Last semester, I had a coteacher who was engaged. In January, she got married in Suwon. I was invited, and Jeff and I went both because I was friends with my coteacher, and because we were very curious about modern Korean weddings.
It was a pretty typical wedding except that since the couple was Christian, there was a short prayer during the service. Other than that, this could have been any wedding in Korea.
The popular place to have your wedding in Korea is at a wedding hall. These are large buildings often clustered together in certain areas of the city which could be called ‘wedding factories.’ The typical wedding hall seems to have at least 3 rooms in which to get married and holds a wedding an hour in each room. Saturday is the day to get married – so on any given Saturday, a wedding hall likely hosts 9-18 weddings. The bride told me Suwon is a popular place for weddings, though I’m not sure why.
The modern Korean wedding is crowded. The room is fairly large, with a stage in front and a raised walkway. There was also a projector showing a closer video of the ceremony. There were some tables at the front where you could sit and get tea, mostly occupied by family. The rest of us stood crammed in the back. When you get married in Korea you apparently invite everyone you know, more or less. This wedding was attended by three or four hundred people.
The ceremony itself is short. It has to be since you only get about 40 minutes maximum in the room – they need to clean up for the next wedding. There was a part where the couple bowed deeply to each set of parents, who sat on the stage. There was a band that played a blend of a Jason Mraz song and a Korean song. The bride and groom sang a song. And then it was done. Photos were taken of everyone who came to the wedding – several groupings of family, then friends and coworkers.
After the ceremony there is a reception of sorts. In other words, you go into the massive buffet room. Instead of gifts, you bring an envelope of money, which I was told is basically to pay for the buffet. You give this at a counter before entering the wedding and they count it and give you a buffet ticket.
The buffet room has to be pretty huge because it is not just one wedding’s guests eating there. Anyone from any of that day’s weddings might be eating there. This means the couple doesn’t get to pick a menu (there’s always a huge variety though) and you will probably have to sit with someone you don’t know. It seemed common for people to skip standing in the wedding room and go straight to the buffet – there was even a large screen showing the current wedding to accommodate this.
This wedding hall wedding differed a lot from weddings in my culture. In America, weddings vary but few of them are this large or rushed. Also, the reception is always personalized.
Korean weddings feel a bit impersonal to me. I commented to Jeff that if you were Korean, you could very easily crash a wedding (not so easy if you’re foreign). I can’t say I would prefer to have a Korean-style wedding, but it was certainly interesting to investigate a different wedding culture.
Have you ever been to a wedding in a different culture? What did you think?