The Woman Who Faked Her Own Wedding
Somewhere in Kyoto, Japan, in her hotel room away from home, Naomi Harris rubs her hands nervously and impatiently. Tomorrow is her big day – her wedding day. Thousands of thoughts and doubts are running through her head over and over again… Until she takes a deep breath and remembers that nothing could go wrong. Everything will be alright, it is not like she is going to be stood up at the altar or something; the person she is marrying is herself. Naomi Harris booked the (almost) complete package (the hair, the makeup, the photos) for her big and solo wedding day. Quite unusual, isn’t it?
Well, nowadays, in Japan, the solo wedding trend is growing. Lots of young and independent women are getting dressed up as brides and stage a bridal photo session. According to Cerca Travel – one of the companies which organizes such kind of events, the persons who are up for this type of experience are single women in their late 30s or 40s who do not have the certitude of getting married in the near future, but would simply love to have some marvelous pictures of themselves in a beautiful wedding gown or a traditional kimono now, while they are still young and beautiful.
Naomi is one of those women. She is now 42 and proclaimed herself to be a spinster. Like a lot of women who focused all their life on their work and passions, she spent her 20s and 30s in New York (the city where single women outnumber and intimidate single men) as a professional photographer and she traveled the world for the perfect shot. Of course, while all her friends were either getting married or they were getting involved in long term relationships, somehow she forgot to do it herself. Naomi wasn’t always single; she thought she met the love of her life when she was in her late 20s. It was a long-distance relationship that ended up abruptly with no explanation. This disappointment in love shook her so badly that it took her years to get involved in another serious relationship.
At first, she blamed the city she lived in for her single status, then her work responsibilities. But her friends working in the same field and living in the same city managed to find a good man and get married, so her excuses did not count. Later on, she discovered she actually enjoyed sleeping on both sides of the bed, eating cereals for dinner and she actually preferred the part-time company of a man, rather than committing to a full-time relationship; this is who she really is. Her travel to Kyoto fulfilled a dream she didn’t even know she had: having a wedding of her own.
She met with Cerca Travel representatives to help her plan her big day. Yukiko Inoue, a 48 years old divorced business woman from Japan, has been running the company for ten years. Her main business was to arrange packages for Japanese women who want to travel alone and safe in Europe, but a couple of years ago, her colleague Natsumi Akai, a 37 year old single and independent woman had the idea to get dressed in a wedding gown and have her photos taken professionally. And, voila! This is how the solo wedding was born. Since then, approximately 130 Japanese women have paid around $3.600 for a two-day package, including everything but the actual ceremony (the dress fitting, the hairstyle and makeup and the photo shoot).
When the moment of choosing her wedding dress came along, on the first day of her solo wedding package, Naomi collaborated with Natsumi. They discovered that they were more alike than they thought. She also had been involved in multiple relationships and she almost got married, but later on she realized that she would rather prefer to have a successful career than to be a fateful wife.
What is really interesting to observe is that for Natsumi, the wedding is all about the dress. She makes a clear difference between wedding and wedding dress; for her, they do not necessarily go together. Since she was a child and read stories about princesses from foreign countries, their dresses were everything she could care about. For the Japanese culture, the wedding gown is a symbol of beauty and elegance and, why not admit it: the perfect accessory for the perfect opportunity to dress up. On the other hand, Naomi never dreamed about wearing a wedding dress. She never was that type of girl who always daydreamed about her perfect day. Still, Natsumi’s experience and professionalism made her try on eight different wedding dresses each one a bit more over the top. Naomi ended up choosing the first one she tried on: strapless and snug around the bosom and waist, with multiple layers of tulle. When she first tried it on, it took her breath away, she felt beautiful and different. She could barely recognize the woman in the mirror.
The big day – Day two
Here comes the big day! Surprise, surprise! Because not everything can be perfect in this life, Naomi’s conjunctivitis decides to act out exactly on this day. Natsumi elegantly pretends not to notice but they both hope that the makeup artist is a real magician and that she could prepare the bride for close-ups.
Finally, they meet wedding stylist Mayumi Hayashi and the leading wedding photographer, Yuhino Suzuki. For Mayumi, it was quite a challenge to help Naomi prepare and become a lady – she rarely dresses up and she almost never puts a brush through her hair (why would she do that, when fingers are more than enough to style her hair). Still, the wedding stylist manages to do a great job covering up with makeup the bride’s weeping eye. The final result is overwhelming. Naomi looks perfect, like a beauty queen from the 1930’s, exactly like she always wanted.
The photo-shoot takes place in the Shugakuin Kirara Sanso Japanese garden. Every move Naomi makes is photographed: getting out of the car, walking in the garden, standing beneath the blossom, looking innocent and blushing. Sadly, there are not shots with the groom. Initially, Cerca Travel used to offer an “occasion partner” for the wedding shots, but no client ever requested this service (why would they, when the wedding is all about self-confidence, independence, and acceptance of their own status). For Naomi, it would have been interesting to have a fake husband in her photos, only to amuse herself about her fantasy Japanese husband.
Unfortunately, the solo wedding does not have a ceremony to celebrate the independence and self-love and appreciation; maybe adding one to the package might be a good idea, with the risk of other people accusing the bride of being too self-centered. Everyone agrees that applying for a solo wedding can be a life-changing experience and it needs lots of courage and character to celebrate their own persona. Many women gave up on finding that perfect someone and getting married and this so-called wedding reassures them that marriage shouldn’t be their only goal in life.
After returning home from Kyoto, Naomi started to date someone she knew for many years, testing if the solo wedding experience changes something in her luck with men. Unfortunately, this relationship also ended abruptly, but she never lost hope, maybe someday she will find someone else, without feeling the pressure of a wedding. She already had hers. Naomi found herself proud of her photo album and her experience and she loved showing it off, even if people reactions are not always very understanding, most of them considering the solo wedding depressing, funny, weird or peculiar. Still, Naomi loves receiving their feedback.