Cerca Travel, an agency which also offers Kyoto, Japan, food and art tours among other things, launched a “solo wedding trip” earlier this year. For prices starting at £1,706 ($2,645) “per bride,” according to the Kyoto Convention Bureau.
“Are you starting 2015 single and dreaming of your big day, but lacking the all-important ring or groom to get you there? Or is it the case that you simply dream of being dressed in a stunning traditional Japanese kimono but have never had the chance? … Cerca Travel is offering wannabe brides the chance to create the picture perfect Japanese wedding without the need to officially tie the knot.”
Cerca Travel President Yukiko Inoue said she created the package “to encourage women to have positive feelings about themselves.”
It’s a two-day package in Kyoto. The first day involves a dress consultation, and the selection of either a traditional Japanese gown or a white wedding dress.
The second day includes a hair and makeup session, with a photographer capturing the preparation as well as taking glamour shots in the Japanese garden of Shugakuin Kirara Sanso. There’s also an option to hire a Japanese groom for the photos, or a partner to have dinner with the first night. There’s no actual wedding ceremony, just the garb and the photos.
“This package boosted my sense of self-esteem,” said Tomoe Sawano, who took a solo wedding trip. “The effect was equal to a more extraordinary experience, such as visiting a World Heritage castle.”
About 30 women have booked the trip since it started in May of this year, according to Kyodo News.
That’s a small sample size, but it says something about who is interested in the trip: About half of the women were currently married, but had not had a wedding. Or, they had one, but were unsatisfied with it.
More Japanese people are living alone now, for various reasons including an aging population, urbanization, waiting to marry and increasing divorce rates, according to the Japan Times. And Japan’s government is concerned about the country’s low marriage rate, which it hopes to address because of a declining population.
All of these things don’t necessary point to a desire to have a wedding without a mate, though.
Instead, the solo wedding package feels like it falls somewhere between a self-care trip and a self-marriage — the former being more common than the latter.