Sayonara Tan Lines

Japanese summers are extremely hot with lots of bright and penetrating sunshine. It is common to see women walking around town with parasols to beat the heat and avoid sun damage. I’ve never really been too concerned about sun damage since I have darker skin. I usually just lather on sunblock and go about my day. That is, until I bought a strapless wedding gown.

I’m a preschool teacher and this means that I spend a considerable amount of time outside. Even with sunblock, I always end up getting a farmer’s tan- a tan that covers only my arms and neck- toward the middle of the summer (it usually fades away by mid-autumn). I never really cared much about it because its so slight, but my wedding dress prominently displays my arms and neck and I am stressing about having my tan lines show up in my wedding photos

Hive, I’ve taken extreme measures. Besides sunblock I have started to wear “sun sleeves.” I’ve never really seen these in the states, but many women use them in Japan, and probably in Asia.

Image via

Sun Sleeves Image via

They are basically pull- on sleeves that cover your arms when you are wearing a short sleeve shirt. I always thought these looked kind of silly, but the tables have turned and I wear them every day when I go outside with my kids.

Rocking some sleeves at work

Rocking some sleeves at work

I even wear them when I go out on the weekends.


I’m hoping that a combination and sunblock and sun sleeves will prevent me from getting tan lines so I can look stunning on my wedding day.

What are you doing to prevent tan lines on your wedding day? Is anyone taking extreme measures?


Styling Your Wedding

One of the most exciting parts of planning your wedding is choosing how you will style it. Some brides go with a themes such as “nautical” or “vintage” (both are so gorgeous!), or some choose a color scheme like “navy or yellow.” When it came to my weddings, I decided to go about planning it by choosing a theme, motif, and font. Choosing what I wanted in those three areas really aided me in creating a distinct style for each of my weddings. It also helped me keep everything organized and on track when designing the two.


I first considered what sort of “feel”I wanted for the weddings. I decided that I wanted the Japanese wedding to feel very American and give our guests something they may have never seen before. I decided to go for an American/country feel and I thought that garden- chic would be a great way to express it.

Image via by Arielle Doneson Photography

Beautiful Garden Chic Inspiration Image via by Arielle Doneson Photography

I still wanted florals for the American wedding but I wanted it to be a bit more modern and fresh with lots of white. I’ve been calling the American wedding “fresh, modern, and floral.” I’m still not a hundred percent sure what it means, and my mother rolls her eyes every time I say it, buy hey I’m the bride and I can do no wrong!


One day I was reading through a Martha Stewart Weddings magazine and I stumbled upon a great piece advice: “Find a motif that you can use throughout your wedding so the theme stays cohesive.”

I went on istockphoto and found a beautiful flower motif that had lots of colors and flowers and purchased it. I have been using this motif on all of my invites, place cards, and informational signs for the Japanese wedding.

Sorry for the words! I want to protect the image

Sorry for the words! I want to protect the image

I found the motif for my American wedding on Etsy. There is a shop called Love Birds Goods that does custom illustrations. I will be using this motif for invites, signs, and other paper goods.

Once again, sorry for the words.

Once again, sorry for the words!

This illustration is so cute that I will also be using it for a few things in the Japanese wedding as well!


I also thought it would it be a good idea to have two separate fonts for the weddings. The Japanese wedding is floral and whimsical so I choose Honey Script, Adobe Garamond Pro Bold, and the Japanese Meiryo Unicode.


The American wedding is more modern so I choose London MM and Caviar Dreams.

font 2

To be honest, when we first decided to have two weddings, I was leaning toward having them look the same as that would be so much easier, but I realized that I had a very special chance to have two separate and distinct weddings. It definitely has been more work, but it has also been lots of fun.

How did you go about designing and styling your wedding? Did it take you forever to choose a font? I know I did!

The Dreaded Bring- Your-Own Fee

After Mr. G and I became in engaged we started to look for wedding venues in the Kyoto area. Mr. G and I visited about 7 places during our venue search over a few weekends. All of the venues would charge, even if it was one of the most expensive hotels in Kyoto or a very simple hotel in the countryside, about $25, 000 to $30,000 for the wedding. Japanese wedding venues handle everything– the ceremony, the reception, the invitations, the photographer, the food, the dress, the decorations- everything, so during the presentation they also give you an estimate of all the fees.

Here's a quick translation of a part of one of the estimate charts I received.

Here’s a quick translation of a part of one of the estimate charts I received.

