December 4, 2012

Korean Wedding (Part 1)

Since coming to Korea, I have had the pleasure of attending four weddings, and I already have plans to attend a fifth wedding in a few months.

This wedding was actually different in a lot of ways compared to other three weddings I have had the privilege attending. The first three weddings I attended in Korea were all my Korean friends marrying another Korean. This wedding was actually my western friend marrying his Korean wife. For this article we will call him “Joe”, and her “Dahye”, since these names are rather common and they are actually their names.

A few other things set this wedding apart from the others as well. Joe is actually a friend of mine from back home, and we went to university together and we share some common interests and hobbies.

Koreans, for the most part, have taken to getting married in a similar fashion to westerners. The groom wears a tuxedo and the bride wears a beautiful white dress. The Korean weddings I have been to were held at wedding halls. These wedding halls crank out weddings every 60 to 90 minutes in the spring and early summer. The tradition of getting married in the spring is something that Koreans have kept.

During the ceremony they have wedding singers perform a few songs for the bride and groom. Then they have a large cake that they fake cut, in which there is a brass groove that serves as the knife’s holding place while pictures are taken. Yes, they have a fake cake, and the bride and groom cut in to it with a large knife. Then the next couple will use the same fake cake, and so will the next one after them.

One of the cooler things I have seen happen at a wedding hall was a ceremony where they had a balcony and the groom had to call up to his bride and yell “Juliet, come down”. He was supposed to call up to her three times before she made her appearance to the crowd. Then after the balcony scene she came through the big double doors at the bottom of the steps. All the women thought this was very romantic, and I personally thought it was a great addition to the western style wedding.

After the wedding there is a buffet with the guests of the other weddings. No speeches by the best man or maid of honor, no first dance actually, no dancing at all. What they do have is a large buffet with soju and other drinks already on the table and a lot of strangers.

Something I find interesting is that Koreans have a different view on marriage than we do in that they look at wedding as the joining of two families and not just of two individuals. In the western world it is a big deal to meet the parents of ones significant other, but in Korea it is about a hundred times more important. If the parents don’t like the significant other, there is a good chance the wedding is off and the relationship is over. I personally have experienced this: her parents did not like me, because I was western and they pressured her to break it off with me, until she did.

The Good: Koreans have some people who have been able to maintain the traditions of a Korean wedding, but they also have the choice of a more western wedding as well.

Image Credit: John Van Uytven

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