Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

Rent-a-guest bulks up weddings

June 9, 2009

Wedding venue hired? Check. Wedding dress hired? Check. Guests hired? Check.

June’s the big wedding month here in Japan, but even in these tough economic times, instead of opting for a small event, some couples are renting fake family, friends and colleagues to plump up the guest list.

Many in Japan see weddings as a formal event that must be attended by lots of family members, friends and co-workers. At the party, bosses often give JAPAN/speeches, colleagues or friends stage performances, and families formally greet other guests.

But what if you’ve got no one to do that for you?

“We’ll attend the wedding as your friend instead of your friend,” Hiroshi Mizutani, who heads Office Agents, a company in Tokyo that rents out guests, told me.

“Suddenly, a guest might not be able to make it. Or maybe you are concerned about the gap in the number of guests you have compared to your partner. Or, there are many temp workers these days and you may be uncomfortable inviting your boss.”

For  around $200 you can have a hired guest attend your nuptials. Add another $50 and they’ll sing or dance. Tip in another $100 and they’ll even make a suitable speech, perhaps pretending to be your boss.

At one memorable wedding, all 30 of the family, friends and coworkers of the groom were fakes from Mizutani’s company. It was the second marriage for the groom, who wanted to avoid inviting the same guests from the first time around.

The firm gets about 100 wedding requests per year and has some 1,000 fakes available for various occasions, including funerals and training seminars. You can hire a stand-in lover to introduce to your family and false secretaries for those that want to look important.

The key qualification for the fakes is that they do not stand out.

“What’s important is that these are normal people… normal as in they are cheery and clean and look like they have regular jobs,” Mizutani said.

Sometimes not even the marriage partner is aware.

“People are proud and they don’t want to tell their partner that they do not have many friends,” Mizutani said. “The environment is so that people don’t have anyone to invite. It may be that they are lonely and it may also be that the way people work are changing.”

I’m not sure what happens, though, if you meet the same fake at multiple events.

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