Mr. G and I wanted to do our wedding on a budget so we figured we could do our own invitations and decorations. I also wanted to buy my own dress in America rather than rent my dress in Japan (most Japanese brides rent their dress rather than buy one).

At the first venue we went to, I mentioned that I wanted to bring in my own wedding dress. She looked up at me, smiled and said “No problem- we will just charge you a bring-your-own fee of $1000. ” Huh? What? I was planning on buying a $600 wedding dress at David’s Bridal so why would I need to pay $1000 to bring that in? I figured that I had misheard what she said in Japanese so I moved on to the hair and make-up section. I mentioned that I have my own makeup artist and she said “No problem- we will just charge you a bring-your-own fee of $300. ” After, that I knew my Japanese wasn’t a problem and that I heard correctly. We left the place and moved on to another venue thinking that the previous venue was unique in its bring-your-own fees. I was very, very, very wrong. Every venue we went too would charge us a bring- your-own fee for anything we wanted to do ourselves. For example, if we made our own invitations we would be charged about $5 dollars per person and if we chose our own wedding favors we would be charged about $50 dollars person.

I started to get very frustrated. I felt that throwing a wedding in Japan that was uniquely Mr. Gondola and I would be impossible,or if we went ahead and did it would cost us double (the fee to make it ourselves and the bring-your-own fee). I felt like I was being penalized for trying to be original.


Argh, why are you stopping my creativity?!

That was until I found my wedding venue called With You. During our meeting we were handed the fee sheet and the first thing I asked was how much the bring-your-own fees would be. Our wedding coordinator said, “Oh, we don’t charge bring-your-own fees here. ” Hive, the heavens parted, angels started to sing, and I would have hugged the guy if hugging wasn’t considered so awkward in Japan. He later showed us the menu and it turns out our venue is owned by our favorite French restaurant in Kyoto. Win! We started to discuss other things such as having a photo booth and making our own centerpieces which other venues told us we weren’t allowed to do and our coordinator said it was fine! Our wedding coordinator let us know that we could basically do whatever we want, no problem!


Image via

I am so grateful that I found a place that doesn’t charge bring-your-own fees. Our wedding will be considerably cheaper thanks to our venue!

Have you ever run into any bring- your-own fees in your wedding planning? Did you go ahead and pay the fee or look for another vendor?

To Bilingual or Not To Bilingual

As some of you already know, the Gondolas are having two weddings. One of the main reasons we decided to have two weddings was because we didn’t want to force either Mr. G’s family or my family to buy a hefty ticket to fly half way across the globe.


I’m the middle child of five- that’s a lot of plane tickets.

Surprisingly, a few of my family members still wanted to go to the Japanese wedding and celebrate there. This left Mr. G and I with a bit of a problem: Should we make our wedding bilingual to accommodate our American guests?

I’ve been to bilingual weddings before where all of the speeches and announcements are said twice- once in English and once in Japanese. I’m going to be honest with you hive, I was usually kind of bored. Everything takes twice as long and the waiting is hard when you’re excited for the fun to start. This made me lean toward having a Japanese- only wedding, but I started to consider that it might also be boring to sit through a reception where you have no idea what people are saying during the speeches.

In the end, Mr. G and I decided that we should keep everything in Japanese since we were only going to have a few family members from America. One of the main reasons would be that translating speeches would be difficult because everyone would have to give us their speech beforehand, we would then have to translate it, and find someone to say the English version. I was worried that my family members would be upset about having to sit through an all Japanese reception, but I ran it by them and they said it was totally fine. They actually said they would be too busy drinking to notice- my family rocks!

I was very confident in having a Japanese- only wedding, but the trouble is that more and more American guests are opting to go to the Japanese wedding. Most of them are friends who have wanted to go to Japan for a while and my wedding is the perfect excuse. I’m super excited about this, but I’m starting to worry about our Japanese-only wedding. I have warned every guest that the wedding will be only in Japanese and all of them have said that they don’t mind sitting through a few speeches they won’t understand, but I still want to be a good hostess and have everyone feel comfortable. I’m considering making a program just for the American guests so they at least have some idea of what is going on during the reception or having a few of my bilingual friends periodically check on my non-Japanese speaking guests to make sure they are okay.

Are there any other brides who are dealing with two or more languages at their languages? How are you making all of your guest feel comfortable?

Japanese Wedding Traditions: The Things We’re Doing

I’ve talked about the things were skipping so let’s move on to the things we’re doing.

