This Couple Embraced Tradition and Nature During Their Elopement in Japan
While some couples go back and forth about the number of people on their guest list, Addie Ly and Richard Lee decided quickly that theirs would have just two: a bride and a groom. To Addie, whose sister, Quinn, had married in a "wedding for two" in Vietnam five years before, the number seemed ideal. Richard was hesitant, he says, "but Addie explained that this would be just for us, and a chance to commit our lives to each other without distractions."
Two weeks after they were engaged, the pair traveled to Japan for a vacation. "We fell in love with the country, the culture, the people, and the history," Addie says. "We knew we wanted to get married there." Once both sets of parents were on board—his, who told him to "do whatever makes you happy," and hers, after Addie and Richard promised to host a wedding reception closer to home—the couple called on Lisa Vorce, who had planned and designed Quinn's wedding. The bride had two requests: nature and traditional architecture. Tsukihitei, a ryokan (inn) in the mountains of the city of Nara, checked both boxes.
One year later, on November 17, 2017, the couple woke together in Tsukihitei on their wedding day, then dressed in separate rooms. When Addie was ready, she met her groom outside. "I'll never forget what she looked like stepping through the doorway in her white dress," says Richard. "It was so intimate, and she was very beautiful. It was surreal."
The two exchanged vows—"Richard's were very 'him,' with Star Wars references," recalls Addie—and then changed into traditional wedding kimonos. Lisa surprised the newlyweds with a rickshaw ride into town, to Nara Park, where they fed the sacred native deer (a designated national treasure) and posed for pictures under a bright-red parasol. "A lot of people were taking pictures of us," says Addie, "I remember thinking, 'Oh, my God, I'm here with you, and we're just so lucky.'" If he'd had any lingering doubts, Richard knew by then that their tiny wedding was perfect. "It felt like everything was exactly the way it should be," he says.
The crimson leaves of Japanese maples—including one in front of the inn—made for a bold backdrop.
A Surprise for the Couple
Lisa Vorce surprised the bride and groom with a basket of fresh fruit, tea, local treats, and a Japanese wedding headpiece for Addie, all wrapped in Japanese paper.
Despite the chilly temperatures, the couple exchanged vows outdoors, on the grounds of Tsukihitei.
Richard vividly remembers the Japanese cord ceremony: "The cord wrapped both of our fingers, symbolizing our unity and the bond we hold with each other," he says.
Her Bridal Bouquet
Addie told her florist, Saipua, that she wanted a very simple bouquet. "I wanted all the flowers to look like she had picked them nearby," Addie says.
More than a thousand deer roam Nara Park, at the foot of Mount Wakakusa. After nibbling "deer crackers"—which are sold at the park— the deer would bow, Addie says.
Getting dressed in a traditional wedding kimono was one of Addie's favorite parts of their day. (Plus, she appreciated the warmth that the layers provided, since they hadn't realized temperatures in the mountains can dip into the 30s in fall.) She donned a kimono featuring cranes, which symbolize luck.
Getting Around Town
After the ceremony, Lisa surprised the newlyweds with a rickshaw ride through the streets of Nara, which was one the most memorable parts of the day for Richard.
Portraits Around the Area
The couple posed for pictures and then explored nearby temples. They also visited local shrines, where they wrote wishes that were blessed by monks.
Dinner for Two
After a day spent exploring the city of Nara, the newlyweds returned to Tsukihitei for a traditional multi-course dinner at a table set for two.
A Beautiful Table
A single floral-and-berry arrangement by Saipua decorated the middle of the table, which was set with tea cups and chopsticks.
An Intimate Meal
The bride and groom ended their wedding day with a traditional multi-course meal.
A Tiny Cake
Addie requested a white wedding cake, decorated with fall colors.
Location and dinner, Tsukihitei
Event design and production, Lisa Vorce Co
Photography, KT Merry
Officiant, Yoshie Matsumoto of Matsuyoshiya
Bride's gown, Ines Di Santo
Hair and makeup, Bridal Port
Kimono rentals, Tinkerbell
Groom's tuxedo, Giorgio Armani
Local production support, Serendipity Flower & Wedding
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