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Japanese Wedding Traditions: San San Kudo

Japanese culture is rich in tradition, and wedding ceremonies are no different. Many couples wear traditional kimonos and perform the binding ceremony known as San San Kudo, which translates as “three three nine times”. San San Kudo began in the 1600’s and is one of the oldest ceremonial Japanese wedding traditions.

Performing San San Kudo Wedding Ceremony

This ceremony is a ritualized drinking of sake by the couple, and sometimes their parents as well which serves as a binding ceremony. There are three sakazuiki (ceremonial sake cups) stacked one on top of the other in a tier. Both the bride and the groom sip from each cup three times, hence the “three three nine times”. Three cannot be divided in two, making it a particularly lucky number for a wedding in Japanese culture.

Symbolism in a San San Kudo Ceremony

There are many different ideas about the symbolism of the three sake cups. Some believe it represents heaven, earth, and mankind, others believe it represents the love, wisdom, and happiness which grow over time in a marriage. Another source says the three cups represents three human flaws of hatred, passion, and ignorance.

Variations of San San Kudo

Because this is such an old tradition, there are many variations. For example, sometimes parents join which expands the symbolism of three, as there are now three couples. Occasionally, couples only sip three times (only once on each cup), instead of three times on each cup. Technically, this is incorrect, as the name defines the ceremony as “three three nine times”.

Are you considering performing the San San Kudo ritual at your wedding? We’d love to hear about your plans.