My ability to play violin has opened many opportunities for building relationships. I have played for the commissioning service at a new church, outreach events with professional baseball players, Christmas gatherings for pastors, and more. However, none had such a high honour as the wedding I played at on March 10th. This is a once-in-a-lifetime event for the bride and groom, and they asked me to play!
I arrived at the church about one hour and fifteen minutes early. I wanted to make sure I could warm up with very few people in the church so I wouldn’t disturb them. The pastor and his wife, however, were already there. As I greeted them, the bride arrived. Yup! The bride arrived first! No only did she arrive first, but she was already dressed, her hair was done, and so was her make-up! Wow! I couldn’t believe it; I hadn’t even warmed up yet. So I put on my practice mute and started to warm up.
Shortly after that I noticed the groom had arrived. He was also already dressed, in a white tuxedo with tails. The first place he went was into the bride’s preparation room. He just walked in. He didn’t knock or anything. I was stunned. I didn’t realize just how superstitious we are in North America until I later tried to explain to a Japanese person why in our tradition the bride cannot be seen by the groom on the day of the wedding before the ceremony. But then, this is a different culture; why should it be the same as in Canada?
I had finished warming up, and had practiced with the accompanist a few times, so I started taking pictures of the church. They did a beautiful job with the preparations, and I wanted to show Val the flowers and decorations, since she couldn’t go.
At that point the father of the bride started practicing the timing for walking down the aisle with the wedding planner. Then he wanted more practice, so he walked with my accompanist (his niece). I took a couple of shots of this and then continued with my explorations. Eventually I came to a miniature Cinderella’s carriage which was to hold the rings for the ceremony.
Pretty soon after that, the bride came out of her room, the wedding planner fluffing her train. The pastor said something, the groom was placed where he would stand for the ceremony, and the rehearsal started. (Yes I said the rehearsal… on the day of the wedding!) They did the whole thing: walking down the aisle; bowing to each other (groom to father and bride and vice versa); standing in front of the pastor; placing their hands on the Bible; lifting the veil over the bride’s head; pretending to put the rings on; then showing them off to the fictitious congregation; bowing to the congregation; walking back down the aisle; and finally bowing once more to the congregation at the end of the aisle. Very elegant.
Then the organist arrived. She sat down and warmed up. She mostly played classical songs, practiced the bride’s processional, and then she played… “When You Wish Upon A Star”. The Disney song. I don’t know if it was a themed wedding, but hearing that song played at a wedding at all was incredibly unexpected and surreal. It turns out that the organist would play all the way through the service and never stop. And yes, she did play “When You Wish Upon A Star”… it wasn’t just for practice.
At the end of the ceremony, we came to something that had definitely not been practiced in the rehearsal. The pastor said “you may kiss the bride”. In Japan, kissing in public is generally considered extremely crass, but in this context it is acceptable. There were a few titters from the congregation, and the embarrassed groom gave his bride a quick peck on the cheek.
It was a beautiful service, and an honour to participate. The mother of the bride and her sister dropped by a couple of days ago and gave me a thank you gift. It was a beautifully-wrapped box of different cake deserts. They are quite excellent. What a day… and yet another reminder that I’m “not in Kansas anymore”.