ゼクシィ (Zexy): A Good Start to Finding Your Venue – A Wedding Planning in Japan Adventure

So I don’t know if you know, but me and my wonderful boyfriend, Yuta, have been engaged since April of this year, 2018, and ’tis the season to start making wedding plans…

One word: EXCITE AF

Another word: A BIT STRESSED AF

My initial twenty-two-year-old plan of eloping slowly becoming no longer an option (wah wah waaah), my current plan is now to have two weddings: one in the US for my family and one in Japan for his family. But when it came to the Japanese wedding, I was a bit at a loss to say the least. At first, this was because I didn’t know what my options were there at all.

AKA: What venues do they have available in the Tokyo area (where most of my guests live)? How much do they typically cost? Would the venue allow a ceremony? How many people are typically allowed in smaller, budget-friendly Japanese venues?

It was through asking friends and getting advice that I discovered that Japanese weddings nowadays can be pretty much the same as US ones. It was also by asking around and doing more research on my own that nice weddings themselves cost quite the pretty penny out there. We’re talking Cinderella Tokyo Disney Castle Wedding at ¥7,700,000 for 50 guests. And that’s not including park tickets for guests. Salty.

Believe it or not, one of the most popular spots for wedding ceremonies and receptions is Hawaii or OUTSIDE Japan, since many younger couples can’t afford the dream wedding in Japan. As a matter of fact, when Yuta had done his rounds with a few wedding planners out in Osaka, both had recommended Hawaii; one even claimed they had no other options BUT Hawaii, which is interesting.

So, let’s talk venue-hunting. Recommendation for getting started Número Uno: zexy.net

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ゼクシィ Zexy (https://zexy.net/)

To start with, Zexy’s search tool is what I used to find some of my best potential venues. I’ve also used Minna no Wedding, another popular place to get personal reviews, but Zexy has a lot more information available on each venue, which is great for quick comparisons.

There are a ton of resources and searches available on this website that can help you find dresses, flowers, photographer, the works, and even ceremonies abroad, but I’ll leave the exploration up to you and just walk you through one of the searches I did, which was the…

二次会 (reception) search

I’m a girl of simple needs. After talking things over with Yuta, we decided on a 二次会 (nijikai  = reception) or 1.5次会 (ittengojikai = more informal reception); an informal, restaurant reception only that met these criteria:

  1. Gotta be in Tokyo (where a majority of my guests live)
  2. Gotta be buffet-styled (so people have the chance to mingle and not just sit and eat, which is common traditional Japanese wedding reception style – boring, I know)
  3. Gotta have speakers for my video game music playlists
  4. Gotta have cake (EDIBLE cake. Old school Japanese weddings have a giant, fake cake that only has a tiny edible portion that the bride and groom get to cut. Why? I don’t know.)
  5. Gotta be photogenic and fun
  6. Gotta be something within my budget (which Zexy does offer, but it takes looking)

Off to Zexy, I searched. First, under the 二次会 (reception) link, choose your エリア (area) you want to search for in Japan. I chose 青山・表参道・渋谷 (Aoyama, Omote-sando, and Shibuya) all in Tokyo, and hit 検索 (search).

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Because this initial search doesn’t actually show you as many results, hit the small, pink button that says “検索条件を変更する” (change search conditions).

After making my changes, here’s what my advanced search looked like:

エリア (area): I included 埼玉県 (Saitama), 千葉県 (Chiba), 東京都 (Tokyo), and 神奈川県 (Kanagawa), just to see what else comes up.

I also checked these bad boys off my こだわり (points) list:

  • ビュッフェ形式  (buffet)
  • ケーキオーダー (cake)
  • マイク・音響 (microphone/sound)
  • BGM手配 (background music)
  • ゲーム各種手配  (gaming arrangements)

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This time, my advanced search brought me 72 results. After you click on one that interests you, (for this example, I chose “Omote-sando Café”, which looks lovely), scroll down to see the こだわりデータ (the checklist of points included at this venue), and scroll down further to see general prices and plans.

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For the life of me, I haven’t found a link to the venues’ actual websites, but nothing DuckDuckGo (or Google) can’t find. Let copy/paste be your friend.

Then bookmark what looks good and come back to it later once you’ve begun the narrowing-down process. Some other important keywords I decided to narrow down later in my search were ゲスト人数 (number of guests) and the highly-important 予算 (budget).

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Zexy Magazine

Zexy is first and foremost a wedding magazine, which showcases lots of ideas and lots of expensive venues for you to choose from. The magazines are great, but again; they’re wedding magazines. AKA Zexy’s general market is for the wealthy, but that aside, the magazines are great to thumb through for ideas and for finding places you would like to visit and/or get tastings from. These magazines can be bought at any bookstore or convenience store (Seven Eleven, FamilyMart, Lawson, etc.) for about ¥500. Yuta found one at his local Tsutaya shoten, too, which you can find pretty much anywhere.

A quick warning about tastings, though, is that as much as I would recommend getting as many tastings done as you can (ahem free food, people), the tasting can last up to three hours, because of marketing staff going through options and whatnot. It’s all formality, but hey, free food.

Aaaaanyways, that’s my lowdown for getting a start on your international wedding in Japan! I may be keeping you all up-to-date as I discover more and get further along in my planning, but for now, while it’s still in its early stages, I’d like to recommend you a good first place to start.

