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Stunning Old House Elopement in Kyoto

Our aim is to find places off the beaten tourist path, to offer couples truly unique settings and experiences. This Elopement in Kyoto did just that. In fact, it has quite a story! After four months of planning, this Kyoto elopement nearly didn't happen. It was almost scuppered at the last minute by not one, but two huge typhoons!  

This couple, from Canada, got in touch in July, shortly after we launched the first website in April 2018. They wanted an October elopement in an outdoor setting in Kyoto, the cultural center of Japan.  And we couldn't have been more excited for them... and us! We love this city, so we’ll take any excuse to spend time there!

The brief for their elopement in Kyoto was to find a beautiful garden for an intimate ceremony, with no guests. They wanted something simple yet elegant; just a venue, celebrant and photographer. With that in mind, we got searching for the best gardens in Kyoto, and there are many! However, what we found was that only one garden allowed western wedding dresses…  Since Kyoto is the cultural center, they like to keep everything culturally homogenous, so most gardens only accept kimono clad bridal parties.

Nonetheless, we found a beautiful garden, scouted it out, and located several spots within the garden for the ceremony and photoshoot afterwards. On our return from our research in Kyoto, we shared the findings with the couple who liked what we proposed: a simple garden ceremony and photo-shoot followed by dinner at a romantic restaurant. They liked it. Everything was going well.

Roll on September, and typhoon season…

The Weather Turns

The beginning of the month saw the biggest typhoon to hit Japan in over 25 years.  Kyoto got it in the neck! The Kamogawa (the river that runs through the city) nearly burst its banks; passengers at Kyoto station were nearly killed by falling glass, and the main artery (bridge) to Kansai international airport was badly damaged by a stray tanker. It was like something from Armageddon.

On top of this, the garden, in which we were planning to hold the elopement ceremony, was severely damaged. Large parts of it were destroyed and closed to the public. With less than a month to go, things were not looking good. Yet, while some of the garden had been rendered unsafe, the ceremoeny spots were undamaged. We contacted the couple and relayed this info.

They were quite cool about this. It would all become part of the story, they thought. They were still good to go, even if some of the photo-shooting locations were closed. The planned elopement in Kyoto was still on.

Then the second typhoon hit...

The whole garden was rendered unusable...

We only had one option – Iiori Machiya Stay.  We had met them in August on our trip to Kyoto, seeking venues and vendors for this and other weddings.  They were really excited at the prospect of diversifying their service offering, they wanted to see how it would work out, and offered our next Kyoto couple the opportunity to use their venue.  We contacted them to see if the offer still stood – they said yes!  

One of our aims at Serendipity is to find places in Japan that are off the beaten track, to offer each couple a truly unique setting and experience.  The old town houses of Iiori Machiya Stay do just that! They offer a perfect, intimate setting, right in the heart of Kyoto. So, with the blessing and assistance of the wonderful people at Iiori Machiya Stay, Ayako worked her magic, to create a simple, yet unique ceremony space.

Elopement Day

The couple wanted to get ready at separate places, before meeting at the venue just before the ceremony. We took the bride to a local hair and make-up salon, while the groom waited at the machiya (old Japanese town house).  Looking dapper in his suit, the groom waited anxiously for the arrival of his bride, who looked stunning in her long flowing white dress.  His eyes, up on first seeing his bride, were a sight to behold – he couldn’t stop looking at her!

The ceremony was a simple mix of western and eastern traditions, and was held on the balcony of the machiya overlooking the Kamogawa. It was perfect!

Then, afterwards, the photographers got to work!

Following the outdoor shoot, we provided them with champagne and Japanese snacks to relax, celebrate and take in the the events of the day.

One week later

Although the Kyoto elopement ceremony was a success, and the setting was beautiful, and the couple were blown away with it all, we we not satisfied. Their brief was for a garden wedding, so we were going to right the wrongs of mother nature!  One week later, on the Tokyo leg of their trip to Japan, we met them again, dressed them in Kimonos with help from the wonderful people at Vasara Kimono Rentals, and did a photoshoot, this time at a park in Tokyo. This park was not nearly as badly affected by the earlier typhoons.

Again the weather threatened rain, but thankfully, it held! We were having so much fun, we didn’t notice the time: we were there for almost two hours!

Thank you to the couple, for being so cool and easy to work with, and congratulations on taking this important step in your relationship together. We wish you both the very best as you embark on your journey as husband and wife!

Remember, next time you are in Tokyo, we are going for drinks and a bite to eat, together!!

If you would like to have your very own Kyoto Elopement, please email us at or leave a message for us on our contact page, and we will get back to you as soon as possible!

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