Pearls at our Tokyo Wedding

When Jeremy and I got engaged, we couldn’t decide where to get married. Jeremy wanted to have a traditional Shinto ceremony in Japan and I was dreaming of wearing a gown, decked out with pearls.

Since we are not residents of Japan we decided to go ahead and do both: a Japanese wedding that doesn’t legally count and an American wedding that actually binds us as husband and wife.

We decided our wedding would be held at a shrine in Tokyo in May, 2012. The date to wed is so important to the Japanese culture. There is a luck calendar that shows all the lucky and unlucky days to get married. When I started searching for locations and dates back in January of 2012, I quickly realized that all the lucky dates falling on weekends were booked. Since June is the rainy season and July/August are terribly humid and hot I was strongly advised not to wed during the summer. Fall was difficult to leave work, as we have an important pearl buying trip to Hong Kong in September, so we decided on May 22nd, a Tuesday. Tuesday was Tai An Day, which is the most blessed day for a wedding and we hoped that May would still be sunny and not too hot for a wedding.

We rented a “King” size (that’s how the gown rental place called it!) kimono for Jeremy which is called the Haori Hakama. I went with a white kimono with bright red outer gown with beautiful embroidery of cherry blossoms. I also decided to go for the traditional wig with pearls and amber hair ornaments.

There isn’t much accessorizing in Japanese formal wear, but I had to wear pearls on my wedding day, so we decided to change into a suit and dress for our reception dinner.  I wore an amazing vintage-inspired hair piece made by my dear friend Michelle. The hair piece made from ostrich feathers, crystals and 6.0-7.0 mm, round freshwater pearls. The feathers were a warm, off-white color that perfectly complemented the freshwater pearls.

To go with my strapless featherly short white dress, I wore a seven-strand akoya pearl choker on a 14K white gold diamond clasp. I thought Japanese akoya pearls were most appropriate to wear in Japan.  I have a huge affinity towards small-size pearls. I love the intimate and delicate size of the tiny pearls. The necklace graduated in size from 2.5 mm to 5.5 mm. These pearls were very difficult to get. We asked one of our most trusted akoya pearl vendors who called in all of his resources and found few strands that were actually set aside for Mikimoto.  The strands were AAA quality with subtle rose overtones. I enjoyed making the necklace despite the rush of getting ready to fly to Tokyo. To complete the look I wore a single-strand bracelet and pair of 8.5-9.0 mm akoya studs.

My passion is not only in pearls but also in felting wool. I have been felting wool since I went to grad school and it is a huge part of my identity as an artist. I wanted to find a way to incorporate the two materials together. I took the gold lip shell that was donated for the Pearl-Guide annual Ruckus Pearl Party from Jewelmer and covered the inner part of the shell with felted wool. I also sewed felted balls that mimicked the warm ivory tone of white south sea pearls and attached them together as a ring holder. Jeremy did not see his wedding band nor the ring holder until the wedding day.  His delighted smile was priceless.

I used a gold-lip South Sea shell covered with felt to create a pearl-inspired, felted ring holder.


  • Jeremy Shepherd

    Thank you Stewart!

  • Stewart Pinkerton

    Hi Jeremy, congratulations to yourself and to your beautiful bride on your marriage. Don’t worry, the first forty years are the worst! :-)

  • Denae-marie Shepperson


  • PT

    Wow! So beautiful!

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