Kyoto Elopement

  • PlannerAyako Harrison

  • Elopement VenueIiori Machiya Stay - Kyoto

  • First PhotographerKohyoh Iwata - https://www.instagram.com/koh.yoh/

  • Second PhotographerRoss Harrison

After four months of planning, this Kyoto elopement was nearly scuppered at the last minute by a couple of typhoons!  This couple, from Canada, got in touch in July, they new right from the get go that they wanted to elope in an outdoor setting in Kyoto, the cultural center of Japan.  Now, we love this city, so we’ll take any excuse to go down and spend time there!

The brief for their Kyoto elopement was to find a beautiful garden for an intimate ceremony, no guests. With that in mind, we got searching for the best gardens in Kyoto – there are many. However, only one that allows western wedding dresses…  Since Kyoto is the cultural center, they like to keep everything culturally homogenous, so most gardens only accept kimono clad bridal parties.

Nonetheless, we found a beautiful garden, scouted it out, and located several spots within the garden for the ceremony and photoshoot afterwards. The plan was going well.

Roll on September, and typhoon season…

The Weather Turns

The beginning of the month saw the biggest typhoon to hit Japan in over 25 years.  Kyoto got it in the neck! The Kamogawa (the river that runs through the city) nearly burst its banks, passengers at Kyoto station were nearly killed by falling glass, and the main artery to Kansai international airport was badly damaged by a stray tanker. It was like something from Armageddon.

On top of this, the garden that we planned to hold the elopement ceremony in was severely damaged. Large parts of it were closed to the public. With less than a month to go, things were not looking good. Furthermore, there was a second typhoon one week before the elopement that tipped things over the edge.

We only had one option – Iiori Machiya Stay.  We had met them in August on our trip to Kyoto, seeking venues and vendors for this and other weddings.  They were really excited at the prospect of diversifying their service offering, they wanted to see how it would work out, and offered our next Kyoto couple the opportunity to use their venue.  We contacted them to see if the offer still stood – they said yes!  And our Kyomachiya Plan was born!

One of our aims at Serendipity is to find places in Japan that are off the beaten track, to offer each couple a truly unique setting and experience.  The old town houses of Iiori Machiya Stay do just that! They offer a perfect, intimate setting, right in the heart of Kyoto. With the blessing and assistance of the wonderful people at Iiori Machiya Stay, Ayako worked her magic, to create a simple, yet unique ceremony space.

Kyoto Elopement
The ceremony space in the machiya, overlooking the Kamogawa: beautiful, intimate, perfect! Photography: Kohyoh Iwata

Elopement Day

The couple wanted to get ready at separate places, before meeting at the venue just before the ceremony. We took the bride to a local hair and make-up salon, while the groom waited at the machiya (old Japanese town house).  Looking dapper in his suit, the groom waited anxiously for the arrival of his bride, who looked stunning in her long flowing white dress.  His eyes, up on first seeing his bride, were a sight to behold – he couldn’t stop looking at her!

Kyoto Elopement
At last he sees his bride! Photography: Kohyoh Iwata
Kyoto Elopement
The look says it all! Photography: Ross Harrison
Kyoto Elopement
Sealed with a kiss! Photography: Kohyoh Iwata

The ceremony was a simple mix of western and eastern traditions, and was held on the balcony of the machiya overlooking the Kamogawa. It was perfect!

Then, afterwards, the photographers got to work!

Kyoto Elopement
Beautiful! Photography: Kohyoh Iwata
Kyoto Elopement
Mucking about by the river. Photography: Kohyoh Iwata
Kyoto Elopement
Photography: Ross Harrison

Following the outdoor shoot, we provided them with champagne and Japanese snacks to relax, celebrate and take in the the events of the day.

Kyoto Elopement
Enjoying a well earned champagne. Photography: Kohyoh Iwata


One week later

Although the Kyoto elopement ceremony was a success, and the setting was beautiful, and the couple were blown away with it all, we we not satisfied. Their brief was for a garden wedding, so we were going to right the wrongs of mother nature!  One week later, on the Tokyo leg of their trip to Japan, we met them again, dressed them in Kimonos with help from the wonderful people at Vasara Kimono Rentals, and did a photoshoot, this time at a park in Tokyo. This park was not nearly as badly affected by the earlier typhoons.

Again the weather threatened rain, but thankfully, it held! We were having so much fun, we didn’t notice the time: we were there for almost two hours!

Kyoto Elopement

Kyoto Elopement

Kyoto Elopement
All Kimono Photography: Ross Harrison

Thank you to the couple, for being so cool and easy to work with, and congratulations on taking this important step in your relationship together. We wish you both the very best as you embark on your journey as husband and wife!

Remember, next time you are in Tokyo, we are going for drinks and a bite to eat, together!!

If you would like to have your very own Kyoto Elopement, please email us at info@serendipity-flower.com or leave a message for us on our contact page, and we will get back to you as soon as possible!

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