Weddings are a sacred ritual that take place across all cultures and lifestyles. They are typically extravagant, expensive affairs, with many in attendance. They often adhere to strict observance of certain religious and/or traditional rituals, whether it be the reading of certain Christian Bible passages, the breaking of a wine glass at Jewish weddings, or the ubiquitous “kissing of the bride.”
These ceremonies are held for myriad purposes, but primarily, weddings are held to see two individuals come together as a family unit in the eyes of the law and the participants’ chosen religion.
And, in Tochigi Prefecture, also in the eyes of this alpaca.
Before you ask, no, the alpaca is not some kind of little-known symbol for peace and prosperity in Japan’s native Shinto or Buddhist religions. It’s not even that alpacas are some sort of good luck charm in Japan. It’s simply because Japanese brides and grooms, perhaps with good reason, think that alpacas are just adorable and so, so fluffy, and Tochigi’s Hotel Epinard Nasu – a popular site for wedding ceremonies in the area – just happens to have a zoo right next door.
How the hotel ever ended up striking a deal with the nearby zoo to rent out an alpaca for wedding ceremonies – and why anyone thought this was an untapped market in the first place – is lost on us and not specified anywhere in the hotel’s online promotional materials. But the service, which sees a dedicated alpaca trainer walk the alpaca down the aisle during weddings and who later handles the animal while wedding photographs are taken, is proving, against all logic and reason, surprisingly popular.
By way of cultural context, though, keep in mind that, in largely secular Japan, Western-style weddings are seen as a cool, less formal alternative to the country’s more somber and ritual-heavy Shinto weddings, so there’s generally more leeway for antics – like underwater weddings, cosplay weddings and trying the knot while both bride and groom are dressed as Tanuki Mario. Okay, maybe we made that last one up.
It’s not entirely clear from Hotel Epinard Nasu’s website how much it costs to have one of these fluffy beasts in your wedding, but it looks the hotel simply provides the alpaca on request as part of its regular package, begging the question: why not have an alpaca in your wedding pics?
That being said, if you are considering having a four-legged friend join you at the altar, remember that you invite an alpaca into your wedding at your own risk; they are, after all, wild animals, and the possibility – however remote – of abrupt projectile defecation at your wedding is only going to add more anxiety to an already stressful, once-in-a-lifetime ceremony.
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