An Engagement Story inspired by Japan

We had the pleasure of working on an 'Inspired by Japan' engagement photo shoot with our great friends Weddings by Scott and Dana, Layers of LovelyRhapsody Event Rentals, and Hey! there Cupcake. You can catch the full feature tomorrow on Bridal Musings

The Japanese Friendship Gardens at Balboa park served as the lovely backdrop. The Japanese gardens are a highly interactive form of art where the beholder is permanently summoned to participate in the creation of meaning. One is thus drawn into the dialogue with the composition, and at the same time with oneself. With a location so rich in meaning and symbolism, I knew we were in for an amazing journey of art and discovery as we developed our love story and learned more about the powerful Eastern traditions and symbolism as relating to love, devotion, and strength. 

We thought it would be fun to start with a little behind the scenes glimpse into building a shoot like this - or really how we go about designing any event that we put together.

First, we started with inspiration. This seems like an obvious no brainer! You have to have a spark from which you can build the fire. But, seriously, this can literally come from anywhere. Sometimes it hits you when you see a wallpaper pattern, slice into an exotic piece of fruit, see something striking on your nature walk, or read some interesting article. For this particular shoot, it was the vintage Zokin Fabric, a highly collectable Japanese cloth typically used for cleaning the home, that hit me like a ton of bricks and sparked this creative exploration. Zokin fabric is a durable denim that is hand stitched often by the matriarchs of the household. So much more than a cleaning cloth, it is a foundation in the home that takes patience to make and is durable to withstand the ins and outs of a busy household.  I liked that it shared so many qualities to building and maintaining a strong marriage. It sat on my desk for a few weeks as I continued searching and building inspiration and learning more about Japanese culture and Eastern customs. 

From there, I started to build my Pinterest board (this is really an essential and amazing resource to gather your ideas). As you can see, I pinned Ikebana floral concepts, Japanese artwork dating from different eras including the Art Deco movement to modern day, images of gardens which included lovely stone paths and koi ponds, past weddings with Asian influences, and the items I was sourcing along my journey. With almost 100 pins, the board kept growing as I learned, studied, and contemplated our own story. 

For colors, we started with blues. We were drawn to the Seto Sometuke-yaki style porcelains with their soft whiteness and intricate designs featuring flowers, birds, insects and scenery painted in dark and light indigo blues. It was a natural choice with the Zokin fabric. Blue also represents tranquility, calmness, and purity. Our favorite decorative addition was the hand painted fortune cookies by Almond Pottery which is representative of this type of design. We also were drawn to soft pink, violet & lavender, and mulberry to complete the palette. 

We really enjoyed researching and drawing inspiration from Japanese art and asian marriage and engagement customs. The symbolism behind the heritage and customs really brought out the specialness of the shoot.

A few noteworthy customs we attempted to bring to life in our story included....

Our giant heart and the cake stand are adorned with the 'double happiness' symbol which is the symbol for joy repeated and compressed into one. It is often used in Asian wedding ceremonies. We made the giant heart from wood and handpainted a pair of cranes (a symbol of fidelity) to complete the design.

Another symbolic message we had to incorporate is the 'red string of fate' or 'kanji.' According to myth, the gods tie an invisible red string around the two small fingers of those who are destined to meet each other. Isn't that incredibly romantic?

Another custom we featured is o-mikuji which are fortunes written on strips of paper and displayed at Shinto shrines. The o-mikuji predicts the person's chances for his or her future hopes of coming true, for finding a good match, for enjoying good fortune, etc. When the prediction is bad, it is a custom to fold up the strip of paper and attach it to a pine tree which is a pun on the word pine tree - pine tree (松 matsu) and the verb 'to wait' (待つ matsu). The idea being is that the bad fortune will attach itself to the tree rather than the bearer. Good fortunes can also be tied to the trees or wires so that the fortune can have greater effect for the bearer or the person can keep it for good luck. We filled our fortunes with ones of love, promise, and predictions for a bountiful marriage. =)

To add to the authenticity of the shoot, we sourced beautiful vintage pieces like the bamboo tumblers, glass fish chopstick holders, tea set, a paper parasol dating back to the 40's, and vintage Kokeshi dolls that served as lovely cake toppers. 

The Japanese Friendship Gardens at Balboa Park served as the perfect backdrop for our young couple. It poured rain on the day of our shoot but that made the environment glisten even more. Surrounded by tall bamboo and a lovely koi pond, we couldn’t think of a more lovely and symbolic place for a young man to ask his love to marry him.

We can't wait to share more from this shoot with you tomorrow over on the blog.