Weddings aren't a new sideline for Mashiko's Hajime Sato, who's frequently catered receptions. But he was surprised when a couple recently asked whether they could hold a wedding ceremony in the West Seattle restaurant. And then another couple asked. And then another couple asked.
Mashiko this week hosted its third sushi wedding, and the first wedding at which Sato officiated. He earned the online certification - and the "clergy" tag which he clipped to his black chef's coat - "because we're getting a lot of wedding parties. (My daughter) kind of challenged me."
Rainne Knight and Jason Dempsey had initially invited a friend to marry them, but Sato offered his services at the close of a planning conversation about sashimi platters and a table set for 19.
"I glanced at Jason, and he had lit up like a Christmas tree," recalls Knight, a tech writer and graphic designer. "Not only was he getting married in his favorite restaurant over sushi, his favorite chef wanted to be the one to do the hitching."
Dempsey, a Microsoft vendor, has been a fan of Mashiko since acquiescing to a friend's recommendation about five years ago. "It was a transcendent experience, better food than I had enjoyed in Japan," says Dempsey, who spent a teenage summer in the country. "It made me feel like I was being fed by someone who cared that I really enjoyed my meal. It wasn't about showing off, just about a shared love of food."
When he introduced the restaurant to Knight, who he met at a friend's birthday party earlier this year, he made sure she knew he didn't take all of his dates there. "It was a big deal when he took me," she says.
Although Brides has touted the advantages of a restaurant wedding ("an easy choice for couples who want the full wedding experience, but who don't want to sweat the details"), Knight and Dempsey's inspiration didn't come from the pages of a glossy bridal magazine. "They really like the atmosphere here and just want to be here," Sato explained.
The couple had sashimi instead of a wedding cake.
Other elements of the ceremony were equally idiosyncratic. Sato likely won't have to soon reprise his reading of Dr. Seuss in Japanese, or ever wish another couple, "May your love be like a quantum waveform." Nor are his future officiating duties likely to include the overseeing of a ring exchange styled after The Princess Bride, although his non-marrying customers might wish otherwise. When wedding guests kicked off the call-and-response with the line, "Marriage. Marriage is what brings us together today," diners seated on the opposite side of the privacy screen spontaneously joined the chorus.
"Afterward, several of them came up to congratulate us," Knight says. "One woman said it made her week to be part of it."
The couple's guests were also thrilled to participate in a wedding with food so irresistibly good that edamame and rolls were served before the ceremony, despite plans to marry first and eat later.
"Actually getting married in a sushi restaurant, I don't want to say strange, but, yeah, it's kind of weird," Sato says. Yet in Seattle, brides and grooms apparently don't think so.