Temple Of Love: The Wedding Of Laura Li And Hiro Kinoshita
Lavish yet intimate, visually breathtaking yet thoroughly down to earth and individual, Laura Li and Hiro Kinoshita’s wedding was an event to remember, not only for the bride and groom, but also for the 120 guests who made their way to the historic city of Kyoto.
The couple had become engaged just over a year before the wedding, having met while working at local PR and events house Social Capital. “We had planned a trip to the Amalfi Coast for Laura’s birthday and I just needed to find the right date on the trip,” says Hiro.
“We were looking at booking sites for hotels in the Ravello area, and when we looked at one of them, Laura reacted really happily. There’s a terrace there with a really great view. Behind is the sky and ocean, and during sunset, the sky is azure blue with a pinkish colour from the gardens.
“I had thought about this whole colour palette before. I had designed her ring, but the box it came in was so ugly, so I ran to the Hermès store in Central hours before the flight and I said, ‘I have to propose to this beautiful girl,’ and I bought and tied a Twilly around the ring that was exactly the colour palette I had imagined for the Ravello location. I think it went really well, because she said yes.”
The engagement kicked off a global tour that reads more like a bucket list than venue hunting. It took them to Italian countryside villas, Hawaiian hotel hideaways and all across Hiro’s native Japan, from Hiroshima to Karuizawa, before the couple decided on Kyoto’s Shogunzuka Seiryuden, a mountaintop temple that, according to legend, is where the city was founded.
The wedding was set for a Saturday evening. Most of the guests arrived in time to dress for Friday’s rehearsal dinner, which took place at a venue in picturesque Maruyama Park. The dress code was “kimono optional.” “We’re in Kyoto, so we wanted to give people an opportunity to wear a kimono, something fun to do,” says Laura. “And we wanted a place that was traditional to go with it.”
Most guests took the opportunity to dress in traditional costumes in a riot of colours and patterns. The bride wore an heirloom kimono that had belonged to Hiro’s grandmother. It was cotton-candy pink and featured an intricately embroidered peacock. During the evening, guests gained appreciation of kaiseki cuisine—and a lot of appreciation for those who wear the admittedly uncomfortable garments on a regular basis.
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After dinner, it was back to the hotel to change for drinks in the lobby bar. While the bride and groom had committed to sleeping in different rooms that night, they were not parted so easily, sneaking in a visit to Family Mart for a midnight snack before reluctantly separating till the big day.
The ceremony was timed to start at sunset and, after days of dreariness, the sun granted the couple a dramatic dusk. As the opening bars of What a Difference a Day Makes began to play, Laura’s father escorted her down the aisle.
“I had forgotten how special the venue was,” says Laura. “We were so deep into wedding planning, so used to the venue, then on the ride up with the bridesmaids, the girls were like, ‘Wow!’ And I only saw the final setup while walking down the aisle. My favourite moment was walking down the aisle to meet Hiro with our favourite songs playing.”
The ceremony was officiated by the couple’s close friend and unintentional matchmaker, former boss Fed Tan. Laura and Hiro exchanged vows they had written themselves as the sky progressed from blue to blazing orange and flocks of birds soared above.
Dinner took place in the temple proper, and while the meal could have leaned towards formal, the solemn environment was tempered by speeches both heart-warming and hilarious—from the maid of honour, the bride’s sister Vanessa; the best man, Thierry Mandonnaud; the groomsmen; and the bride’s father, who shared stories from Laura’s “free-spirited and creative” childhood that may or may not have included trips to the principal’s office for pouring water on unsuspecting teachers from the window of the girls’ bathroom.
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These were far from the only tongue-in-cheek moments. In lieu of speeches, the bridesmaids—clad in separates designed by the bride with her friend Sean K that included a cropped T-shirt they had hand-dyed grey and custom-made skirts in a Japanese fabric— donned motorcycle jackets and gaudy gold chains to perform their version of the hip-hop song Ignition, poking fun at the couple. “Sipping matcha and rum, they’re like ‘Oh it’s so yum,’ it’s the freaking weekend baby, we’re ’bout to Netflix and fun,” they sang.
One bridesmaid, a childhood friend of Laura, missed the whole show; interior designer extraordinaire Joyce Wang was heavily pregnant and unable to travel. She made her presence (and artistic hand) felt with a surprise film she created with best man Thierry parodying the new Mr and Mrs Kinoshita’s relationship, from their childhood fashion quirks to their domestic squabbles to Hiro’s idiosyncratic “air golfing.”
When dinner ended, the guests grabbed their wedding favours—scarves designed by CJW emblazoned with sketches of the couple’s favourite items, including Reebok sneakers, avocados and, of course, matcha lattes—and boarded buses bound for the after-party venue, Oil.
Hiro’s friends Kazu and Hachan manned the decks, only to be interrupted by another friend, singer-songwriter Adrian Fu, who took a seat on the piano bench to serenade the party. Champagne flowed and guests noshed on canapés laid out in a painterly tablescape until city laws got in the way—at 1 am, the party had to end, at least at that venue.
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Be present and enjoy the day as much as possible; the day goes by way too quickly. Also, try to figure out a way to spend time with everyone, as much as possible, as you typically don’t really get to!—Laura & Hiro
The after-after-party took place in the streets of Kyoto as partygoers variously dispersed, full champagne bottles in hand, in search of each other, adventure and ramen, not necessarily in that order.
As for the bride and groom, after a seemingly long and aimless stroll through Kyoto, they ended up with a few of the wedding party at an outlet of the 24-hour noodle chain Ichiran, where the laughs were loud and shamelessly so, new friendships were forged, and bowls of ramen were slurped joyously—a dream ending to the best day of their lives.
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