. G works. Mr.G’s father was once that man’s boss, and I guess he wanted to let Mr. G’s father know how well things were going.
My family, who had the speech translated for them by my bilingual friend at the table, came up to me later and said, “Only in Japan will you hear a speech about quarterly earnings at a wedding!” We all laughed. The speech may have fallen flat, but it has left a very funny memory for me and my family.
Have you ever been to a wedding or had a wedding where a speech just fell flat?
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