We have lived in Korea for three years. A few times I have heard things about Korean weddings, but I was never invited to one until recently.
We attend church off post. There is an American pastor for the English congregation and his brother in law is the pastor for the Korean congregation. The daughter of the Korean pastor got married (my pastor’s niece) and the entire church was invited.
Most Korean weddings take place in a wedding hall. It is a very efficient process. The bride typically rents her dress. The package includes hair, makeup, and pictures as well. The groom’s family usually pays for most of the wedding.
We arrived to the wedding hall about 40 minutes before the wedding was to begin. They put out the full parking lot sign a few cars behind us so everyone else had to park far away and create their own parking space (totally normal thing to do in Korea).
We parked on b4. Every floor we went up, the elevator became more crowded. Korean elevators can hold a lot of people. There is no such thing as personal space.
We arrived on the 5th floor where our wedding was to be. The first stop is the money envelope. There is a line for the bride and a line for the groom. The person in charge of your line will give you a white envelope. You can write a note and then put your money inside. If you are not super close to the bride or groom, you can give 30,000 won (about $30 USD). The closer you are to the person getting married, the more you give. If you get married at a later date, they are supposed to give the same amount to you.
After you turn in your envelope, the person in charge will give you a ticket for the buffet. You can choose to go to the buffet before or after the ceremony. This is your wedding gift. There are no registries for what the bride and groom want in their kitchen.
Next, the guests visit the bride and take a picture with her.
The parents of both the bride and groom will be in the lobby. You are supposed to greet them. The mothers will be wearing traditional hanbok.
During the wedding ceremony, the mothers walk in together, light a candle, bow, and go to their seats.
Next, the groom walks in followed by the father of the bride and the bride (in a Christian wedding otherwise the bride and groom may walk in together).
There are no bridesmaids, groomsmen, or flower girls. The people who work in the wedding hall make sure that the ceremony runs smoothly. They hold the bouquet when needed or fix the bride’s dress.
The bride and groom recited vows by reading them.
Next, the father of the bride spoke to the couple. He encouraged them to love and take care of each other. The father of the groom welcomed everyone to the wedding. Then was special music. The bride and groom stood together for two songs sung by different people.
At this point in the ceremony, sometime the groom has to do something special to prove his love. I heard stories today about push ups and running down the aisle. Our groom today only had to say “horray!” three times.
To end the ceremony, the bride and groom bowed, first to her parents, then to his parents, and finally to their wedding guests.
They then walked down the aisle to the end where they kissed and flower petals fell on them.
Pictures were at the end of the ceremony. First were pictures of the immediate family, followed by pictures of extended family, and finally friends. The bouquet toss is usually staged so that you know who is catching the bouquet.
With the official ceremony over, we headed upstairs to the buffet. We had to give our ticket as admission. There were guests from several weddings in the same buffet. There was so much food! Most of it was labeled in Korean and English.
Sometimes you don’t see the bride and groom after the ceremony. We were at the buffet long enough that they came out in their traditional hanbok.
I had a wonderful afternoon with my friends. The wedding ceremony didn’t seem that different from an American wedding. The venue was interesting because there were so many weddings happening at the same time.