A “Non-Engagement” Engagement – An Offbeat Engagement Story of a Swedish/American and Japanese Couple

in Intercultural dating, Weddings


offbeat engagement of swedish-american and japanese couple

Editor´s Note: This gorgeous engagement story was submitted to me in September 2014 but I didn´t have the chance to publish it until now (my apologies, Ri). That means, although the author is oozing about her engagement and upcoming wedding in this article, the couple are already happily married by now.

My Japanese fiancé and I are getting married this October—at least on paper. We don’t plan to have a ceremony (or maybe we’ll have two—one in Japan and one somewhere else) until 2015. It’s a lot to plan and dealing with the official documents first seemed to be the most practical option.

It’s also quite common in Japan to get the paperwork out of the way first, then focus on the Big Day separately at a different time—and in our case, a better time of year. I suppose the delay in the ceremony in itself may be considered offbeat, but what may be even weirder is our engagement. Or rather, lack thereof.

I can’t really say when we officially got engaged. I don’t think we ever really did. Are we engaged? Are we not? We are definitely getting married, but as for that expected bit before that, I’m not as sure. YJ was very clear early on that he was serious about me—which was sweet—but what guy doesn’t say that?

One night he whispered to me “Ore no koseki ni iretai” in Japanese which translates to “I want to put (your name) in my family register” and meant he wanted us to get married. It may not seem like the most romantic expression−and it really isn’t—but YJ really wanted to say something that he knew no one else would ever say. (Got to give him points for originality!)

Unfortunately for him, since he had been talking about our future together since the very beginning, and it wasn’t a proposal phrase that I was already aware of in Japanese, it kind of went over my head. (Sorry YJ!)

Yes, we’d talked about marriage and that was part of the plan, but no date was set and it wasn’t a “real” proposal, right? There was no getting down on one knee popping the question, no flowers and no shiny bling to go with it. We were together and serious about each other and to be honest, that was (and is) enough for me.

However, our engagement-non-engagement was to be announced in a rather unexpected, spectacular and involuntary fashion. I was recording a show for a Japanese TV network and the director asked casually if I had a boyfriend.

I answered that I had, and we were planning on getting married. Fool that I was, I didn’t connect his question to the topic of that segment of the show—an introduction of a “proposal plan” for those wanting to pop the question at a top rate hotel in Tokyo. The plan included an original cocktail drink, a bouquet, and a fancy three-course meal.

The director joked that this particular location may be a good hint for the boyfriend for a “proper” proposal. I laughed and agreed, though I knew he wouldn’t do it for the very reason that someone else already had already done it.

Believing that the talk behind the scenes of the show was forgotten, I returned for the studio talk part of the show at a later date and realized that the narrator mentioned the engagement midway in the show. Oh my. Then the presenter congratulated me when we were talking about the plan. Oh dear. And then I realized that although my parents knew about YJ and that we were living together, we hadn’t told them we had plans to get married soon. Thankfully we had a couple of weeks before the program aired to get in touch and let them know “in person” via Skype! They were surprised but happy for us. I would have felt so bad if they had found out via a Japanese show (it’s aired internationally in English) first!

It was an awkward conversation to say the least, since YJ and I wanted more time to let people know, but it did seem as good a time as any. That was in May.

We continued on our merry way and started talking about getting our papers in order. Since I’m the one living abroad this took a lot more work on my part—I had to navigate through red tape at two embassies to get my papers in order, while he only had to drop by the local ward office. Suddenly we had only three months to tie the knot—apparently notarized documents only last that long! Things started to move along faster, and here we are, getting married this month.

However, choosing the date to tie the knot turned out to be a bigger challenge than expected. Apart from the unexpected 3-month deadline (or we’d have to pay the fees to have the documents processed again), YJ was insisting we get married on his birthday. Ever the romantic, he argued it was easy to remember, and it would be better to combine special days because it’s hard to get vacation time in Japan. He’s not wrong, but it didn’t seem right to do it on his birthday of all days!

We finally settled on a different day that shouldn’t be too difficult to remember and we’re both happy with that. It was definitely our first foray into married life negotiation though!

We’re both incredibly excited about our next step in life together—ready for our journey ahead. As for the part in that is usually in between dating and marriage—the engagement-non-engagement? I’m actually very happy it worked out this way.

I think any other way would have felt like pressure on me: the expectations of others wanting to celebrate and parties and planning events and dates and dresses and…just thinking about it exhausts me! This is more our style: low-key (apart from that awkward announcement on television…) and without any stress.

Of course I may be speaking too soon regarding the last part, as we still have a wedding (or two!) to plan for next year. For now though, we can just take it easy and focus on each other. And that’s the way we like it.

Ri is a freelance writer and music journalist residing in Tokyo with her Japanese fiancé. In her free time she is usually eating, reading or eating some more. She also blogs at ichigoichielove.

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