Hello! This is the post that I have been eagerly anticipating to write since the inception of this blog. I have to say that our wedding was an amazing experience. I feel so blessed that I could share it with my family, close friends, and new friends we met on that day. It was so much fun and everyone had a great time, from the traditional ceremony, to the reception and performances, to my father-in-law’s speech which brought my wife to tears as well as many others in the room, and finally the epic Saipan inspired after party at Rupo Standing Bar.
I found that writing this as early as possible would be the best way to preserve the memories since time often distorts what we think happened from reality. It was great that many people took lots of videos and pictures as well as professionals who were capturing those moments. I can’t believe it has already been almost a week since, and I am currently writing this in Osaka…
*WARNING, LONG READ*
TL;DR – Wedding went great! Afterparty was fun, everyone had a great time!
It was the night before the wedding at the Ishibashi residence in Adachi, Tokyo, and we were all trying to sleep early to get a decent rest before the big wedding. We had a full house and I was the only guy left. Mariko, Queency, Sheena, Milian, and I set our alarms at 6am and went to sleep around 11:30pm.
We woke up early and had a light breakfast which consisted of coffee, pastries and fruit. Afterwards we started to get ready, I put on my suit, did one final check, then we proceeded to walk to Rokucho station. It was a cloudy but nice day since the temperature was neither too hot nor too cold. We took the train to meet my family at Akihabara before going together to Iidabashi where Tokyo Daijingu is. So far everything was going very smoothly, everyone was well rested and in good spirits!
The Wedding Ceremony:
It was around 8:30am when we arrived at the shrine and immediately Mariko and I were ushered into separate changing rooms to put on our traditional garments for the ceremony. My outfit looked similar to a Samurai outfit and had many layers of clothing that was expertly put on by an assistant. It was fairly tight and heavy as the layers kept piling on, and I realized that I probably should have used the washroom prior to changing. Fortunately, after I finished… With some help from the assistant, I managed to finish my business and went back to the waiting area beside the changing room until Mariko finished. Thankfully, I managed to sneak my cell phone into my sleeve pocket so I could take a few pictures whenever I had the opportunity.
Honestly, I was extremely impressed with the organization, precision, and unwavering dedication that each employee of the Tokyo Daijingu displayed on the wedding day. We had an assistant that followed us around everywhere making sure we knew exactly what to do at all times and that our attire looked perfect for every picture. There was a separate team that took care of all the clothing and makeup and they were very efficient with helping us change into different outfits (Mariko had to change 3 times and myself twice throughout the wedding) I asked the assistant how many weddings they would do on a single day, and she replied, “Up to 9,” Which made my jaw drop.
After about a half an hour wait, Mariko was finished changing and we were briefed on what we were supposed to do, how to walk, talk, sit down, smile, and the specifics on the ceremony which included how to walk up stairs, pray, pretend to drink the sacred sake, and more. It was more difficult for me since our assistant did not speak much English, so I relied on body language and hastily whispered translations from Mariko to figure out what I was supposed to do. We were ushered then to the photo room where we had our first session in our traditional attire. Afterwards we were escorted to the first floor, out of the building, and into the waiting room into the shrine. Inside the waiting room, both sides of the family were seated in the same area with Mariko and myself at the head of the room. Each member of the family stood up and introduced themselves and explained how they were related to the bride or the groom. The assistant then briefed everyone on the do’s and donts during the ceremony.
And so it began… With myself at the lead, we walked out of the waiting area and down a narrow hall which led outside. At that moment I felt like I was in a dream, with the traditional music played by the procession that led us with each step closer to the shrine. The visitors and tourists were kept at an ample distance to the side though they were snapping pictures eagerly as we walked by them. In a blink of an eye, we were standing in front of the temple, and I took a deep breath before walking in. I also had to be careful to walk at a short pace since Mariko’s outfit weighed at least 30 pounds and was difficult to walk in. Also her(‘wig’ weighed around 2 pounds by itself, with a white space helmet looking thing (kammuri) that was supposed to hide the bride from view.
