“あばたもえくぼ, Even pockmarks seem as dimples.” ~ Japanese Proverb about the timeless nature of Love
“I noticed no one has toasted to the newly married couple yet, so please, raise your glasses. Although the standard toast in Japanese is Kanpai, meaning “cheers,” instead I chose to toast with banzai! [see my related banzai blog] Contrary to popular belief, banzai! is not associated in Japan with death and destruction. Literally it means “10,000 years,” but is most often used to imply something like to live forever. So, to Adam and Naomi, may your love for each other live on forever. BANZAI!”
So went the toast at my daughter’s wedding two weeks ago in South Beach, Miami. My daughter, having lived for four formative years in Okinawa as a child, tween and teen, retains a very strong affinity for the Far East and my current island home. As a youngster, her name “Naomi,” a common Japanese name, and her inherited Asian-Pacific-Islander traits made her look the part. She had wanted to marry at South Florida’s famed Japanese Morikama Garden in South Florida, but the venue turned out to be much too expensive and difficult to schedule, let alone work with. She remained, however, intent on keeping an Asian flare to her nuptials.
In Okinawa, due to the constant turnover of the military personnel here, the Japanese have translated their traditional kokeshi dolls into “Sayonara Dolls,” where the body of the doll is wrapped in a large and long scroll for people to scribble their farewells on as someone readies to transfer away from the island. Well, there is wedding version of the “scroll doll,” a Japanese bride dressed in white and silver wrapped with the same type of scroll, which is just about the perfect guest book for a Far-Eastern inspired wedding. We hand-carried one home (although I failed to get a photo), and even though the scroll is over 70 centimeters long (well over two feet!), the entire parchment was filled with love and well-wishes by the end of the evening!
We also purchased a geisha head/hair-piece known as a kanzashi for Naomi to wear with her dress. Although we remained unsure of the exact color palette of the wedding and wedding party (my daughter is not very specific!), and we were purchasing our items in Okinawa with only the cell-phone picture approval of the bride (thankfully Naomi is in no way a “bridezilla”), what we did manage to hand carry home worked perfectly. Sure, it’s not nearly as ornate and, shall we say, impressive as the actual ones worn by the geisha or maiko of Kyoto, but neither did she share (fortunately) their rather dramatic makeup! Worked into the intended’s hair style, the piece was a delightful accentuation, helping to highlight both the colors of the groom (red accents) and her Father (pink accents), who was giving her away.
Naomi herself decorated Japanese fans for all the women in the bridal party, and if we had only known this was part of her plan, we could have purchased some truly wonderful fans during our recent trip to Kyoto. In any case, the fans were a lovely added touch, and actually were pragmatically utilized in the South Florida afternoon summer heat and humidity during my daughter’s outdoor ceremony. Thankfully, the rain had already moved on, something Naomi was very worried about since witnessing my and Jody’s beach wedding getting completely rained-out back in 2011. “Its good luck if it rains on your wedding Naomi,” I said to her in her room as we watch the storm clouds over South Beach. She, looking at me in not an unmeasured amount of sarcasm mixed with concern, did not buy my argument. But then again, neither did I; “But then that’s what they tell the losers who get their wedding rained-out to make them feel better,” I continued with a knowing smile and a wink.
Finally, Jody had the wonderful idea of ordering a collection of 1,000 paper origami cranes for presentation to the newlyweds. After some research online, we discovered that it is traditional for the father of the bride to gift her and her groom on their wedding one thousand folded origami cranes held together by strings, known as 千羽鶴 senbazuru. In Japan, the crane is the bird of love, life, and good fortune, a truly magical creature in their culture. It is also believed that whoever possesses 1,000 origami cranes will have a wish fulfilled. Marriages, like the cranes, require patience, perseverance, and dedication. The cranes are all held by strong and sturdy square knots. On top of the senbazuru was a traditional Japanese wedding card – actually a money gift envelope – tied with a very specific knot. This particular knot is so tied not to ever be undone, and celebrates an occasion that should only happen once in a lifetime, both ideals a fitting tribute to what marriage should and can be. Presenting the cranes to Naomi and telling of such Japanese traditions and legends really tied the whole Asian-theme full circle. Thank you Jody, for such a wonderful idea, and for working so hard to make sure this important element of my daughter’s celebration was so meaningful and memorable.
However I have to say the highlight of the evening for me personally was picking my daughter-bride up at her room, hugging her hard in the midst of the clamor and confusion of a whole slew of panicked brides’ maids and female family members, calming her nerves just before the processional, walking her proudly and unhurriedly down the aisle, and giving her away to her now husband, Adam.
Naomi was taken from me during her formative teen years, and for many since, we both have found it hard to find our ways and connect back to each other. I am so thankful that my daughter wanted me there and so involved in her wedding after so much time has passed…and has been lost. Even though I was suffering (unknowingly at the time) severe blood clots and was in great discomfort and pain, I would not have missed that afternoon and evening for the world.
Congratulations my sweet, smart and beautiful daughter. May your life continued to be filled with joy, love, and fulfillment!