This beautiful Japanese tea house elopement was a wonderful way to start our story as a business. They were the first couple to sign up with us after launching the website back in May 2018. They love Japan and so for them, the decision to elope in Japan was a no-brainer.
Despite this, we had no track record in early 2018. However, thankfully there are always trailblazers. They are the ones who go first and venture where none have been before; the ones who risk it all when there is no proven track record for success! For this, we are thankful to this couple, and indeed to all our clients in our first year of business!
At that stage of our business we hadn’t worked with venues or vendors, so everything was a first, and required research. It was an exciting time, as we were able to put our plans into action and test out and develop our ideas.
And this is a great little story to start our business with!
Japanese Tea House Elopement
Initially, the couple wanted to get married at a Shinto Shrine in Tokyo, at the beginning of January. However, most Shrines are unable to host weddings during the New Year period, because this is a very important time in the Shinto calendar; indeed in Japanese culture as a whole. During this period, Japanese people attend shrines up and down the country to receive New Year blessings. It can get very crowded. Most shrines will have lines stretching away from the temple for 100 meters or more!
So we had to adjust the plan, and came up with a tea house elopement in a beautiful, traditional Japanese garden.
Japanese gardens are plentiful in Japan, so we were spoilt for choice! Most of the gardens we currently use now are a result of this research, so we have this couple to thank for these great finds!
Like nearly all of our couples who invite guests to their destination wedding, they not only wanted to have a garden elopement and Japanese wedding for themselves, they also wanted to put on a unique Japanese experience for their friends traveling all the way from Australia. Everything needed to be authentically Japanese and to achieve this we included:
Koto for background music
Kagami Biraki (sake barrel, more on the later)
Authentic Matcha (Japanese Tea) for guests
No Japanese wedding can be considered authentic without kimonos. These were supplied by a local Kimono vendor, Hoshiya-San of Tinkabell Kimono. Her kimonos are absolutely stunning. She often supplies them to movie and TV studios for period dramas. Therefore, needless to say, the quality of her kimonos is second to none. They were even featured in Martha Stewarts Wedding Magazine for the elopement we helped out with in 2017.
Hoshiya-san is passionate about her work, and was so excited, that she even offered three kimonos for the price of one: one for the ceremony, another for the indoor photo-shoot, and yet another for the garden shoot. Hoshiya-san was clearly thinking in terms of a story, and the bride was sold!
After the bride learned that black was the traditional bridal color at weddings in Japan, she chose to go against her western influences – she wanted to be as true to Japanese culture as she could. And what a good decision it was! The black fabric contrasted splendidly with the hand stitched, brightly colored, silk patterns and motifs making her look absolutely stunning. This particular kimono was almost 100 years old which, along with the antique hair accessories she also wore, added a touch of history to the proceedings.
After the ceremony, the bride donned an exquisite gold embroidered Kimono gown, drawing sharp intakes of breath as the guests laid eyes on the amazing contrast between the black and the gold. See for yourselves in the gallery at the bottom of the page!
The groom, on the other hand didn’t have nearly half as much choice… men never do! Yet he still looked the part with his white kimono and blue and grey hakama (trousers).
This was a perfect addition to the event, tying everything together to complete the authentic Japanese feel. Not over powering, yet not understated, the sound of the koto filled the air with a perfect mix of Japanese-ness, romance and culture. I for one, hope we get an opportunity to use a Koto in future ceremonies; it made the whole thing feel so much more authentic and special. Indeed, it completed the story.
This was something of a surprise for the couple from Ayako and me. The couple originally wanted a shrine ceremony, which typically, includes a sake-drinking ritual, known as san-san-kudo. While, neither Ayako nor I are of the shinto faith, we thought it might be a nice nod to their original plans, since it is uniquely Japanese and involves sake drinking.
Kagami-biraki is a ritual performed at many different types of celebratory events, but especially at weddings. The couple break the lid of a sake barrel with a wooden mallet and share the liquor with everyone present. The circular shape of the lid is considered to be a symbol of harmony. Therefore, breaking open the lid represents opening harmony and good fortune.
The ceremony, performed in English, was held in the tea house of the garden, which had beautiful views of the winter garden landscape, and was warm! And in keeping with the surroundings we wove Japanese elements into the English ceremony at the couple’s request.
It was, quite honestly, perfect!
Following the ceremony, and the opening of the Kagami Biraki, they shared sake with their friends and had a 90 minute long photo-shoot both inside the tea room and in the garden.
All in all, it was a lovely way to start the new year!
Congratulations to the couple: wishing them a lifetime of love, laughter and true happiness!