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How to Make Reservations at Ikebukuro’s Swallowtail Butler Cafe

Ikebukuro is my bae of Japan, seriously. Ladies of the interwebs that are interested in being treated like a lady, trying out some delicious teas, or just want to ogle the boys (let’s be real), then this is my recommendation for you.

One thing that really stood out for me with Swallowtail is its relaxed, very comfortable environment. Bit of back story. When my sisters came to visit me in Japan, I wanted to take them someplace where they could experience luxury and calm (in the busy city of Tokyo) and that would give them the culture shock of a lifetime (an experience that they – even today – can recall in STRONG deets).

Back then, I knew that host clubs are typically more accessible, but I also know that they are sometimes dangerous, expensive, and filled with pushy salesman that make you buy lots of alcohol. Just a heads-up for those staying in Tokyo, red-light district Kabukicho Shinjuku, in particular, is notorious for these sort of host club establishments. Avoid, (or visit, if you’re about that kinda life) at your own risk.

To avoid the pushy salesmen and sketch neighborhoods (though Ikebukuro does have its share; it’s a metropolitan city, after all), I decided to give Swallowtail a shot by myself, and if I was happy with the experience, I’d take my sisters with. Which I’m glad I did. And now, I’m encouraging you adventurous ladies to do the same.

For me (especially back when my Japanese was not at the level it is now), making reservations was a little tricky. When making up this tutorial for y’all, I noticed that their website has changed a bit (even an English Guidance page has been added since then!), but the reservation process hasn’t changed. I’m here to walk you step-by-step to get you through those doors and into a comfortable seat, where a butler can then tend to your tea and cakey needs.

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Unlike the infamous maid cafes of Akihabara, you can’t usually just walk into a butler cafe like Swallowtail without a reservation. Well, you can, if the time schedule has a vacancy. Which you can check near their front door, where they have a schedule of their business hours, open, and reserved slots.

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The Reservation Process

1. Check out their HP (https://www.butlers-cafe.jp/) Reservations are only made online, not through phone.

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2. Click 予約 (reserve) on the top-right corner (https://www.butlers-cafe.jp/reserve/)

3. Click on 予約フォームへ進む (continue to reservation form)

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4. Choose your preferred time and date. For this example, I chose 09/04 10:55, 3-4 名様(customers, people attending)

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5. Enter your Email address, Number of people, and Hit the 確認 (confirm) button

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6. Check your inbox for an email from this address “webmaster@butlers-cafe.jp”. Luckily, for non-Japanese readers, they’ve added English instructions to their emails. Do as the instructions indicate and follow the link to get to part 2 of registration.

7. Aaaaand back to Japanese-only stuff. Confirm your email address here.

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8. Fill out your information:

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  • A. Name (must be typed in Japanese characters, katakana or hiragana is okay)
  • B. Furigana (name again in hiragana)
  • C. What you would like to be called by your butler. Options for women: お嬢様 ojou-sama (lady, younger), 奥様 okusama (lady, older), options for men: 旦那様 danna-sama (sir, older), お坊ちゃま obocchama (young sir)
  • D. When it’s time to leave, what kind of send-off phrase do you want your butler to say to you (Options: おまかせ Omakase (Leave it to them.) お出掛けのお時間でございます。(It’s time to go out now.) ご出発のお時間でございます。(It’s time for your departure.) 乗馬のお時間でございます。(It’s time for your horse riding.)
  • E. Phone number. You can use your own number, it doesn’t have to be Japanese.
  • F. This section is if you have a members card. If you do (I do, they’re free, use like a point card, and make for a cute souvenir), you may enter your card number here, not including the front zeros. If no card, leave this whole section blank.
  • G. Are you ordering an anniversary cake or need a cooler bag for the cake? Choose なし (no) or あり (yes)

9. When done, hit 送信 (send).

10. When you get to this screen, check your inbox again to receive your final confirmation email.

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Aaaand you done, girl! Just show up on time, be somewhat nicely dressed, and enjoy your time there.

This blog post is really just meant to show you how to reserve a time slot, but I figured I’d also give you a heads-up about what to expect while you’re there, since the staff does not speak English there, and they do have a process and a couple house rules.

  • Once you arrive, you may be asked to sit and wait on a bench. First, an older gentleman (the owner) will greet you, take your coat and purse for you, if you’d like, and then your butler will introduce himself and show you to your table.
  • Your butler will take his time with you to introduce you to the items on the menu (if you don’t understand Japanese, you guessed it; just smile and nod). Afterwards, he’ll walk away.
  • When you want his attention, ring the bell. You will be asked to ring the bell for two other occasions, too: when you want him to fill up your water or tea (you don’t do this yourself, he’ll do everything for you), and when you want to go to the bathroom.
  • You don’t leave the table by yourself. You ring the bell, he escorts you to the bathroom, waits until you’re done with your business (or if he is busy and can’t, another butler may wait instead) and then escort you back to your table.
  • When it’s time to leave, your butler will lead you back down the hall, collect your things, and the owner may also send you off with a farewell greeting, too.
  • Another predictable house rule, no picture-taking allowed inside.
  • Also, quick tip! If you’re interested in purchasing some of the teas or sweets or some cute souvenirs from across the street, you can do that at the Swallowtail gift shop, where the cashier is also one of Swallowtail’s own butlers! Very nice marketing touch.