Expensive Favors
There are no wedding registries in Japan. Instead, the custom is that each guest brings either $100 or $300 as a gift to the bride and groom (never $200 as that can be evenly divided which is bad luck for weddings). Since the guests give the bride and groom such a generous gift, the bride and groom give everyone wedding favors that usually range from $30 to $80. This can include kitchenware, food, or pottery. We will be giving shopping catalogs which are by far my favorite favor to receive at a wedding!  The catalog is filled with a variety of gift choices. You choose your gift, send a postcard with your address and the gift number, and the gift is mailed to you free of charge.

IMG_1681 IMG_1682 IMG_1683

Here are a few pages from our gift catalog favors. Our guests will be able to choose gifts such as candy, lotion, diffusers, toys, and small appliances.

The Performances
Japanese wedding receptions have no dancing. It’s usually just a sit- down meal that has speeches from the bride or groom’s boss, and the bride and groom’s parents.  There are also, however,  performances that the friends of the bride and groom do. It’s usually something light and happy to add to the festive mood, often a song or dance. Mr G. and my friends will be doing  performances for us and we won’t find out what the performances will be until the wedding day!

A photo from a friend's wedding.  The guy's are dressed like anime nerds and sang about what a nerd the groom was.  Very funny!

A photo from a friend’s wedding. The guy’s are dressed like anime nerds and sang about what a nerd the groom was. Very funny!

The Letter
At the end of the reception, the bride reads a sentimental letter to her parents. It often thanks the parents for everything they have done, let’s the parents know that she will always be a part of the family even though she is starting a new one, and lets them know how much she loves them. There are always lots of tears from the bride and the parents. Since my parents only speak English and our reception will only be in Japanese we decided to have Mr. Gondola read a letter to his parents. I know this is weird, but I really want Mr. G to cry during the letter reading!

The After Party!
The  Japanese wedding after party is a casual sit -down meal that takes place about two or three hours after the wedding. The after party is completely the responsibility of the close friends of the bride and groom, and older relatives usually opt- out of going. The after party often  involves lots of games- bingo, rock /paper/ scissor tournaments, or trivia games. It may sound kind of lame, but all of the Japanese wedding after parties that I’ve been to have been tons of fun. There’s lots of alcohol and everyone just lets loose and has a good time. The prizes are also pretty amazing and range from $100 to $300 dollars. I can’t wait to see what my friends have planned!

Are there any wedding traditions that you are looking forward to doing?

Am I mean for wanting Mr. Gondola to cry?

Japanese Wedding Traditions: What We’re Skipping

Hive, I’m extremely excited to get married in Japan and I can’t wait to incorporate some Japanese traditions into our wedding! Modern Japanese weddings are somewhat similar to western weddings, but they have their own unique characteristics. We’ll be incorporating a few traditional Japanese wedding elements while skipping others.  As Mrs. Turkey and Mrs. Mongoose have done before me, I will go over a few wedding traditions that we’re skipping.

The Ceremony
If you’re getting married in Japan you can generally choose from three styles of wedding ceremonies:

The Traditional: This is usually done at a Japanese temple or shrine depending on your religion. The bride and groom wear traditional wedding kimono which are stunning. We didn’t choose this option as it would be very expensive to rent the costumes and it never really felt like “us” since neither of us are Buddhist or Shinto. It would also be an added expense to Mr. Gondola’s family who would also have to rent or buy kimono.

Traditional Japanese Wedding/ Image via wikimedia commons

Traditional Japanese Wedding/ Image via Wikimedia Commons

Fake Christian Ceremony:  Most wedding venues offer a Christian- style wedding. They have a chapel that has a few crosses, and a western gentlemen (usually a college student or English teacher)  wears a priest costume and conducts the ceremony. I understand the appeal of this type of ceremony, as it is usually the type of wedding that is portrayed  in Japanese media, but the idea of being married in a fake church with a fake priest just never sat well with me and Mr. G.

This is an actual ceremony at my venue

This is an actual ceremony at my venue.

Vow Affirmation Ceremony: This ceremony takes place in a simple chapel. There is no officiant, and the bride and groom just state their vows in front of friends and family in a chapel. It’s a very simple ceremony, but it would cost about $1500 and we didn’t think it would be worth it.

None of the ceremony options really appealed to us so we won’t be doing a ceremony in Japan. Instead, we’ll skip the ceremony and just get married at city hall(its much easier to get married in Japan than America- less paperwork) so our Japanese “wedding” will consist of the reception and after party. It may sound strange to have a reception- only wedding, but quite a few couples are doing it nowadays in Japan.  I also thought it would make the ceremony in America more special since that will be the only one.

