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 my 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 paper work that involved a foreigner (We were right- more about that later.) We also noticed a slight hiccup in our paper work that might prolong the processing of the paper work. My marriage affidavit (a piece of paperwork needed to get married in Japan) had my father’s full middle name written out e.g. Dad Steve Gondola, while on my birth certificate, my father’s middle name is abbreviated with just a letter e.g. 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 paper work. I was genuinely worried that this tiny discrepancy would stop me from getting married.

We headed to the city hall around 11am. 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.

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 of 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.

I was able to loosen up after we spoke to the clerk.

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 afterwards in front of the city hall.

We're officially married!

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 paper work filed?


Learning to Let Go of “My” Money

I once went shopping with my older cousin when I was about 16 years old. After we finished shopping we headed back to her house. I started to gather my shopping bags and head to the door and I was surprised to see my cousin gather her shopping, but instead of heading to the door she walked to the back of the car and stuck the bags in the trunk. When I asked her why she did that, she told me that her husband would get upset if she found out she went shopping so she would hide the bags into her trunk and sneak them in when her husband wasn’t home.  “This is what married life is like,” I thought.   In that instant, I decided that I would never let anyone tell me what I could do with my money.

After Mr. Gondola and I became engaged we settled down to talk about how we were going to do our finances as a married couple. Mr. G’s family is Japanese and his father, like many people his age,  hands his paycheck over to his wife (who doesn’t work) and she controls all of the finances. I come from a  family where the incomes are combined. I wanted something different from both of these styles and I suggested that Mr. G and I keep our finances separate and split everything down the middle. Mr. G said he was fine with that and that had been our plan–until we went to premarital counseling.

During our talk with our counselor the subject of finances came up and our  counselor brought up a very good point: “What will you do when you stop working to have kid?” The thought had never crossed my mind and I was a bit dumbfounded.  I, unfortunately, work for a company that does not provide maternity leave. Our only source of income will be Mr. G’s paycheck, which means splitting things down the middle during that time will be impossible.

During our talk and even now, it is still difficult to wrap my head around the fact that I will have to depend on someone for money, and that I will have to discuss any big purchase as it will no longer be my money, but our money.  Mr. G is fine with sharing his paycheck down the middle as he has grown up in a house that does that. In addition, like his parents, I will budget and handle the finances as I am better with money and actually like to make budgets.

There is one thing that I am afraid. All my life, I have been afraid of my husband being the one who is critical of the purchases I make with our money, but I also realized that I could be just as critical as well.  I am going to have to learn to let go of my 50/50 mind set and learn to open myself to the “what’s mine is yours” mind set.

My smile may be sweet but I am kind of a control freak!

My smile may be sweet but I am kind of a control freak!

Anyone else out there worried about sharing finances? How do you open yourself up to sharing everything?