Though I spent nearly eight years shooting weddings I have never had the experience of shooting a Japanese wedding - at least not a real one that was held in Japan! Our friend Hiromi, who came to live with us more than ten years ago as an English language student, finally got married. To a Swiss banker (well, why not?).
They got married in Zurich back in August and decided to do the traditional thing in Tokyo with her family. I was dying to go and offered to shoot the family shots. As it happened I was allowed into places no one else could see. Japanese would normally be allowed - the changing rooms for example. The wedding was small, only 30 or so in the family group, including eight Westerners, friends of the bride and groom from Australia. The service in the Shinto shrine lasted for about 30 mins. The priests were very efficient and incredibly tolerant of me with all my camera gear. I think one priest was put in charge of me (probably the junior novice) and indicated every time it was OK for me to shoot and when not to snap away. Hiromi's father, Tom was also issuing instructions (in a stage whisper) so I didn't miss shooting the important bits.
The really fun part was when all the guests were ushered into the formal shine photo studio - the photographer's job there is to record the entire group, in the studio using film. Good job, I tried to persuade him that digital was the way to go but he just laughed. He had a twin 6x9 camera set up on a massive rolling studio tripod. Quite a cool setup. It costs around $2000 for the family shots. That's quite a lot for about five pictures!
The wedding kimono was hired for the event. That costs $750, but curiously there's an additional $750 charge to wear it(?). I'm not sure if something got lost in translation but the total was $1,500 for about three hours' use. It weighed about 20kg and was attached so tightly that Hiromi had to walk as if she was carrying two sacks of flour around her shoulders. Which effectively was what she was doing.
Unfortunately we were not allowed into the formal Japanese garden part of the shrine to take pictures as the insurance on the kimono rental alone would have skyrocketed, even if Hiromi could have walked that far. So most of the photography had to be done indoors, in a very dark shrine, or just ten metres outside in the pathway into the complex. Everything was more or less shot at f2.8 using a Canon EOS 5D MkII and a 24-70mm lens. I hope to have a very short video from the day up soon. Watch this space!