So, you’re interested in a vow renewal in Japan. Great! But what is the time-line? What are you to expect? How long does it take? In this post we will answer all these questions, and more, so that when you arrive in Japan, you know what to expect.
Vow Renewal Timeline, in summary
09:00 – Meet
09:30 – Arrive at the kimono rental shop
10:45 – Taxi to the Gardn
11:00 – Ceremony
11:15 – Photo-shoot starts
12:00 – Photo shoot ends
09:00 – Meet
The day usually starts at around 9am. We will meet you either at your hotel, or somewhere else convenient. We usually choose a location close to the kimono vendor, which will be our first port-of-call. They have branches at various locations around Tokyo, however we most often use the Shinjuku branch, since this is closest to our most popular Garden, Higo-Hosokawa. If you choose not to wear a kimono, that is fine; we just meet at about 10:30. However, assuming that you want to complete the experience with a kimono, once at the Kimono shop, which opens at 09:30, the fun begins.
09:30 – The Kimono Shop
The shop is quite small, but it is filled with an almost endless supply of kimonos, of varying styles, patterns and colors. Some are quite vibrant, and even garish, while others more subtle and understated. You have complete freedom here. The more creative of you will love the choice and possibilities, while others may feel a little intimidated. However, there is nothing to fear: the shop staff are very friendly and will offer their professional opinion and assistance. On top of that, Ayako and I will both be present to help out with the translation and pull from our own experiences.
The staff at the shop, though not fluent English speakers, often cater to holiday makers, and so they are very able to communicate, and will even crack a few jokes. They are wonderful people to work with, and we hope you will also come to like them, as much as we do. They really are part of the overal experience of the day.
Depending on how long it takes to choose your kimono, it will take anywhere from one hour to 90 minutes to get fully kitted. So what is fully kittted?
– Under garment
– Umbrella, if it’s raining
Men, you will want to wear a T-Shirt beneath your undergarment, and women, whatever garments make you comfy.
To complete the look, the women will have their hairstyled with Japanaese clips and accessories. The staff will present you with a catalogue of looks, from which you point and choose. Finally, both men and women will be given a little bag for their personal belongings – phone, wallet, keys, passports, etc. Some people opt to do without, choosing instead to utilize the large sleeves of the kimonos, as was the way back in the day.
Durng the day, while you are out and about, your clothes and other personal items will be kept in a large bag at the shop. The staff supervise the shop all day, so no need to carry your regular clothes around with you.
Next, we travel to the garden.
10:45 – Taxi to the Garden
The most convenient way to get to any of the gardens is by taxi. This takes about 10 – 15 minutes. On arrival in the garden, Ayako will inform the management, and receive an armband, to denote ‘official visitor’ – only she needs to wear this. Once this has been obtained, we are free to move into the garden, and choose the ceremony spot. If the garden has a gazebo, this is often the natural choice for ceremony location, but in larger gardens, such as Higo-Hosokawa, which has no gazebo, the choice is much freer.
Some people may like to have a ceremony by the lakeside, others with the house/tearoom as a backdrop. One thing we do have to bear in mind is that the Gardens are still open to the public, and so we must minimize our impact on other visitors. That said, assuming the ceremony is a weekday morning, there will be few, if any, other people at the garden at the same time as us.
11:00 – The Ceremony
The vow renewal ceremony is officiated in English by Ross, is non-religious, and takes up to 15 minutes. During this time, you will have a chance to say your own personalized vows. Some people like to prepare, others like to speak off the to of their heads. (We strongly recommend you prepare something, since one time a husband, during his improvised speech on a 25th anniversary vow renewal, forgot about one of the children they had had together! Hilarity ensued, but not after much embarrassment and shock!)
If you choose to prepare your personalized vows in advance, we will be happy to print them off for you. Please be sure to email them to us about one week in adanvce.
We have a standard vow renewal script, however, if you wish to include some personal references, do let us know. No two couples are the same, and so we will be only too happy to have your individuality reflected in the script for your day.
Towards the end of the ceremony, we will present you with a certificate officially marking the date and location of this day.
11:15 ~ 12:00 – Photoshoot
Ayako will take photographs during the ceremony, but during the post-ceremony photo-shoot, the officiant becomes the photographer. And this is when the fun really begins! We can explore every nook and cranny of the garden, shooting both the two of you and the garden in the best possible light.
Each season brings with it different colors and moods, which photographers love to capture. So, in whatever season you decide to have your ceremony you are sure to have some great pictures! During the session, if you see something that you like and want to include feel free to share. We welcome all ideas, and since it is your day, we want to include your thinking in the process.
We will provide you with all the data from the photoshoot via Dropbox. At Serendipity, we don’t believe in limiting the choice to 15 or so pictures, and then charging extra for further downloads. We simply remove the duff shots, and give you everything else. The number of shots simply depends on the time we have to shoot. Some people get up to 200 pictures! The only thing to note, is that it takes about one – two weeks to develop and re-touch them.
What happens next?
After the ceremony and photo-shoot, the time is yours. The only thing to keep in mind is that the kimonos need to be returned by 17:00. We will present you an address card to show to any taxi driver, so you can make your own way back to the shop. If you want to return to the shop to change back into your clothes immediately, we will be happy to escort you personally.
Many couples like to take the time to enjoy the experience of wearing the kimono, whilst walking around the garden and Tokyo itself. Higo-Hosokawa, is close to a popular hotel with its own beautiful garden and tea rooms/cafe-restaurant; some couples choose to round off their experience here.
While the focus of the day will be the actual renewal of vows, we believe that the experience that surrounds it is what will make it special. You are in Japan, after all!
Feel free to contact us at anytime if you want to personalize the experience. Check out Vow Renewal page for further information. We hope to hear from you soon!