So, we got married last weekend: Saturday 8th April.
It will forever be seared in my mind as the most beautiful occasion of my life, but I also wanted to write it down, with some of my reflections, before the freshness fades and the normality of life takes over again.
For me, our wedding week actually began on April 2nd, when friends and family started arriving from a variety of places around the world. We had a week of love and laughter and some of the best times, preparing and sleeping in one guesthouse, eating great food, and enjoying community.
That week was just so beautiful. That people would give their time and their money to travel half way around the world or more, just to join us and love us. I honestly have the best friends I could ever ask for. Seeing so many people that I love in one place was too much for me at times. The greatest gift.
A combination of us and our friends did everything for the wedding. The outdoor tent was handmade, the flowers were designed by the wonderful Laura, with many freely donated by the local flower market, the decorations created by friends, the cake made by a friend, the music and performances, all by friends.
Something about the love that ran through made everything shine all the brighter.
And so to the wedding.
I got ready with my best friends.
In a place owned by Kayoko, my Japanese Mum.
Beautiful Sakura did my make-up (and Adri too), and beautiful Alicia tamed my frizzy hair.
I wore a dress that I found online (that just happened to fit perfectly), and my Mum’s veil. And cowboy boots. Just because.
Laura captured our first look on camera, our ceremony, and later, our dancing party. She made our bouquets. She slaved tirelessly over the flowers. She is an impeccable legend.
Becca and Soichi were our Maid of Honour and Best Man. I do not honestly believe there could be two greater friends in the history of the world. They have loved and stood with us for years in our separate walks, and have loved and stood with us as a couple across countries and language barriers, and no distance has ever stopped them. When I say they are the best, I mean it with every fibre of my being.
Tomoko, Laura, Lisa, Rachael and Ayumi, were the most precious bridesmaids. They who have been my friends through the fiercest of life’s storms. They who prayed with me as we waited for the ceremony to start. Those girls who make my heart glow.
Tre, Nakai, Shuji, Shogo and Go-chan, were my husband’s groomsmen, just the greatest and most faithful group of guys you could meet. (Go-chan didn’t even sleep as he was finishing building our wedding venue until 6am!)
They all were there first, waiting.
Lisa, sang and played me down the aisle. ‘You Came’ by Johnathon and Melissa Helser, which has the most radiant words about the timing and restoration of God.
My Dad, walked me down the aisle.
My Mum, cried as I walked down the aisle.
Eriya-sensei, our precious pastor, who has loved us and prepared us for this marriage with his stories and wisdom and prayers, led us into the ceremony and into our vows and into this new life together.
Tomoko, Takapi and Chrissy led the most stunning bilingual worship. They radiated the Holy Spirit in such a beautiful way. They sang ‘In Christ Alone’ as we exchanged rings. Rings my Dad made. They carried such a gentle and precious anointing.
A multitude of friends and family gathered and cried tears of joy with us. Over 200 friends and family from 16 different countries gathered. Japanese and British, but also Chinese, Taiwanese, Thai, Mexican, American, Australian, Saudi Arabian, Korean, Canadian, Singaporean, Brazilian, Filipino, Belgium, and Finnish.
They prayed with us, and rejoiced with us.
They shared in the completeness of that ceremony.
They cried tears of joy with us.
They laughed with us.
They took photos with us.
And then… Two huge buses and cars that took us from the church to the countryside. To the party. To the joy-abundant celebration.
To a BBQ house and a handmade tent, constructed in front of a lake, between the mountains. Where snow still littered the ground, and the setting was like something out of a Narnian fairytale.
I am still so in love with that hand-crafted place.
Where we ate BBQ lamb and vegetables, with breads and cakes and pastries and giant marshmallows. Where we cooked together and laughed together and where friends could meet friends who could meet friends who could become friends.
Where Soichi and Becca and my Dad shared their hearts in beautiful speeches. Where Richard and Mai translated so that everyone could understand.
Where we hilariously cut and ate the most stunning wedding cake baked and prepared by Shishi.
Where Ebi-san played his guitar and Riku-kun played and sang, and then friends rap-battled their love and laughter.
Where DJ Kengo amused us with his song choice and even more friends danced, and danced and danced and laughed until we could dance no more. Until it was time to go home.
And where laughter and love radiated from every moment, because that, I believe is the heart of God.
The scripture that we chose for our wedding programme was from 1 John 4: 18-19.
There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life – fear of death, fear of judgement – is one not yet fully formed in love.
We though, are going to love – love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love.
He loved us first.
For us, this sums up the hope and the assurance we take into our marriage, and that we felt weave tightly throughout our whole wedding day. Not an easy life and not an easy choice, but one that longs to be fully formed in love, because God loved us first.
Formation isn’t always easy or comfortable, it involves remolding, losing hard edges, and being pushed and pressed into a new shape. But being well-formed is beautiful. The outcome will be, I believe, the most beautiful.
A love that releases into a full life, and a life free from fear. That we can stand before and with each other free from shame, in the knowledge that we will one day stand before our God free from fear and free from shame, because that is the great gift of grace, purchased through the blood of Jesus.
I am too thankful to accurately put into words.
My story is one of redemption. Complete, and yet still ongoing.
My husband is a wonderful man – the most wonderful man. He is gentle and kind and full of joy. He has a heart of faith and trust and laughter. He is a rock and a place of strength and security of me. He is the most stunning inside and out. He challenges me, and supports me and loves me faithfully. I am a better person because of him.
And we stand in the grip of a perfect Father-God. A God whose hands are strong enough to hold us, and bring us through any storm. A God whose love will never fail or grow dim, and who we long to grow in the likeness of. A God whose faithfulness is unfailing.
And because of Him we are whole, and at peace, and so completely full of joy.
To everyone who was a part of our wedding: thank you.
To everyone who has been a part of this journey: thank you.
To everyone who stands with us as we begin the next great adventure: thank you.
I love every single one of you.
The photos in this blog are from a mixture of places, but you can immediately tell the excellent quality ones, and they are from my bestest-wonder-friend Laura Davies, who is actually pro and who you can find on Facebook under Laura Rhian Photography or at laurarhianphotography.co.uk – she managed to be florist, photographer and bridesmaid at the same time throughout our wedding day, and therefore deserves many medals.