"It is the one regret I have today, that the most beautiful, wonderful woman in my life never got a chance to meet the most beautiful, wonderful woman in my life."
- from my wedding speech
Naoko and I flew to Ireland for the wedding. Her parents, aunt and cousins, who would be joining us at the wedding, had already left for Germany to do some sightseeing on the way. We went through
Paris, and the flight was uneventful, apart from the family of four in the next row to us, who had a terrible time because the elder child got severe pains in her ears from the pressure change
and cried loudly for most of the trip, despite attempts at help and solace by the attendants and several passengers.
Once we arrived in Ireland we were immediately busy. I had friends and family arriving from all over Ireland as well as Germany and of course Japan. Everybody had to be met, welcomed, joined for a drink, and guided around. Naoko kept pressing me to arrange things with the photographer, as she wanted photos with her family outside the church, and was worried that we might not be able to get them. I had a hard time convincing her that an Irish photographer would actually do what we want, unlike Japanese photographers who only do what they choose to do. We still had to print the programs and do a lot of other preparations, and the priest adding a few "suggestions" at the wedding rehearsal didn't help. The only moment of peace I got was while getting a haircut, during which the girl cutting my hair tried to make conversation by asking if I was "doing anything interesting over the weekend?", to which I replied by unloading all my worries on her. Naoko's family arrived and we all went for a meal at their hotel, followed by a trip to a local bar that my father used to haunt regularly, and the evening was enjoyed by everyone. Naoko's cousin spent the evening teaching my father some important Japanese phrases such as "nombei" (a heavy drinker), and the two got on famously as they devoured countless pints of Guinness together.
Naoko's family promptly set off on a day long bus trip the next day, which meant they missed the wedding rehearsal. They later complained about not being informed of what was going on. I should, on reflection, have taken more time to explain the content of the wedding service to them, but I didn't know most of it myself until we actually went through it with the priest. I had prepared missals in English with Japanese titles for each ritual of the mass, but thinking back on it the Japanese titles would only have been understood by someone who had been to mass in Japan.
I asked my sister to help with the missals, but it took a lot longer than expected to get the pages in the right order, with the first page to the right of the last page so that when they were printed and stapled together they would both be on the outermost facing pages. The printing and stapling together all had to be done by hand, but only after disaster struck. Once we had gotten the page layout done correctly and were about to start printing the eighty copies required, the power failed in my dad's house. We dashed to a nearby copy shop and were told that the machine could automatically do all the page ordering which I had spent so much time on, but only with the pages in original numeric order, and we had only brought the reordered version with us to copy. As we were printing, the shop assistant noticed what we were printing and asked when the wedding was. As I replied "Tomorrow", she gave me a look of surprise, sympathy, and more than a little disdain.
And then the day itself came. It rained a lot, which meant we couldn't get the photos outside the church that Naoko wanted, and the wind messed up her veil so that her hair was a bit tussled in all the photos we did get at the church. But apart from that the ceremony itself went well. It was a lot less formal than any Japanese wedding ceremonies I have seen, and the difference in cultures was no more obvious than the walk up the aisle, where Naoko and her father followed a rigid, slow pace, despite the fact that my sister, who was acting as bridesmaid, raced ahead of them. I think Naoko was a little more nervous than I was, and whispered at me through gritted teeth to keep my head facing forward, as my eyes had started to wander around the church a bit. It was the same church in which I had received all the Christian sacraments as a child, and I was more than a little surprised and amused to be back in it again getting another one. The priest did a good job of guiding us through the procedures, and I was a lot less nervous than I had been at the rehearsal. (I always get nervous the first time I do something, but after that I am usually fine.) Since we couldn't get photos outside, we did a few poses at the altar with family and friends, and when that was finished we walked down the aisle to the customary wedding march and the spontaneous applause of our family and friends. (I have always found it amazing how Japanese people have to be prompted to applaud!) As we walked down the aisle, and I looked at the smiles on the faces of everyone we passed, I found myself beaming with pride also, as I realised the long courtship I had worked so hard to nurture had finally borne fruit, and the woman I loved had become my wife.
