my ring, yall
They say there’s 2,000 things to decide when you plan a wedding and marriage to a person, which seems pretty right considering Satoru and I had to decide around 100 things alone when choosing an engagement ring.
(There’s three things happening this year: a) my wedding, b) my move to a new apartment, and c) my new job. Since I can’t talk about b (haven’t started looking lol) or c (top secret, bub), I’ll talk about a) for now.)
We went to about four jewelry stores before we chose one, and each one sat us down and gave us the bridal talk. The wedding industrial complex is HUGE here, and pretty much the only option since it’s unheard of to get married in a park with a picnic lunch or something. So you’re going to be spending big bucks pretty much anywhere you go – and these places want your cash. Every place you go to sits you down for hours, serving free drinks with diamond-shaped ice, gives you a lecture on the 4 C’s of diamonds (hell, one place is even called 4℃), and lets you try on a bunch of jewelry that’s more expensive than your rent. “This is the only engagement ring you’ll be buying in your life, so you need to pick something that you really love,” they gush. Hopefully, something you love costs 400,000 yen!
The reason Satoru and I chose the store we did was because you got a huge discount off of wedding rings if you bought them in a pack with the engagement ring. We even got a questionnaire regarding why we chose that particular store, with reasons given such as, “so many designs to choose from!” “good location.” Where’s the option for “cheaper than anything else out there”? Actually, I love my engagement ring – it’s a sweet little ribbon shape with a diamond in the center – but it was pure luck that it happened to be sold at a shop with a sweet deal. Price is pretty much the only thing we really find important, seeing as neither of us are wedding people and we don’t have a lot of ideas for what we want everything to look like. I want a ceremony and all that jazz, but I just don’t want to spend very much money on it when we’ve got our whole lives ahead of us. …Yeah, okay, I’ll stop humblebragging about being so practical about weddings now.
I’m actually a bit embarrassed about how chill I am about the whole thing, because the expectation is pretty strong that I have been planning my wedding since I was a ten year old. I have no dream dress, hairstyle, color scheme, menu, song, ceremony, nada. It’s not that I don’t care about my wedding – heck yes I wanna marry this amazing dude in front all the people that love us! – it’s just that I wish I could just show up on the day with all the decisions made for me. I just see a vague silhouette of myself in white, eating wedding cake, I guess. Also, he’s standing up at the front smiling in a J. Crew suit or something, hah. I care about my wedding, just not weddings in general.
My one friend introduced me to the Zexy magazine, which is basically a huge promotion booklet for wedding venues/jewelry/services tailored to your area. “Zexy is the engaged woman’s bible!” she said, while researching venues in Morioka for me. I have four months worth of Zexy now, mainly so I can look like I’m being proactive about my wedding plans. (The magazine itself is 75% advertisements for wedding stuff, and 25% pictures of white models in wedding garb talking about how they hope they don’t offend people at their wedding. This white person is pretty sure that if she offends someone, it’ll just be blamed on the fact that she is white, so really, no harm no foul)
After Satoru and I bought the rings, we started visiting weddings venues around Morioka. Early in February, I was at a party for the running club where I announced I was getting married. Well, apparently someone in the Morioka club works in sales at a hotel in town, so he of course tackled me immediately, wondering where we were having the wedding. He even called over a wedding planner from the hotel to show me pictures. “We’ll comp you the cake! You must have it in our hotel. Oh, your birthdays are the same day? How about that? Get married on your birthday! The day is open, after all!”
We’re not getting married on our birthday (neither of us is THAT bad at remembering important events that we have to have them all on the same day), but we will get married in that hotel. It’s nice to have an acquaintance to introduce you to stuff (and to discount stuff for you!) but also, it’s in a convenient location and most importantly the price is right. It’ll be an affordable wedding in a beautiful venue. That’s really all you can ask for!
