Asuka & Robin, Warwick Castle August 2018
You know what I love about my job? I get to work with the most amazing couples from all corners of the globe, and every now and then (actually a lot of the time!) we get to combine wonderful traditions in the most amazing venues and I get to learn something new- like greetings in a foreign language and officiating a Japanese Shinto Sake Ceremony at Warwick Castle. #boom
The Venue: Warwick Castle
When you have found your prince or princess, you want a fairy-tale wedding venue right? Warwick Castle was the winner of the Best Castle Wedding Venue 2017 at the UK Wedding Awards, and I proud to say that I am their recommended Celebrant and have officiated a number of wedding and renewal of vows ceremonies there. I’m not sure it gets more fairy-tale than that.
Apart from being a romantic location that is steeped in over 1100 years of history, Asuka and Rob, despite living in Hong Kong, already had an affiliation with the Castle (plus they both love Dungeons & Dragons and you get to cut to your cake with a real sword when you have your wedding at Warwick Castle).
Rob proposed to Asuka on a cold, crisp winters day whilst on holiday to England and leafy Warwickshire. As the sun set over The Mound, one of the oldest parts of Warwick Castle known for its perfect vantage point for taking in the views around Warwick, Rob popped the question.
They dreamed of returning to the same location and saying their vows in the place where it all started. Their dream came true.
That’s where I come in to the mix….
Working Together Across the Miles
With so many free technologies available nowadays, the only thing that we really had to work around was the 7hr time difference, which to be honest was no issue at all. It was actually Rob’s mom, who lives in England, that made the initial contact, and then I had a Skype call with Rob & Asuka to see if they felt that I was their Celebrant of Choice. Yay, I was!
We had several Skype sessions over the months to get to know each other, and I learnt all about their love story; Rob and Asuka completed a fun questionnaire, and we talked about how we could incorporate wedding traditions and ritual into their ceremony. They loved the suggestions, but it was about finding what was right for them.
We decided on a rose ceremony, whereby they gave their mothers a white rose during the ceremony, as a symbol of thanks, gratitude and new beginnings; they also loved the idea of a Unity Candle Ceremony which represented their two families uniting, as well as two cultures blending. They also liked the idea of a Loving Cup whereby they could share wine. That ritual really hit home, as their first memory was of drinking wine together on a balcony in Hong Kong.
Three things? Would that not be a bit much? Well no, not if you design the ceremony well -and the number three is a lucky number in Japanese culture, so why not?
Japanese Shinto Sake Ceremony
Marriage is full of ancient traditions, one of which is a Loving Cup. A Loving Cup, or ‘Quaich’ as it is known in Scotland, is a shallow drinking cup, usually with two handles that is used at weddings & banquets. During the ceremony a couple drink from the Loving Cup/Quaich as a symbol of trust and unity.
The Loving Cup lends itself to a ceremony at Warwick Castle, as its origins are steeped in royalty. It is believed that King James VI gave a ‘Quaich’ to his bride Queen Anne as a wedding gift way back in 1589.
Imagine my sheer delight when I found out that a similar ritual is also used in traditional Japanese Shinto Weddings and includes sake. Note: Did you know that ‘sake’ is pronounced ‘sar-kay’? I didn’t!
It was a given that we swop the English Loving Cup for the Japanese Shinto Sake Ceremony.
Embracing the number three as the Japanese lucky number, this part of the ceremony involves 3 cups of increasing sizes; sake is poured into each cup 3 times, the bride and groom exchange it three times (actually 3x3 exchange totalling 9 exchanging between them), and the sake from each cup is swallowed in three sips. Some see this ritual as the shared joys and sorrows of a married couple.
There are a number of sequences – so it takes a fair bit of concentration! Everything happens in threes.
Asuka and Rob were very willing to explain the process clearly to me and also sent me a video so that I could get it just right. Family had flown in from Japan so it was really important that I didn’t make a cultural faux pas!
With a little English twist, they had taken:
Three sips to the past, three sips to the present, and three sips to their future
Three lots of good fortune!
First of all, we want to say thank you so much for being an absolutely wonderful celebrant for our wedding! It was such a beautiful ceremony and we will treasure the memory forever. Seriously, we were so happy that we chose you to be our celebrant. Thank you for accommodating our wish to do the sake ceremony. It was so great and our families loved it xx
What I haven’t told you, is that Asuka & Rob gave an elderly hedgehog (aptly named Sonic) his final home. Sadly Sonic didn’t live to see his human parents married, but they paid tribute to him in the best way they knew how. He topped their wedding cake. #LoveIs