One wedding tradition that has long stood the test of time is displaying colorful origami animals at the reception or ceremony to bring good luck — and splashes of color — to the wedding celebration.
Origami [awr-i-gah-mee] — derived from ori, the Japanese word for “folding” and kami, meaning “paper” — is a long withstanding Japanese tradition started in the 1600s. It has since become a popular decor accessory at weddings around the world.
In Japanese culture, animals represent various honorable qualities, and putting them on display at a wedding is believed to pass those qualities on to the happy couple and their marriage.
The paper crane is by far the most popular symbolic origami animal — especially for weddings — because it represents happiness, good fortune and peace. It is believed that cranes mate for life, so it also a symbol of honor, loyalty and everlasting love.
Traditionally — in a ritual called sembazuru — if a bride- and groom-to-be fold 1,000 paper cranes and put them on display on their wedding day, they will be granted 1,000 years of happiness and prosperity. Folding cranes takes time, understanding and patience, which are three very important qualities for any successful marriage.
The swan is revered worldwide for its beauty and grace, and, also believed to mate for life, it is a symbol of eternal love, honor and loyalty.
The fish is known for its strength, courage and determination, and is said to bring peace, well-being and liberty to couples in their marriage.
Known for its power, wisdom and mastery, the dragon is a symbol of success and is said to bring strength, luck and good fortune to couples on their wedding day and in their marriage.
The butterfly is a symbol of beauty, celebration and good fortune, and it is believed to be good luck if a butterfly lands on you.
But beware: in Japanese culture, a large number of butterflies is considered to be a bad omen, so if you’re superstitious you may want to take it easy on the butterfly decorations at your wedding, just in case.
The rabbit symbolizes fertility, rebirth and nurturing.
The origami frog is a symbol of luck and good fortune.
Known for its independence, curiosity and guardianship, the cat is a symbol of sensuality, lust and pride.
The turtle’s slow and steady demeanor symbolizes reliability, stability and protection in marriage.
Colors play a fairly important roll in Japanese culture, particularly at weddings. Their meanings or symbolism is typically based in the feeling or emotion they exude.
Red — the color associated with the sun — is the color of passion, love and vitality, and is a typically the color of a Japanese bride’s reception kimono.
White is believed to symbolize hope for the future, innocence and purity.
Red and white is a powerful and auspicious color combination as red — love — and white — hope — are the ingredients to any happy, everlasting marriage.
Pink is the color of happiness, tenderness and pure love.
Orange means warmth and energy.
Yellow represents freedom, joy and optimism.
Green is the color of health, strength and harmony.
Blue symbolizes peace, honor and faith.
Purple is the color of nobility, spirituality and wisdom.
Black represents strength and stability.
Gold symbolizes love and eternal loyalty.
Choosing your symbolic animal and color is actually the easy part, now you have to make them! But don’t fret, there are a ton of easy to follow how-to books and videos to show you how to do it. And who knows, you and your groom-to-be may actually enjoy spending that 1,000-crane worth of quality time together.
If you’d rather not make them yourself, there are origami professionals out there that can do the grunt work for you.
Also, check out one of our previous posts, Paper with Personality, for everything you need to know about including paper flowers in your wedding. Paper flowers are becoming increasingly popular real flower alternatives for wedding bouquets and centerpieces.