Monday, May 12, 2008


From Whence Wedding Magic

Maybe you've heard of Japanese wedding halls. They are grand, expensive buildings with numerous rooms and props. The whole thing is more like a series of theaters than anything else, and includes costume rental. I'm not kidding. This is because weddings in Japan are a real show, and follow a basically predictable formula. You rent the room that has the maximum props that you can afford, you pick a menu, you pick your drinks and you pick your changes in outfit. Wedding halls are machines of efficiency.

While you are attending a wedding in one room, the other rooms hum with, well, other weddings, costume selection, menu planning and prop preparation. It's a bit like Soho-House-meets-Disneyland.

Sample men's accessories. My cousin, ever the individualist, had a specific kind of shoe in mind for one of his costume changes. The costume salon did not have his desired shoe in stock, and so special ordered it for him.

The bridal costume salon (all outfits are rented). As you can see, most dresses have a certain kind of heft.

A Gone-with-the-Wind of a fantasy of a dress. (Not my style).

The way to the wedding was marked by these giant, life-sized posters of white people getting married.

This sign informed me where I was: The New York Designers Sherry Club. I have now been to the Sherry Club.

And really, isn't a leather padded bar worthy of New York Designers? How about the rows of free cocktails?

I liked the gauzy curtain separating the designated drinking area from the dining room.

And while the food wasn't really great, it was gorgeous. Lest you think I am needlessly insulting the food, nearly everyone I spoke to said the same thing: "Japanese wedding food is beautiful. But tastes terrible."

The cake actually had gold leaf on top.

The wedding dinner was a spectacle I won't soon forget. After the initial, more traditional robes, the bride and groom changed three times. Once they reappeared descending this set of stairs from the second to ground floor. Once they just came in through a curtain. And once they were lowered into the room via a basket, sort of the way the Wizard of Oz crash landed in Oz. Each entrance was followed by four, high powered spotlights.

This second change of costume included a little stunt. Half the tables in the dining room included a vase of water. The groom put a piece of dry ice in the water, and the bride dropped in a little whirring robot-thing that changed color. The result was this cauldron of a vase that kept shifting hues.

The second change of costume involved another stunt. The bride and groom lit a large candle placed on a "stage." The moment the flame lit, mini fireworks ignited on the tables that didn't have the whirring-dry-ice-light-thingies.

Yes that is a massive pink ruffle around the candle lighter.

I actually thought that all these little stunts were a nice way for the bride and groom to go around from table to table and speak to all of the guests. I suppose the stunts would only get boring if you were consistently invited to weddings in the same same room of the same hall; you'd know all the smoke-and-mirrors beforehand.

The bouquet toss was actually a riff on a traditional Japanese game, in which numerous pieces of string appear to be tied to a piece of candy. Everyone holds one piece of string, then pulls, only to find that only one string is actually attached to the candy. The winner gets the piece of candy.

The game was reconfigured for the bouquet of flowers. Here you can see the bride up on a stage, and the girls below preparing to give the ribbon a good yank.

I am so glad I did not have to be among the ribbon-pullers.

The staging, choreography (and lighting) were frighteningly well timed. The evening ended with a dramatic farewell and public thank you between parents and children. I'm pretty sure the soundtrack included Celine Dion.

Everyone cried.

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