Inside the temple, we bowed to Kami-Sama, took our seats facing each other in the middle of the room, while the rest of our family and guests were ushered in their seats. We were instructed not to look anywhere else except each other’s chests, which was a challenging at times since since we both wanted to look around at what was going on. We were introduced by the head priest who spoke with an ancient, ritualistic tone. The priestesses poured a tiny amount of sake for Mariko and I and we raised it to our lips and pretended to drink from it. Out of the corner of my eye I could see that there was a performance going on around us but I tried my best to focus my gaze on Mariko, though I have to admit I was starting to get cross eyed. Luckily, soon after Mariko and I were prompted to stand up and walk to the center of the room where I would begin to speak my vow to God. I took out a battered-looking scroll from the inner layer in my breast pocket and began to unfold it. Inside was an English translation of the ancient words that would make it possible for me to actually say it. I took a deep breath and followed my assistant’s advice, “Speak slowly, clearly, and loudly.” At the end of the page I declared my name, and then Mariko followed afterwards. We put on each others rings, bowed twice, clapped twice and bowed once again before taking our seats but this time facing the front. It was good timing since another performance was about to start, this time with priestesses with giant multi-colored butterfly wings on their back dancing in perfect harmony with precise and elegant movements. After, sake was poured for our guests and they drank to unite our families. Mariko and I stood up and walked to the center again, and this time offered a bouquet of flowers to God. The whole ceremony went by very quickly, and before I knew it, we were already finished and the reception would soon start…
The Wedding Reception – Part 1:
As soon as we finished, we took pictures of the whole wedding party in the photo room. After that, everyone was brought to the banquet room while we went back into the other room to change and refresh our outfits. Mariko changed into a beautiful pink kimono with a sakura design, while I wore the same outfit. I passed the time by taking to my whatsapp group chat about the ceremony, and also preparing for my speech later. Within around 30 minutes, she was ready and we were escorted to the next area for the party.
The head table was at the back-center of the room with the wedding cake directly across from us. There were six tables with 6 to 8 people seated in each one. The first table closest to the entrance consisted of my family and the Saipan group. The hosts’ stand was also located beside their table. The second table had our friends from Canada (and China :P) while the third table included the bride’s mothers side – The Nagabayashi family and the Drunkles. (Rennard coined this term to combine “drunk” and “uncle”) The fourth table was Mariko’s dad’s side of the family from Akita and the fifth table which was comprised of the bride’s family: Kyoko-San (Mother), Masaru-San (Father), Hideyuki-San (Older brother), his wife Yurika-San, and their two sons, Yuto and the newborn Seiga, and Kanae-San (Older sister) Last but not least, the sixth table had Mariko’s childhood friends from Saipan, Anna, Yoshino, Remy, and Sayaka and her parents.
The reception began with an opening speech in Japanese by myself, and then a speech from Mariko followed by an opening ‘toast’ speech from Sayaka’s dad. He talked about fond memories of Mariko’s past in Saipan and said some kind and motivational words before offering the first toast for the wedding. The first course was also brought out during this time, though Mariko and I would scarcely have the time to eat due to the fast pace of the wedding.
Next up on the list was Reiner, my younger brother, who played an beautiful arrangement of Canon in C. We barely had time to eat before we were brought over to do the cake cutting. The first bites of the Sakura-themed strawberry shortcake were absolutely delicious, and I couldn’t wait to eat more later. After, Sayaka, Anna, and Yoshino prepared a slideshow which showed pictures that highlighted the days of their youth with Mariko while growing up in Saipan. It was a nostalgic trip for them, especially for Mariko who had only seen them for the first time in 15 years. This would mark the first half of our wedding reception, with much more awesomeness to come up ahead…
The Wedding Reception – Part 2:
Soon after the slideshow, Mariko & I were guided out of the room and back down the elevator to change into our final outfits for the rest of the reception. Mariko changed into a white western-style wedding dress while I changed into a white suit. Another photo shoot ensued and were subsequently brought back upstairs for our surprise performance. When we were ready, the music was cued and we walked back through the doors and ‘sang’ (actually lip-synced) the Japanese version of Love is an Open Door from the movie Frozen. It was apparent from the raucous cheering that our dancing and singing was a big hit with the audience, which was completed with my proposal with flowers at the end. Following a huge round of applause, we began going around to each table to take pictures with our guests. We were provided with signs that had funny messages written on them such as, ‘Am I next?’ or ‘i’m single.’
