Japanese Wedding Traditions: San San Kudo

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

Performing San San Kudo Wedding Ceremony

This ceremony is a ritualized drinking of the couple’s sake and sometimes their parents, which serves as a binding ceremony. There are three sakazuiki (ceremonial sake cups) stacked, one on top of the other in a tier. 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 fortunate number for weddings in Japanese culture and wedding traditions.

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 humankind; others believe it represents the love, wisdom, and happiness which grow over time in a marriage. Another source says the three cups represent three human flaws of hatred, passion, and ignorance.

San San Kudo tea set

Variations of San San Kudo

Because this is such an old Japanese Wedding 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. 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!

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