Photographer Brett Adams was recently flown on assignment to both Melbourne and Japan to capture images of a couple’s wedding. With an Australian-born groom and a Japanese bride, the couple decided to host two separate weddings in their native homelands … We talk to Brett about these very disparate ceremonial experiences.
You recently attended the wedding ceremonies of a couple who were married in two countries – one at Melbourne, Victoria and the other at Yokohama, in Tokyo, Japan. What were the main cultural differences you observed at each ceremony?
There were some fairly huge differences. It was a wonderful experience, being my first time at both locations. The Melbourne wedding was held at Timber Top Private School, where the groom, Geoff, works as a teacher. It was a traditional Australian wedding ceremony, and the church in which the ceremony was held is spectacular.
Marina, the bride, entered the church wearing a magnificent white strapless wedding dress and holding a beautiful arrangement of flowers. They chose to have some photos around the grounds of the school, which was fantastic, as it really depicted the rugged Australian bush in all its glory.
In contrast, the Japanese wedding was a total eye opener. The ceremony itself was a private family affair, where family members from each side were formally introduced to each other. The Japanese people and their culture in general are so polite and welcoming.
What stood out was the overall professional and organised way proceedings ran. Also, the friendly and warm feeling conveyed to guests was nothing short of exceptional.
Tell us a little bit about the bride and groom and their backgrounds, please?
Geoff and Marina met in 2007 on a tour of the Great Ocean Road … and the rest is history. They are a perfect example of two people sharing and learning each other’s cultures.
Timber Top, where Geoff teaches, is part of Geelong Grammar (where Prince Charles attended many years ago while in Australia). Geoff is a ‘true blue’ Aussie kid from the bush, with an honest heart of gold. He was actually teaching in Japan for a couple of years ago, so I think that might have been a bit of a hint of things to come. Marina was living and working in Melbourne after moving to Australia, to broaden her horizons and learn English to teach Japanese tourists.
In a recent conversation, you said that the Japanese wedding was timed to perfection and executed with military precision …
It was. I’ve been to a lot of weddings, and nothing has ever come close to the level of detail and perfection I experienced throughout the entire day – especially the reception.
It was absolutely perfect in every way, with not one minute wasted. The reception had a Master of Ceremonies who was in total control of everything, from the music to the spotlights and even translated Japanese into English. The wait staff were like eagles – if your drink even looked like getting empty, they were there to fill the glass.
What sort of activities did you participate in at each ceremony (I hear there was a beer giving ceremony in Japan)?
The ‘beer giving’ ceremony was the single funniest thing I have seen at a wedding. Apparently, it is a Japanese custom to give some sort of thanks to guests. Marina told me some people light candles and give flowers, but then the wait staff strapped an actual keg to a backpack and put it on Geoff’s back and sent him around the reception area acting as a mobile beer keg – offering individual drinks to everyone.
It sent the entire reception into applause, as he did the rounds to each table filling up jugs of beer on each table. I did see the odd shot of beer get sprayed straight into people’s mouths, which made for great photos.
The Aussie wedding had a special moment when it was Marina’s turn to give her speech. She said thank you to everyone in English and had a special speech in Japanese for her mother and father. There was not a dry eye in the house, and even though I don’t speak Japanese, it was really touching and heartfelt.
Talk to us through the decorations, table settings and different themes.
The Australian reception was a mix of timeless beauty, with a splash of Japanese culture. The table settings had some lovely Origami for each guest, and the food had an Asian feel.
A friend of Geoff and Marinas’ just happened to be a florist, so the flowers for the Aussie ceremony were spectacular. From the flowers hanging off each pew in the church to the huge arrays of flowers in the reception and on each table, they were a real highlight.
Each wedding definitely had a real inspiration from the other’s culture.
The bride wore a traditional white gown to the Melbourne ceremony and a pricey $20,000 Kimono to the wedding in Tokyo …
They were both visually spectacular. At the Japanese reception, Marina entered in a traditional dress – an amazing Kimono that I’m told can take hours to actually put on. In some cases, they have to get a special professional dresser to help put a Kimono on. Some can be worth up to $100,000 dollars.
Geoff dressed in traditional Japanese attire, which suited him. Halfway through the reception, they both left and returned in a suit and wedding dress. Both the mums wore traditional Japanese Kimonos.
From a photographer’s point of view, tell us about the contrasts between shooting the different landscapes of Yokohama and the Australian outback.
The two locations couldn’t be any more contrasting. Where the photos took place in Australia is right in the heart of The Man from Snowy River country. The rugged highland and sights of Mount Buller were visually spectacular. It was perfect in pretty much every way.
Yokohama, on the other hand, was just as good, but for totally different reasons. We were right in the middle of the busy hustle and bustle of a downtown city setting. Neon signs and bright lights everywhere, thousands of people going about their business …
What did the couple choose to give guests as a gift at each ceremony?
In Australia they gave some personalised boxed Kit Kats, with photos of the couple at various times during their courtship.
In Japan, guests were presented with a beautiful dessert cutlery set.
Story by Karen Farrell.