24 May 2011

Things to Love about Korea #3: Weddings

[Korean wedding dolls by selva]

Over the weekend the husband and I were very honored to be invited to the wedding of one of his work colleagues.  It was my first taste of a modern Korean wedding - I had a feeling it was going to be a bit different from weddings I'd been to in the past when I asked the bride-to-be how many guests where coming and she replied 'I don't know, I'm not sure who's going to turn up' - and I must say I think they've got the whole thing sorted.

To set the scene: dotted throughout the city there are these multi-story wedding buildings, with wedding rooms on each level.  The ceremony takes place in these function rooms, at the alloted time.  The guests arrive at various times, in various states of formal and not-so-formal wear, and they come and go as they see fit.

At the entrance to the room where the ceremony takes place there are two tables - one for the bride and one for the groom.  When you arrive as a guest, you approach the appropriate table and hand over an envelope of cash (that's the only wedding gift you need to worry about) and you sign the guest book.  The amount gets recorded and the pile of cash gets tallied throughout the afternoon.  

In return for handing over your envelope of cash you get a ticket to the buffet restaurant, which is directly across from the function room and which opens at the same time the ceremony starts.  So when beautiful flowers and the acapella singing in the function room gets a bit too much, you can nip over to the buffet for a quick feed, and then back to the ceremony again.  Once you've handed over your cash and said hi to the parents and the bride and groom, you can stay for 50 minutes or 15 minutes.  No one bats an eye if you leave after the walk down the aisle.

So, no wedding registry, no catering woes, no fretting over seating charts and RSVPs, no Uncle Bob falling asleep in the front row, no interminably long ceremony from which there is no escape. Just a beautiful bride, lots of happy friends and family, and a minimum of pomp and circumstance. I think maybe if we did weddings like that in Australia I may not have been so keen to run away to get married...


  1. Amazing insight - thank you for enlightening me.
    Was there dancing and speeches at all?
    What did the bride wear?

  2. From what I could see, no speeches and no dancing.

    And great question re dress! The traditional Korean dress is called the 'hanbok' (Google image it!) and that's what is normally worn for formal type occasions. For the modern Korean wedding however the hanbok is reserved for the mothers of the bride and groom. As was explained to us, these days the bride almost always chooses to wear a 'western' wedding dress because it is 'prettier'. And this one was spectacular - satin, lace, a fitted bodice and a looong train!

    And then, after the open ceremony I've described they get changed in to traditional Korean costume and have a 'Korean' ceremony with immediate family only.


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