@shirokuma - I'm the author you're referring to here - and just to clarify - my Japanese at that point in time was not enough to be able to ask about proper wedding envelopes. While nowadays I can no problem, then I only knew the basics. That aside, it was a store that didn't have any employees working aside at the registers which were incredibly busy. Don't assume that everyone is fluent in Japanese when they first arrive.
For anyone else wondering: I also wrote a post about typical giving amounts for Japanese weddings, which you can find on my website, Surviving in Japan: without much Japanese (I can't post the link here).
@ratpack - Good point about the new bills! I think you can find that tip everywhere though, so I didn't feel it necessary to include here, but it is a very relevant point.
To all the comments about not feeling that embarrassed, I believe I noted that it's not that big of a deal if you make mistakes as a foreigner (usually). For me, it was amusing more than anything - you learn and move on.
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