Monday, June 20, 2011

Korean Weddings

Before you can hear a story, you need the context don't you?

Some context:
On Friday at 2:30pm my co-teachers announced that the Principal's daughter was getting married and that all of us were invited to the wedding.  The wedding was Saturday at 1:10 pm.  Oh Korea!

On Saturday , the hubs and I slept in.  At 8:48 we headed to the hospital.  We had to get a health check before officially resigning (that is, re-signing as in to sign again) our contracts next week.  Thankfully one of my co-teachers met us at the hospital.  She did a great job translating for us!  After our health check, we headed home.  My amazing but sneaky husband had us stop at the store to buy himself a snack on the way home.  We had not eaten breakfast because some of the blood tests they had done for the medical check required us to fast.  My amazing but sneaky husband ended up feeding me his snack.  He knows that I have weakness for cereal. He knows I have a weakness for chocolate.  How I am supposed to resist chocolate cereal?

Anywho, then I ran 10 miles (with chocolate cereal in my stomach).

Then I took a super fast shower and tried to decide what to wear to the wedding.  Some important clothing choices to note when going to a Korean wedding:  Wear dark neutral colors.  I would suggest black, brown, or dark grey.  (I wore green to the first Korean wedding we attended.  I learned my lesson).  Wear something with sleeves (Culturally it is immodest to wear sleeveless clothing).

Things I have observed about a Korean wedding (keep in mind that this is just my observations):
First of all, weddings take place in wedding factories halls.  Wedding factories halls are multi-story buildings that have a large rooms with chairs for the ceremony and then on a different floor there is huge room for the reception.  Wedding factories halls can have 5 or 6 weddings a Saturday.  (I have not heard of weddings taking place on days other than Saturday.)

There are no bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girls, ring bearers, rings, or vows.  Actually the wedding I went to on Saturday there bride and groom did not talk throughout the whole ceremony.  There are no specific colors for decorations.  The wedding factory decorates the ceremony room.  It looks really nice.  (sidenote: women in Korea do not wear wedding rings nor do they change their last names when they get married)

Mommas of the bride and groom wear hanbok.  Otherwise, the fathers wear suits/tuxes as does the groom.  The bride wears a Western style wedding gown.  The bride's dad walks her down the aisle.  There is a lot of clapping and bowing.  Anyone can perform the ceremony.  I asked my co-teachers who usually marries people.  She said, "whoever you pay".

Basically this is what happens for the ceremony: the man you pay talks for a llooonnnnggg time.  Then they bring the cake out.  The couple cuts the cake with a sword/knife.  (Sidenote: they just cut it.  We never eat cake at any point in time.) Then some people sing a song.  Then the bride and groom bow to her parents (as in the groom gets down on his knees to bow) and they do the same to his parents.  All of this is going on while there is a dull roar in the background.  Yes, people in the back talk through the whole wedding.  As in, it is never silent.  Not good, not bad, just different.

{Side note on the ceremony: the wedding factory graciously provides some helpers.  These helpers are present during the whole ceremony.  They help the groom walk down the aisle, fix the bride's dress, tell you to move over half a centimeter if you are standing in the wrong spot.  It is a little weird to me. Not good, not bad, just different. But that is Korea.}

Then it is a mad dash to the reception.  If you are one of the individuals in the back making the dull roar you probably do not stick around until the end of the ceremony.  You leave for the reception early (just my observation).

Make sure you do not forget your ticket.  You do not get into the reception without your ticket.  Not good, not bad, just different.  At the reception, you go through the buffet line.  I personally take this opportunity to live up to my American potential.  I do eat any kimchi, rice, or soup.  I get a whole plate of meat (not raw meat though).  Then I go back and get a whole plate of fresh fruit.  Then I answer repeatedly why I passed up the kimchi for some beef.

Anywho, at the reception, you eat.  That is it.  There is no dancing or toasting.  There is no gift table or head table (you can give money as a gift - nothing else).  In fact, you do not even see the bride, groom, or their families at the reception.  I think the bride, groom et al change into more traditional Korean clothes and have their own reception somewhere else.

Then you go home.

If you want to read about how to fill the guest list in case it is lacking go here.

And, while I was writing this, my Principal delivered half a watermelon and some rice cake to our office to thank us for attending the wedding.

Thank you Mr. Principal, the pleasure was mine!


  1. Alissa,

    Your writing style and choice of subjects is very enjoyable. Not bad, just good and different...


  2. Uncle Bill,
    "Not good, not bad, just different" is my mantra for Korea. I probably say it in my head about 3 times a day. I did not realize how American I was until I was not in America!

    Thanks for reading this post! Have you read my "Brace yourself" post from February. You might enjoy that one too!

  3. Alissa,

    I went back and took a look and I do remember reading that one. I hope your Korean mantra hasn't made too many experiences seem simply "different". And I hope that your Korean experiences are more "good and different" than "bad and different". There are certainly going to be things that are truly just "different", but don't be afraid to store away thoughts of what is good and bad in anything.

  4. Point well taken. Thank you Uncle Bill!

  5. Very entertaining! Thanks, Alissa.

  6. I am glad you found it enjoyable! Korean weddings are a beast within themselves!