Friday, October 25, 2013

Nippon Nuptials: Nami Getting Married

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.

This is the officiant.
His job duties included not only directing the exchange of vows, rings, etc., he was
also responsible for inviting God's presence to the ceremony, skillfully playing the
flute, and shaking this incredible pompom.  Serious duties to be sure but...

 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.

I can't fully express how much I loved the ceremony.
Because I couldn't understand any of the language, the allure of the exotic was
definitely a factor.  However, I really did appreciate all of the ritualistic aspects; the
ceremony was long enough to let us know that something actually happened.

Showing off the wedding bands.

Instead of throwing rice, or blowing bubbles, or releasing balloons, butterflies, doves or any number of other releasable objects, the tradition at a Japanese wedding is to shower the couple with a scattering of origami cranes - a symbol of good luck.  As soon as we arrived we got right to work, helping to fold as many cranes as we could before the big day.

Even though this image is blurry, it is my favorite from the wedding.
Raised separately by different parents in completely different countries and cultures,
I couldn't help but feel a particular, fraternal pride in my Japanese sister as she and her
new husband beamed.  They just radiate with joy! 


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!

And then there was the eight-foot-tall wedding cake!!!

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 food was unbelievable (not that I really ate any of it).
I think Japanese people must have an infuriating combination of high metabolism and hollow legs;
seemingly insatiable as course after course was delivered to the table, they ate it all!!
I told everyone at our table that at an American wedding, we would be lucky to get a salad, a dinner roll, an
entree, and a piece of cake.  Not only was the food incredibly plentiful, it was all about artful presentation.

Presented in a bamboo wishing well, the piece de resistance was the sashimi course.
After serving the tray, the server told us to wait until she filled the well with magical
 liquid from a magical vessel; it became obvious that the magical liquid was water
when dry-ice fog billowed out from under the sashimi.   

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 is where the happy couple indulged in some Western wedding
traditions including feeding each other cake.  The kiss has no place in the
traditional Japanese ceremony and no amount of glass clinking at the
reception will elicit a smooch.  Nevertheless, the after party guests demanded
some PDA.

The Japanese even find a way to make the bouquet toss more safe and refined;
instead of an over-the-shoulder toss to a group of blood-thirsty women, the
participants each take a ribbon; the ribbons are tugged and the person
holding the ribbon that is still attached to the bouquet wins!   

Even at the after party there was no dancing!  Although, there were plenty
of games, gag gifts, and inexplicable Mickey Mouse Jack-O-Lanterns.

The funniest part was watching a video only to surprised by a photo of the
 long-ago Halloween when our family dressed up as the cast of Hairspray (the original)
with Mr. Tiny as Mr. Pinky and Nami as Motormouth Maybelle.

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!!!


Mr. Tiny


  1. That looks like an amazing wedding. And you clean up pretty well - nice tux!

    1. Thank you! The wedding was definitely amazing!!

  2. OMG! All your pictures are just gorgeous.....
    The bride, the reception, this beautiful garden... Mary and you.... everything is perfect!!!!

    1. Wow, thank you! I feel so lucky to have been there; it was more beautiful than my pictures can illustrate!

  3. Beautiful wedding. Thank you for sharing! I love the ribbon bouquet custom versus our tossing custom.

    1. Isn't the ribbon idea great? It is so dignified...and nobody gets elbowed in the face! Hahaha!!!

  4. That looks like an amazing wedding! No doubt it cost a pretty penny but I'm sure the bride and groom will never forget it. I love the giant cake. We had a fake layer added to our wedding cake to give it some height. No one was the wiser.

    1. Fortunately, we were close enough with the bride to ask about wedding costs. While the wedding was expensive, it is basically a self-financing prospect; the traditional gift is money and the money goes toward the wedding cost - no toaster ovens but a great party!!!

  5. What an absolutely beautiful and legendary wedding! I cannot get over all of the details they covered. Sounds like you both had a wonderful time. I enjoyed following along on instagram as well ;-)

    That photo of you and your family dressed as the cast of Hairspray is the BEST!!! Makes me want to bust out and do the Madison right now at my desk!

    1. Thanks Elisa! Honestly, I had completely forgotten about our Hairspray Halloween; I just about fell out of my chair laughing when it showed up!

  6. There is just SO much to love about this post!! Such a beautiful wedding!

    1. Thank you! We were so lucky to get such a life changing, cultural experience!

  7. wow! what a wedding! totally worth a trip to japan for! i love that you posted so many photos for us! and that cake!! it is amazing! even if it is fake. i would have been bummed there wasn't dancing, too. That has become my favorite part of weddings this year. I'm not a great dancer, but I make up for it with enthusiasm!

    1. You would have loved it! We could have gone home after the wedding and still have been completely satisfied by our trip...thankfully, we had much more to see and do. I'm so glad that you like yo dance! I hate when people don't dance because they are "not good." Dancing is about moving and having fun. Next time you guys are out here (or when I go back there) we must go dancing!

  8. That is amazing. The outdoor ceremony looked stunning and lady gaga herself would be seething with jealousy over that futuristic veil contraption. I am in awe and in love. Also, I love the flowers in her hair and the huge bouffant. I would wear by hair like that daily if I had access to fresh flowers and a beautician every day!

    1. Her flower filled hairdo was definitely my favorite! I have a nickname for her moon-shaped veil that I can't disclose here...I'll tell you when you're older. Hahaha!!!

  9. Now that looks like a wedding that was worth attending, like that vintage wedding that we shared via a blog, with everybody in vintage dress, cars, the works! Does anyone else think that Nami looks amazingly like a Japanese version of Lisa from "Pretty Baby Cried She Was A Bird"? And that Mr. Tiny looks GREAT and quite handsome and not at all like a waiter in his tux? (I would have thought he would have had a polka-dotted shirt or something a little more "wacky tacky", though! Maybe a bow tie that spun around, or a lapel flower that squirted water? ;-) ) And that Mary is absolutely stunning and was, undoubtedly, a HUGE HIT with the Japanese guests?

    1. Thank you! I knew we were going to stick out like two giant sore thumbs (and I didn't want to embarrass Nami) so I wore something demure...of course, I ended up being the only manin a tuxedo!!! You are absolutely right, Nary was popular; she honestly made like a politician - bowing, shaking hands, and kissing babies!

    2. Ha, the ONLY man there in a tux? I guess that alone serves as the 'wacky tacky' element! I guess THAT is why you "felt like a waiter"! Maybe a zoot suit next time?

  10. This looks like such a fantastic wedding, and an amazing experience! How brilliant that you and Mary were able to attend, and be part of such a special occasion. I absolutely adore those flowers in the bride's hair - so perfectly round and colourful. I can't believe the bride had so many outfit changes! How long did it take each time she got a new outfit/make-up and hair?! Also, curious minds want to know - what did the guests think of Mary and Tiny? Did they enjoy your performance?! :)

  11. How beautifully wonderful! Thank you so much for your tour through this amazing event. The pix are great!!!! You and Mary, darling as always!!