We didn’t decide right away though. We actually took about 2-3 months to finally put a deposit down. Mainly, the both of us got advice to check out more than one place. Not only would we be able to compare services, but we’d get free dinner at any place we went to (hah!). The first hotel gave us a full course Chinese lunch after all. Neither of us were expecting to be led directly to their top-class Chinese restaurant (this is not noodles in a white cardboard box here), and even then, Satoru and I thought we’d just get a simple sample platter. Nope, we got the full course lunch! So we wanted to experience a little bit more of that while we could.
Many weddings take place in hotels in Japan, but they tend to get crowded, filled with other weddings going on at the same time, and are a bit confusing to get around. Satoru wanted to tour a “guest house” wedding, which is basically just a venue that is dedicated to weddings. There are a cluster of them on the outside of town, a place I like to call the Wedding Factory. Picking one at random, we set aside a Saturday to explore the place.
The place was GORGEOUS. Modern, beautiful, dipped in white and gold. A wedding planner was waiting for us as we parked and asked us immediately what was most important for our wedding. “The food? Or how about the atmosphere? The flowers?”
“The price, and the dates. We need this specific date or else my family can’t come,” I said.
Of course, they couldnt’ tell us the price or the dates before they take us through a long tour of the premises. That arose my suspicions. Let’s face it, they were selling us on the decor and hoping we’d fall in love before we worried about the price or availability. And listen, the place was beautiful. The dinner we got was absolutely delicious. The tour of the chapel was theatrical. I would be so lucky as to hold my wedding there.
“If you look through Zexy,” the woman said, “you’ll see that almost all of the venues in Morioka cost the same amount. So really, you’re just choosing based on what venue speaks to you.”
“True,” I said as I held Satoru’s hand, gazing at the authentic stained-glass window.
At the very end, another attendant came to us with a small box. “This is a present to you from all of the staff here,” she beamed. Satoru opened up the box; it was a beautiful arrangement of flowers. Pasted inside the inner box-lid was a calendar with a single heart mark. “Congratulations,” our wedding planner said. “Six months in advance is really fast so we had almost zero openings, but we had one right around the time you said!”
We grimaced. It was a Monday. “Thank you,” Satoru said.
We still got the hard sell (“This is one of the dates you mentioned, so what’s the problem? You just have to check with your parents, right? But after that you’ll come back tomorrow to put down a deposit, right? I can’t guarantee it will be open for much longer…”) and we were only able to get an actual estimate after Satoru went by himself the next day (so we wouldn’t be pressured into signing right then and there). Yeah, turns out the wedding estimates are NOT the same for every venue in Morioka. Only if you’re inviting hundreds of people will the money work out to be similar – we’re only inviting 50-60, which would have cost us almost THREE MILLION YEN.
I don’t want to spend this period of my life worrying about money if I don’t have to. I want to concentrate on the love I feel, and the sweetness of facing a new life together. I have other things to worry about (lol apartments and jobs lol) so I just knew I couldn’t hack a three million yen wedding (~$30,000). So we picked the other place. It’s much more affordable, and more importantly, they never pressured us into signing anything without confirming all the details first. “We’re not the best choice for people who really have a set idea in mind for their wedding – we’re only able to offer this package because we don’t have a lot of options for decorations and the like. Is that okay?”
“That’s perfect for me,” I said.
So Satoru and I are officially getting married this year, and the venue is booked. Now we have to worry about invitations but the nice thing about Japanese weddings is that everything is taken care of by your venue – I don’t have to contact florists or dressmakers or food vendors or invitation-makers. They have those things set up. Satoru and I just have to go in for a meeting once a month. Sounds good to me!
We’ll probably sign the actual legal papers sooner rather than later, to make it easier for me to apply for a spouse visa in case the job hunt goes bad. When I went to Tokyo recently for work (that whole Ama-chan stuff), I went over to the American Embassy to get some paperwork notarized. Of course, like the idiot I am, I forgot my actual American passport. The officers were nice and said they only needed my foreigner ID so it all worked out, but boy, did I feel like a total loser. Grown up enough to get married and I forgot my actual proof of citizenship!
It sure was nice to swear an oath that all my information was correct so that I could get married to one Satoru Wayama. It felt pretty important!