The reception was held at a hotel near my father's house, the same one at which we had attended the New Year party. We arrived in a white limousine and started greeting the guests as they arrived. After a round of drinks in the bar, the photographer took us upstairs for some more photos of just the two of us and our parents. As everyone started moving into the main reception room for the banquet, Naoko went off to change into a kimono before we made our grand entrance. Although the florist had only been told than Naoko would be wearing a kimono, she had somehow managed to pick a flower arrangement that matched it perfectly, as many people commented when they saw it. As we waited outside the room for my brother to announce our entry, I was surprised to hear him rattling off a few Japanese phrases at everybody. It turned out he had been taking lessons. Shortly after he started making his speech, he turned to me to translate what he had said, and I realised I had forgotten the copy of his speech that he had given me that morning. I mumbled through a rough explanation of what he was saying, cursing my inability to do simultaneous translation. Then it came to my speech. The microphone that had been arranged was not working, and there were a couple of points in the speech where my voice broke due to emotion, so some people may not have heard it all. The speech went like this:
I prepared two versions of this speech, depending on the weather, and I still don't know which one to use.
In the course of organising this wedding, we had to contend with a war in Iraq and a disease in China trying to spoil our plans,
(To use if it is raining)
so we are not going to let a little rain bother us today.
(to use if it is not raining)
so we are glad that at least the weather was good to us today.
As a certain Killiney resident once said, "It's a Beautiful Day".
It was thirteen and a half years ago when I stood before an audience that included many of you, and bade my farewells as I set off to begin a new life in Japan. Today I can report that all
is going well. Back then, I was "flying the nest", but today Naoko and I begin to build our own.
Speaking of whom, before I proceed I feel I must introduce my bride properly, since many of you are meeting her for the first time today. Naoko is five years younger than I, and as you can see, five hundred times better looking. When I first met her, my initial impression was that there was no way a woman that beautiful would have anything to do with the likes of me, and I quietly rejoice every day that that was one of the very rare occasions where our opinions have differed. I must thank our mutual friend Shigeru Shimano, who introduced us, and who joins us here today.
Since then we have been seeing each other for two and a half years, sharing some good times and helping each other through some bad ones. Today she becomes a member of my family, and I a member of hers. I have felt no greater honour in my life than when I was welcomed into her family, and no greater pride than when she was welcomed into mine.
Much has been said of the difficulties of intercultural marriages, but these difficulties are not of our making, and we will not let them hinder us in loving each other. It has been said that "the perfect marriage is not when the perfect couple meets, but when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences." It is true, we come from different countries, different cultures and different religions, but I believe these differences give us so much more to share with each other, so much more to learn from each other, that I cherish them as much as everything we have in common.
And so we have chosen to celebrate our love for each other with both of our families, in both traditions, here today in Dublin, and four weeks from now in Tokyo.
We have asked you all to gather here today to help us celebrate the commitment we have made to each other. As our family and friends you have played, and will continue to play, an important role in supporting us in our life together. I cannot let this day pass without expressing our gratitude to you all and to the many people who have helped to make this celebration the success it has become. Above all, I thank my family, my father, my mother, my brother and my sister. Without them I would not be the person I am today, and today would not be the very special day it is for us.
Particularly I must pay tribute to the outstanding efforts of my sister Helen, without whose organisation today's events would not have gone so smoothly. As a token of our appreciation, Naoko and I have prepared a small gift for Helen, if she would be good enough to step forward and accept it.
We would also like to thank Naoko's family, who have travelled across the world to be with us today.
We picked this day to celebrate our wedding in Dublin to coincide with the Golden Week Spring Holidays in Japan. It is a coincidence, but a delightful one, that today is also the wedding anniversary of Naoko's Parents, and we would like you all to join us in congratulating them as well.
[OTOOSAN, OKAASAN, KEKKON KINENBI OMEDETOU GOZAIMASU!]
We also welcome today Naoko's aunt and cousins, our friends from Japan, Germany, Belgium, France, and from all corners of this island. We thank you all for taking the trouble to travel here today.
We must also express our thanks to Father John for a beautiful ceremony, which I would venture was the first he has organised entirely through email. To Claire Gillespie and Emma O' Connor for the music; to Maureen Gleeson for the flowers; and to Joe Erraught and his colleagues for their assistance with the catering.
Finally, I must pay tribute to my mother. While she is not here in person, I feel sure that her spirit and her good wishes are with us today and everyday. It is the one regret I have today, that the most beautiful, wonderful woman in my life never got a chance to meet the most beautiful, wonderful woman in my life.
