If there is one thing that the Japanese get right - and let's face it, they get just about everything right - it is weddings. As I have mentioned, our latest adventure to the Far East was prompted by the nuptials of our Japanese sister, Nami, and our new brother-in-law, Masa. And, boy howdy, did they have an incredible wedding! With a preemptive, if altogether token, apology to my married friends, I must say that Nami and Masa's wedding was the best to which I have ever been witness.
Unfamiliar with any part of the Japanese wedding ritual, we were beyond excited for some rich cultural immersion. Graciously provided with a chauffeur/wedding guide/translator in the form of Nami's friend and co-worker, Kasumi, Mary and I were granted the once-in-a-lifetime privilege of seeing Nami get married in a solemn and wonderfully-traditional ceremony.
|Mary with Erina (far left) and Kasumi (far right) at the pre-ceremony tea.|
Unfortunately, I can't remember the name of the charming woman in the center.
The wedding - ceremony and reception - was held in a posh hotel in the heart of Kokura, Japan; it was the kind of swanky affair to which, under normal circumstances, we would surely never be invited. Taking a few moments to observe, I saw that wedding guests were checking in at a reception desk and provided with a program that detailed the history of the bride and groom as well as the seating arrangements and a ticket for the pre-ceremony tea service. Mildly overwhelmed and woefully inept at understanding Japanese, we were beyond grateful to have Kasumi and our new pal, Erina, to explain the protocol. Following the tea, guests were directed to a covered patio in the hotel's massive gardens for the ceremony. Kasumi instructed us to take a seat near the aisle so we could get a good glimpse of Nami as she entered; I know, it seems like something we could have figured out on our own but I had to laugh at myself because, honestly, without her instruction, what probably should have been obvious, was incredibly useful to these novices.
|The groom awaits his bride.|
For a few moments we sat and marveled at the brilliance of the gardens when a swell of traditional Japanese music indicated that we ought look behind us to see the bride's grand entrance. Well, despite having been given the best instruction to get an aisle seat, we were surprised to see no one at all. With just the faintest panic that we had a runaway bride on our hands, we turned back toward the garden and saw a giant, red, paper parasol in the distance. Nami wasn't coming down any lame aisle; as her father led the way and her mother held her hand, Nami was traversing the rocks and bridges of the gardens with her eldest brother holding the parasol. Let me tell you, I was a basket case. I am an unabashed crybaby but this was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen!
|Nami was an absolute vision.|
So used to seeing the twenty-year-old, tomboyish surfer that
lived with us many years ago, we were blown away by her transformation
into such an elegant woman - and that did nothing to stop the waterworks.
| Let's just take a minute to get a bit of a close up on his fiendishly|
spit-polished platform shoes, why don't we?
I guess when invoking the presence of the Almighty,
one must reach a little closer to the heavens.
|Showing off the wedding bands.|
Upon entering the ballroom (Mary and I got a sneak preview), I was immediately struck by how familiar it all seemed. Large round tables, floral centerpieces, place cards, candles - it could have easily been any wedding anywhere in the world.
|Having both spent time in Southern California, the bride and groom|
dedicated each table to the different cities they had visited while in the US.
The ceiling was covered by huge, cherry-blossom chandeliers and the seats were filled with gift bags!
The setting appeared lovely, if somewhat expected, but that was the end of any expectations being met. Continuing the solemnity established by ceremony, the reception maintained a formal tone...good thing I wore my tux...
|Why did everyone at the wedding think that Mr. Tiny was a waiter?|
The bride and groom were announced and Nami's new outfit and dramatically-coiffed hair indicated that the production - complete with lighting and music cues, retracting walls and ceiling, slickly-produced videos, spotlights, costume changes, and musical numbers - was about to begin.
|Mr. & Mrs. & Tiny & Mary|
|Over the course of the evening, Nami changed four times.|
Each change required new hair and make up as well.
This tiered bouffant, festooned with flawless, fresh flowers,
was my absolute favorite!
|Get a load of that cake!!!|
The secret is that the cake is a fake!
|There was, however, a very real cake.|
The wedding coincided with Nami's father's birthday
and there was a birthday cake to honor him.
The evening continued with yet another costume change. This time instead of walking through the doors, the entire wall was raised for the newlywed's entrance.
|To a soundtrack of Disney songs, the couple made their way from table to table lighting a candle.|
For this portion of the evening Nami wore a romantic, Western-style gown.
Tiny & Mary dedicated a tune to the new Mr. & Mrs.
After all, what adds more romance to any occasion than a brother-sister duo...
Ours was not to be the only performance. Beyond Tiny & Mary, there was plenty of music at the reception but a complete absence of dancing. I will freely admit that dancing is usually my favorite part of any wedding. I will also admit that I am not a big fan of the first dance, father-daughter/mother-son dance, or my least favorite of all, the money dance; they just take a lot of time before I am allowed to get out on the floor.
Normally, I would be disappointed by the lack of getting groovy but the Japanese wedding reception, marked by tearful speeches, heartfelt letters written by brides to their parents, and dramatic rituals, sets such a dignified tone that doing the Macarena would feel downright unseemly. And then this happened...
Apparently, it is quite the fashion to have friends relieve the decorum with a choreographed, cross-dressing, musical presentation. It was funny...and very strange; I guess they have an ardent appreciation for wacky tacky!
|After the reception, we had a chance to meet the parents!|
The reception ended but the fun was just beginning. All the young single adults were invited to an after party at the hotel's cafe.
THE AFTER PARTY
This post might have lasted longer than the entire wedding but I never know when to leave the party...and this was a great party!
Congratulations Nami and Masa!!! Thank you for a wonderful trip and an amazing wedding! We wish you a lifetime of love, happiness, and wacky tacky!!!