The Dress Change
“How often did the bride change her dress?” is a common question to ask someone who has been to a Japanese wedding. During the reception the bride usually changes her dress anywhere from two to five times. The dresses she changes into are usually pretty elaborate.

These elaborate dresses are not my cup of tea as I’m not really into lots of frills. I also don’t want to leave the reception numerous times to get changed so I have decided to wear my wedding dress the entire night.I think our guests will be a little disappointed that I won’t be changing dresses, but I figure I will be giving them a little taste of America by staying in one dress the entire night.

The Groom Gloves
Japanese grooms often wear a fancy white tuxedo with tails. Now I’m at a total lost of why this done, but Japanese grooms go through the entire reception clutching a pair of gloves when they wear this type of tuxedo.

Notice the gloves in the grooms right hand?


These are photos taken at friend’s weddings. Notice the gloves in the groom”s right hand?

Mr. G has flat out refused to do this and insists on having use of both of his hands so he will be wearing a normal suit.

The Formal Portrait
I really, really, really wanted a formal portrait of Mr. G and I in formal Japanese attire (red kimono for me, black kimono for him). We took a trip to a photo studio and were shocked to hear that formal portraits would be about $525. This would include costume rentals and one photo- no digital images, just one single photo. Mr. G said it was just way too much money and suggested we just wear our cotton kimono (yukata) and take a picture of ourselves.

Me sporting my yukata

Me sporting my yukata

Out of four things that we aren’t doing the one thing I’m still iffy about is the formal portraits. What do you think? Should we bite the bullet and spend the money or put that money toward the honeymoon?

What traditions are you skipping?

How the Gondolas Met

In telling the story of how Mr. G and I  met, I first need to start with how I came to Japan. I, like my older sister and brother before me, went to a high school in Ft. Lauderdale that had an international studies  program. The international studies program offered many languages you don’t usually find at your average high school. A few months before my freshman year of high school started,  my mother and I went to see a guidance counselor to choose my classes for the term. When it got time to choose the language I wanted to study I spoke up and said I wanted to take French. I was a 14 year old girl and had beautiful images of Paris, croissants, and me looking up at the Eiffel tower while my scarf blew in the wind-oh la la!

My guidance counselor flat out said no. My mom and I were both surprised. My mom knew the guidance counselor pretty well from enrolling my brother and sister and knew he was Italian so she said, “Oh, you want her to take Italian, is that it?”  He said no.  “Latin?” I suggested.  “Nope,” he said, “You’re going to take Japanese.” He looked over at my mom who shrugged as if it didn’t matter what language I took and he went ahead and filled in the Scantron card. I was quite speechless. I wanted to take French, not Japanese. Why was he making me take Japanese?! I didn’t know anything about Japan except for Nintendo and Sailor Moon- which were both pretty cool. After a few moments of thought I decided that learning Japanese wouldn’t be all that bad and didn’t fight the decision.


Me participating in a Japanese club activity

Much later on, I asked that guidance counselor why he had forcibly put me in the Japanese class. He told me that I was his last appointment of the day and that the Japanese class was going to be cut if one more student didn’t enroll. He was desperate to keep the class open and knew my mother well enough to know that she wouldn’t mind me being put in the class.

I took Japanese and found out I was pretty good at it. I took it for all four years of high school and decided to major in it when I went to university. My junior year I did a study abroad program for a year and had an awesome time in Japan. After I finished my senior year of college I moved back to Japan as an English teacher. I taught English for a year and started working odd jobs after that like bar tending, hostessing, and waitressing.

Super Waitress Ms. Gondola!

Super Waitress Ms. Gondola!

It was at a waitressing job where I met Mr. G. He was best friends with the bartender of the restaurant and stopped by to say hello. Mr. Gondola is Japanese- American, but I assumed he was just Japanese. I came up to him and tried to take his order in Japanese. He responded in English and my first thought was “Wow! This Japanese guy’s English is amazing!” My brain later processed that he was actually American- I can be pretty slow sometimes.   We quickly became friends- as many expats know, it is very easy to become friends with a fellow countryman when you are both living in a foreign country. In a few months we were dating and six years later here we are now, engaged and very happy.


Looking back, our entire relationship would not be in existence if it wasn’t for that guidance counselor. If I wasn’t his last appointment of the day I would probably be in France somewhere eating croissants with my fiancé Jean-Pierre. One man completely changed the course of my life and I am very grateful to him as I now am blissfully happy with Mr. Gondola.

Is there anyone who was key in making your relationship happen?

*All photos used are personal