Before I finish I must take a moment to greet our Japanese guests, so please do not adjust your set.
NIHON KARA NO MINNA SAMA, HONJITU HA TOOI TOKORO MADE OKOSHI ITADAKI, MAKOTO NI ARIGATOU GOZAIMASU.
OKAGESAMA DE TOTEMO SUTEKINA KEKKONSHIKI WO AGERU KOTO GA DEKIMASHITE, KOKORO KARA KANSHA SHITE IMASU.
AIRURANDO NO YUTAKANA KESSHIKI, HONBA NO GINESU BIIRU HA TANOSHINDE ITADAITE IMASU DESHOU KA?
And so I bid you all to eat, drink and be merry, for this is a day of celebration. Naoko and I thank you all for sharing this day with us. We look forward to your continued love, friendship,
support and good wishes, and we wish you all prosperity, happiness, and all the good things we dream of for ourselves.
Thank you all very much, Go mbeannai Dia oraibh go leir, DOMO ARIGATOU GOZAIMASHITA!
The reception went without any further incident, except Naoko had to leave half way through to adjust her kimono because the "obi" was too tight. After the meal everybody moved back out to the
bar, while the room was cleared for the disco party in the evening. Other relatives and friends also started arriving. As the party was starting, my father realised his jacket was missing, and
convinced himself it had been stolen. He and Naoko's father had both rented morning wear for the day, so I immediately went to ask Naoko's father where his jacket was, and he pointed to the back
of a chair. I checked the pocket, and my father's wallet was inside. Naoko's father then started panicking about where his jacket was, until it turned out that Naoko's mother had brought it up to
their hotel room. All this got me into a flustered state, and I made the fatal mistake of getting into an argument with Naoko's mother about arrangements for the next day. The cousins, who were
leaving in the afternoon, wanted to go to the airport several hours in advance of their flight to ensure they did not miss it. This meant that there would not be enough time for both a visit to
my father's house and a visit to my mother's grave, I was adamant that we should visit the grave, and was growing more and more agitated by the amount of time we were spending away from our
guests, so I decided the issue there and then. Naoko would suffer a long and vicious bollicking from her mother over that after we returned to Japan. (Naoko's mother has never complained to, or
argued with me directly. She always goes through Naoko. This is in no way beneficial to me, as I do not think Naoko should bear the consequences of my actions.)
As my cousin Dermot arrived for the party, he assured my brother and me that he would get everybody up and enjoying themselves in no time, as he was well known for livening things up at such family occasions. My father was one of seven siblings, many of whom also had large families, so going to cousins' weddings was a common event for all my family. I even interrupted a business trip to Munich to attend one myself, flying back to Dublin for an overnight stay. But the show was stolen from him at this occasion, by Naoko's aunt Tomoko. Although in her mid fifties or sixties, and despite the fact that she was wearing a kimono, once she hit the dance floor there was no stopping her. My cousin Dermot admitted defeat early on in the evening, and many months later my relatives were still talking about her.
Overall it is safe to say everyone enjoyed the evening. My friend Eamon came up to me at the end, practically crying, and hugged me while telling me how happy he was to see me so happy. Months later, a relative of my father told him it was the best wedding he had ever been at. My friends from Japan, Osawa and Shimano, had differing experiences. Osawa left partway through to go to a pub (the same one we had gone to when Naoko's parents arrived), and found himself being bought drinks by all the regulars there, so when he returned to the party later he was as happy as a pig in shit. Shimano, who had arrived the day before after visiting Scotland to buy some single malt whiskeys as he toured the distilleries, was suffering from jetlag and fell asleep at the party. (He didn't find any good whiskeys, either.)
After wishing the last of our guests goodnight, Naoko and I went up to our room, and tried to order Champagne from room service but they had none. Exhausted, we went to bed. Our departure the next morning was early, and after breakfast everybody piled into taxies to go to the graveyard. Naoko's relatives bought flowers on the way in, and we also put the wedding bouquet on my mother’s grave. Nothing was said at the graveside, we just stood in silence, and I wordlessly assured my mother that she need worry about me no more, as I had someone special to look after me. We flew back to Japan that afternoon.
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