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A true love story

By: David Knickerbocker

Date Posted: 2001-12-13

Imagine, if you will, a very unusual, very romantic love story, one that involves none of the elements normally associated with such sagas and everything that is out of the ordinary: an international marriage, a decade-late wedding ceremony, a big family from the opposite ends of the earth and a small sub-tropical island in the Pacific Ocean

Our story begins with an American man named Kevin Kibodeaux and a Japanese woman called Sayuri, who were in love and wanted to get married. However, it took the couple more than one-and-a-half years just to complete all the paperwork required for an international marriage in Japan. So by the time the drawn-out process was finished, the two just decided to skip the formal wedding ceremony with all the frills, family and friends and get legally married as soon as possible, which they did on Oct. 12, 1990. During their courtship, however, Kevin had promised to give Sayuri a real wedding, a promise he was not to fulfill for over a decade.

“My wife’s dream had always been to wear a wedding dress. After all those years of being married, I finally called around on my own to find out how much it would cost to rent a dress. When I learned the price, I decided to go ahead and have a wedding, but didn’t tell Sayuri about it. A friend and I went to a lot of places to check things out. It wasn’t until a year and a half later that my wife learned what I was up to,” says Kevin. He had been surreptitiously trying to decide whom to invite to the wedding, but when he looked at a list of names Sayuri had buried in a time capsule during her school days, he discovered that he couldn’t read any of them. It was only after he was forced to ask Sayuri for help that she learned of his plan to give her the wedding he had promised so long ago.

The many obstacles that surfaced during the preparations caused the couple to consider canceling the wedding. Sayuri’s parents were against it because it was very non-traditional. “It had been so long since we had gotten married, and we already had kids, so they thought it very strange that we would finally have the ceremony,” he explains. “But our friends felt it would be a good idea, and since many of them as well as members of our family were coming from overseas, we decided to go ahead with it anyway. On June 30, 2001, we finally had our wedding ceremony at the Zampa Royal Hotel.”

“Ours was really a homemade wedding,” says Kevin. “We wanted it to be both American and Japanese, and it actually turned out about 80% Japanese and 20% American. Sayuri’s parents were not in favor of us having this kind of mixed wedding, but we did it anyway. Our friends helped out a lot. They did the flowers, video, photos, everything. We put up posters of our children and our friends did skits, but some things happened that were a complete surprise to us. At one point, our daughter Sasha gave a speech. We didn’t plan it this way, but a friend of ours talked her into it. It was a real tearjerker! My one wish was to have a big heart-shaped candle, and I got it. If nothing else, I had to have that heart shaped candle!”

“There were three main reasons I wanted to have this wedding,” says Kevin. “First, my wife always wanted to wear a wedding dress. Second, I promised her a wedding. And finally, kids were telling our kids that we weren’t really married because we hadn’t had a wedding ceremony. Some people weren’t very happy with us because we were doing things a little non-traditionally, but I felt that if they didn’t like it they shouldn’t come. I wasn’t doing this for other people. I was doing it for my wife. But in the end, we all had a great time.”

“We did a few things that were a little unorthodox for a Japanese wedding,” he says. “For one thing, my wife tossed her bouquet and garter at the end of the ceremony, but instead of only singles trying to catch them, everyone got into the act. Sayuri’s grandmother ended up catching the flowers, and a former employer caught the garter. But both of them are married! There were a few things that were normal for Japanese weddings, but we made a lot of it up.

“The wedding started at around 6:30 p.m. and ended at 9:30 p.m. About 120 people, not including children, attended the ceremony. We originally invited about 85 people, but many who said they would not be able to attend showed up anyway, so the wedding got off to a late start because more tables had to be set up,” says Kevin.

This highlights just one of the ways that American and Japanese weddings differ. At American weddings, if someone is invited, they often will ask to bring a friend, but at Japanese weddings guests must have an invitation to attend. Also, neither the bride nor the groom changes clothes during a stateside wedding ceremony; however, at Japanese weddings the bride changes her outfit four or five times. And Japanese guests bring money for the bride and groom to help defray the enormous cost of the celebration, while in the States the bride’s family usually pays for everything.

Another difference between Japanese and American weddings is that Japanese wedding halls offer set packages for the ceremony. The number of options available depends on the amount of money you are willing to spend. The price for these weddings is high, but you pay only after it’s all over, and the cash contained in a beautiful envelope from each attendee pays for a large part of the cost.

Kevin and Sayuri met years ago through someone who was dating a friend of Kevin’s. “I waved at Sayuri, but she stuck her nose up at me. She was a real snob!” he explains, laughing. “Months later we met again and started dating. I was in the Marines at the time.”

International marriages are fraught with problems, but Kevin is optimistic and believes that if two people really love each other, they can succeed. “The bottom line is this: International marriages are very hard, but if you put in the effort, you can make it work. If you really want to try and you have that love in you, then it will work,” he says. “She’s overcome obstacles and so have I. Both of us have compromised. It’s tough, it really is. They say that long-distance relationships are very difficult, but long distance relationships are nothing compared to international marriages. It’ll work if you want it to, but it certainly takes a lot of will power. Problems we have had in the past have made our relationship very strong. I think it’s been good for our children to see us trying so hard.”

Kevin and Sayuri have been married for 13 years now and are still very much in love. Over time they have had to overcome language, cultural and other barriers, but they are strong and determined people. They have four children: Sasha (10), Kevin (8), Kyle (4) and Kain (16 months).

Kevin loves his wife and will do anything for her, even if it means having a decade-late wedding just so she can wear the wedding dress she always dreamed about. “I help her with everything,” he adds. “And if she doesn’t say ‘I love you’ on the phone, I won’t let her hang up. Likewise, she won’t let me leave the house if I don’t give her a kiss in the morning before I go to work.”

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