I WAS SO HUNGRY BY THEN!!!! Thankfully, after the picture taking we had a chance to eat about 5 courses worth of food as quickly as we could during Lalang’s piano performance of a classic love song – From this Moment. Later Milian, Kanae, and Geraldine introduced the two wedding games: Bride and Groom Questionnaire, and Guess the Elbow. We started off with the question game, which was awkwardly funny and was amusing, especially to the drunkles who were heckling at us at every question. The second game involved blindfolding the groom and lining up a bunch of our guests with their elbows sticking out. The objective of the game was for me to touch and feel each of the elbows and try to guess which one was Mariko’s. If I got it right, I would get a kiss on the cheek, and if I was wrong I would get a flick to the forehead. After going through each elbow, I narrowed it down to #3 and #4, which felt nearly identical. I went with #3 since it was my lucky number, but it turned out to be Remy, and #4 was Mariko. So close, but in the end I got flicked in the forehead 🙁
I remember a few months ago Mariko was informing me that I would be doing a performance near the end of the reception with my brothers and male friends. Her mother had suggested that we do something easy, something everyone would know, such as YMCA. “Easy peasy lemon squeezy,” I thought to myself, and said, “Sure! No problem!” Before going back to whatever I was doing. Fast forward to the wedding day, and the epicly
awkward awesome performance was set to begin any minute…
I was given a cue before rounding up my brothers and friends, and briefed them on the final performance. I told them, “ENERGY! We are going to wing this so just have fun and try to look like you know what you are doing.” They returned my motivational words with an array of mixed feelings which ranged from fear to wanting to escape to the bathroom. It was too late though, the music was starting, and the show was about to begin! Our performance started out pretty well, I was trying my best to dance and get the crowd into it which worked, but I did not realize that they were playing the whole song which was nearly 5 minutes long. I was lip syncing, jumping around, while my backup dancers were trying their best to look alive. We were blessed with a surprise entrance by one of the Drunkles, who staggered onto our stage after returning from a bathroom break. His appearance kept things fresh since he joined our dance and breathed life into our performance. The audience was dancing with us for the most part, except for the Akita table who looked stoic throughout. After what seemed like an eternity, the music faded and we were met with loud applause, and I breathed a sigh of relief and bowed deeply to the crowd.
Now that we got that out of the way, there were only a few things left in the function. Mariko and I gave our mothers a bouquet of flowers each, and a single flower for our fathers. My father gave a short speech in English, followed by Mariko’s father who also gave an impromptu speech which brought many to tears. Her mom had originally helped him write a speech which he had in his pocket, but he chose to speak from his heart instead, and it was a truly emotional and moving one. I did not understand everything that he was saying, but I almost cried as well. Afterwards, the slow dance music was cued and we did some slow dancing in the middle of the room, and then the party was over, and we exited the room first to prepare the party favors to give to each of our guests. Our gift to our guests was an gold, erasable pen with our names and date of marriage inscribed on it. We bowed and thanked each guest as they left and they wished us the best of luck in the future. And that was that…
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! (If you’ve read this far I commend you for your awesome attention span!)
The After Party:
The wedding was officially over, and the official after party was about to begin. Big thanks to Kanae and Remi for organizing everything. It was absolutely awesome and everyone had a blast! Words can’t express how thankful I am for all the love and support we received. Enough talk, here are some pictures!